Probe Arochukwu-Ohafia road project, re – award contract! … Uko Nkole petitions Buhari, Aro in Abuja, Nzuko Aro mount pressure

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Uko Nkole

The law maaker representing Arochukwu – Ohafia Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon.Uko Nkole has fired a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari. This is coming as prominent Aro indigenes in Abuja mount pressure on the Federal Government to re-award the contract to a reputable company.

In the petition sent through the national media, Honourable Nkole called on the President to institute a forensic investigation into various failed contracts for reconstruction of the deplorable Arochukwu-Ohafia federal high way.

Nkole chose the option during a media tour of major federal roads in his constituency. He lamented that Arochukwu, a major ancient town in his constituency has been cut-off from the rest of the country. The law maker described as shocking, that a contractor could abandon the road project after collecting huge sums of money as mobilization fees.

Honourable Nkole requested President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the failed contract with a view to recovering the funds and prosecuting the contractors. He recalled that a similar attitude was exhibited in the past when the road project was abandoned in 1998 when the PTF was disbanded. He used the opportunity to appeal to the Federal Ministry of Works, FERMA and Abia State government to come to the aid of the people of Arochukwu. He reaffirmed his commitment to pursue the road issue through the National Assembly until it is reconstructed.

Honorable Nkole was accompanied on the inspection tour of the road by a team of journalists drawn from radio, television and newspaper organisations in Nigeria. The tour by the law maker was part of efforts to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the very poor condition of Arochukwu-Ohafia road. It was to also appreciate the pains which commuters on the road pass through on daily basis. He was accompanied on the trip by the President General of Nzuko Aro, Mazi Nnamdi Udoh.

The road project was awarded in 2011 to an indigenous company, Beks Kimse Nigeria Ltd based in Port Harcourt at a whopping sum of N4.8 billion naira. Following the failure of the PDP led government under Goodluck Jonathan to secure a second term in office the company absconded with the mobilization fees immediately after the general election.

However, the condition of the road has been subject of media attention. This followed the experience of a popular newspaper columnist and chairman of This Day Editorial Board, Olusegun Adeniyi on the road. Adeniyi was in Arochukwu recently for a burial. As a result of what he described as a horrifying experience on the road, the former presidential spokesman wrote about the poor condition of the road in his popular column. This attracted wide reactions from Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora especially Aros. In one of the reactions, the Managing Editor of Aro News, Ugo Okoro supported Adeniyi’s position with deeper insights into the suffering that Arochukwu has been exposed. Ugo Okoro lamented that in spite of all efforts, the road is abandoned and no help seems in sight.

Contributing on the “Shame of Arochukwu Road” published in Sun Newspapers of August 11th, 2015, a member of the public with a name “Lady Heavens” argued that Arochukwu has enough personalities who are in a position to repair the road. She named prominent Aros whose wealth, she said were more than enough to repair the road. She argued that she did not see any reason why the government should bear the responsibility. But, a member of Aro News editorial board and popular journalist, Dr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji disagreed with that submission. In an urgent rejoinder published in major national newspapers, Dr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji wrote: “I want to thank Olusegun Adeniyi for his interest, sympathy and solidarity with Arochukwu community who has carried this pain on the flesh for over thirty years”. But for Lady Heavens, I find her arguments in the Sun Newspapers of Tuesday 11th August largely insensitive and an attempt to divert public attention from the ugly challenge facing our community. I disagree with her suggestions that indigenes of Arochukwu should be held accountable for the hopeless condition of a major
federal road.

Her position is unfair especially coming from someone who claims to come from the old Bende clan. She failed to support her argument with any specific example where individuals or even communities have constructed major federal roads. Her argument that a few prominent sons and daughters of Arochukwu should use their personal income to reconstruct Ohafia–Arochukwu road, an inter-boundary major federal road that links Abia, Cross Riverand Akwa Ibom states is not only weak, but lacking in facts, basic premise, logic and reason. She also demonstrated very narrow understanding of the concept behind community self help development projects. Hear her “what makes Ovim, Uzuakoli, Isuikwuato, Abriba, and Ohafia different in development of inter/intra village road network from Arochukwu? It is the selfless and sacrificial nature of these other areas. These are areas where a percentage of individual wealth is reinvested into his/her community.

Lady Heavens needs to be enlightened that Arochukwu – Ohafia federal road does not fit into this analogy. It is not every project that a community can embark on through self help. The federal road to Arochukwu is one of such examples. What Lady Heavens did not know is that the road network in Ovim was done by Ndubusi Kanu in his position as Military Governor of old Imo State. Generals Ike Nwachukwu and Azubuike Ihejirika did the same using their public office positions. There are doubts if any of these personalities used their personal income for such very capital intensive projects. Besides, the road in Ovim is not federal. This is the same story about Dr Orji Uzor Kalu and roads in Igbere. The Igbere village roads were done by Dr Orji as Governor of Abia. It is very unlikely that he used his personal fund. The Abiriba age grade remains isolated cases of self-help initiatives strictly limited to roads inside Abiriba that are also not federal. Beyond this, Lady Heavens needs to be informed further that the Umuahia – Uzuakoli- Ohafia-Arochukwu federal road constructed by the then PTF about 1996 was by the influence of two prominent Arochukwu sons who were in very high ranking positions in that organization. They were late Prof. Chimere Ikoku, an executive member of the PTF Board and Dr. Ochi Achinivu who served PTF as Director of Programmes. The pain Arochukwu is passing through today is that these Aro sons did not commence the project from Arochukwu and proceeded towards Umuahia. They were not selfish. They commenced the project from the state capital, Umuahia, moved to Uzuakoli through Isuikwuato, Igbere, Abiriba by pass to Ohafia.

Unfortunately for Arochukwu, the PTF was disbanded just the moment the road construction project was to progress from Ohafia to Arochukwu, its final destination. The pain we suffer today is that the 27 kilometers portion of that project that could not be done by the PTF has remained abandoned since 1998. Unknown to many, the worst part of the road is even found in Ohafia axis. But one needs to pass through Ohafia to progress to Arochukwu where the fate of indigenes who must use the road currently hang in the balance.

In November 2012, the Jonathan administration awarded a contract for reconstruction of the road to one indigenous company, BEKS KIMSE Nigeria Ltd at the cost of N4.8 billion. The project was expected to be completed within a period of 24 months. We in Arochukwu, Ihechiowa, Ututu, Isu, part of Ohafia, went into jubilation believing that a “Daniel had finally come to judgment”. Unfortunately, Beks Kimse Nigeria Ltd failed to deliver. They demonstrated clear incompetence and insensitivity to our plight. They were only able to do less than a kilometer after two years on the site. We have no idea what the problem of the company was. Were they not paid or was it budgetary provision or sheer incompetence? The company also did not communicate with anyone. Latest reports indicate that the company has abandoned the job after creating more problems on the road than they were invited to solve.

To worsen our situation, there appear to be some conspiracy of silence around this project. All those who should speak out have chosen to keep quiet while Arochukwu, and other benefiting communities suffer greatly on that road daily. The only hope left now is on the new government of President Muhammadu Buhari. Arochukwu is appealing to President Buhari’s administration to institute a full investigation into circumstances that has led to this failed project. We are also appealing to President Buhari to consider the engagement of a competent contractor to take over the Arochukwu – Ohafia road project supported with good budgetary provision. And this is not difficult, because the project is only 27 kilometers without any obstacles like bridges or difficult terrain.

We also appeal to the Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu to come to our rescue. The state government needs to come to terms that the era where states look the other way on the excuse that a road in their domain belongs to federal has gone. Many states have gone beyond that. We expect Abia under the regime of Dr Ikpeazu to embrace this approach, do things differently and assist Arochukwu. At the moment, an urgent intervention by FERMA and the Federal Ministry of Works is needed to make the road passable. Until this is done, Arochukwu, a historical community in South Eastern Nigeria is currently cut-off from the rest of humanity. The condition of Ohafia-Arochukwu road remains the worst in Nigeria of today. It has become a state and national shame”.

Already consultations have been intensified by prominent Aros resident in Abuja to ensure that the road project is reawarded to a first class construction company by the Buhari administration as soon as the structure of the administration is set up. The consultations have received positive response that gives every hope that the problem of Aro-Ohafia road will soon be a thing of the past.

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