Construction work has once again picked up on the dilapidated Abiriba-Ohafia-Arochukwu federal highway following directive by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, to the contractor to return to site immediately.
Perhaps in response to the hue and cry of the people of Arochukwu, rehabilitation work on the road is beginning from the ancient town, where the contractor stopped work on the first phase. Expectedly, the people are excited that the road has finally received the attention of the federal government, after a long period of neglect.
Now hope has been rekindled in the people of Arochukwu and neighbouring communities, to see the completion of the Abiriba-Ohafia-Arochukwu road.
Fashola had on November 12, 2016, directed the contractor handling the road project, Messrs Beks Kimse Nigeria Limited, to return to site immediately, following remobilisation by the federal government.
The minister gave the directive as part of activities marking his one year in office. It was an unequivocal directive given at a press conference while presenting his interim scorecard on the three ministries under his watch.
The minister said the government inherited about 206 road projects already contracted out; with outstanding completion costs in the region of N1.5trillion.
According to Fashola, “our interactions with the contractors showed that many of them had not been paid for an average of two to three years before we assumed office and this explained the stoppage of work by the contractors, lay-off of workers and consequently poor condition of many roads. With limited liabilities, with debts already owed, we had to make difficult choices of deciding which of the 206 roads under construction we should start with, and how many.”
He continued: “Our choices were informed by the realities of our economy and the size of our resources; we resolved that all roads are economic roads but some were more urgent and more impactful than others. So our choices were determined by roads that carried heaviest cargo, to allow farmers, businessmen and industries and travellers move their goods and themselves across the country in order to drive productive activities.
“Secondly, we chose roads that support our energy sufficiency and put our resources in roads leading to and from petroleum tank farms so that we can move petrol, diesel and kerosene across Nigeria. We also chose roads that led to and from our major sea and airports, so that maritime business can go on, to drive the economy.
“Therefore we re-mobilised contractors back to work on roads across the six geo-political zones with the list provided. Some important roads in this category are: Port Harcourt-Aba road; Sagamu-Lagos; Abiriba-Arochukwu-Ohafia (Abia State) etc.”
On July 1, 2016, Aro News team did a petition on the state of the road to the Minister on his WhatsApp handle highlighting the history of the road and abandonment of the project by the contractors. The minister replied immediately asking that a formal letter be dispatched to his office. The information was passed on to the leadership of Nzuko Aro which, through its Secretary General, Sir Anicho Okoro, sent a petition to the office of the minister. Aro News team then followed up by informing the minister know that the letter was in his office. Two weeks after the petition was receive, a reminder was sent to the minister through the WhatsApp channel again. The minister then directed that the person that submitted the letter should go to the registry of the ministry with an acknowledgement copy, trace and find out his reply. He stated that in any case, the minister does not delay anything on his table.
The senator representing Abia North senatorial zone, Senator MAO Ohuabunwa inspected the road in 2015 with members of the Senate Committee on Works led by Senator Barnabas Gemade, while the member representing Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency, Hon. Uko Nkole led a team of journalists on a tour of the road in the same year. Hon. Nkole recently addressed a press conference on the deplorable state of the road.
It is on record that the said road has received national attention. As sampler, Chairman, Editorial Board of ThisDay Newspaper and former Presidential spokesman, Mr Olusesgun Adeniyi, on a visit to Arochukwu, described the road as the worst he had ever plied. He called for information on the road wondering why such an important road was neglected for that long.
Aro News recent inspection of the project revealed that on November 28, 2016, the contractors have in fact returned to site, starting at Akanu Ohafia axis of the road where they carried out palliative works on some bad spots to enable them move their equipment to Arochukwu in other to continue work from where they left off at Ugwuakuma village.
Our findings revealed that to return to site, the Federal Government has released about N240million to Beks Kimse Limited, to commence work immediately.
The contract was awarded to Messrs Beks Kimse Nigeria Limited in 2012 by the Goodluck Jonathan administration for an initial duration of 24 months, after a Certificate of no objection was issued to the firm by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). Prominent Umu Aro, including Dr. Alex Otti, played sundry roles in getting the contract awarded and included in 2012 budget with the assistance of Senator Uche Chukwumerije(now late) and Hon. Arua Arunsi.
NDDC commences 8km palliative on Aro-Ohafia road
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has commenced rehabilitation work that will cover about 8 kilometers on the Arochukwu/Ohafia road. This is sequel to an appeal of urgent intervention sent to the commission by Nzuko Aro in a letter dated 11th November, 2016.
After the intervention and personal contacts made by Dr. Alex Otti, OFR, with the management of the commission, the leadership of Nzuko Aro were directed to write an official letter to the commission, requesting for urgent help to tackle the menace on the road. With this directive, the Union swung into action and commissioned some umu Aro who embarked on an inspection tour of the road. Armed with the report of the inspection team, the union addressed a letter to the Managing Director of the commission.
In its letter, the Union informed the commission that a journey from Arochukwu to Ohafia that in the past lasted less than 30 minutes now took hours. it highlighted portions on the road that needed urgent palliatives with its distance. it stated that after the stone base at Ugwuakuma, the distance to the security check point that needed rehabilitation is 180 kilometers; Ugwuakuma market down the hill, 520 meters, Ugwuakuma to Amodu, 480 meters; Ututu Secondary School, 90 meters; Ohafia Umuchi lonely area, 450 meters; Ugwu Slessor, 90 meters; Presbyterian Church-Ugwuavor axis 128 meters etc making a total of 7,090 meters.
It equally informed the commission that Arochukwu, Ututu, Ihechiowa communities in Abia State has been cut of from the rest of the country due to the deplorable condition of the road and that the Managing Director of the commission should directive the intervention of the NDDC to rehabilitate the failed portions of the road.