The Long Neglected Arochukwu Roads: Nzuko Aro Resorts To Self Help To Fix Arochukwu – Ndi Okereke – Ozu Abam Road

Mazi Emma Kanu Ivi

Arochukwu, a very important ancient kingdom in Igbo land, has been in Abia state from the beginning since 1991 when the state was carved out from the old Imo state which was also created out of the defunct East Central State of Nigeria on 3rd February, 1976. Since these 40 years (1976 to 2016), Arochukwu roads have been begging for rehabilitations without serious attentions. In the recent past, at least four major roads were accessible to Arochukwu town. These are Arochukwu-Atani Aniyom-Itu road and Arochukwu-Nkanna-Ikot Ekpe road; both are inter-states roads. The other two are Arochukwu-Ohafia (federal road) and Arochukwu-Ndi Okereke-Ozu Abam (state road); the last two are intra stateroads connecting Arochukwu with Umuahia, the Abia state capital city. All these roads are now in terrible bad shapes. And Arochukwu is on the verge of being cut off from their neighboring communities with serious negative impacts on the health, social and economic life of the people. Yet, some people have been playing unfair politics with works on these roads at a huge loss and discomfort to the entire Arochukwu people, their neighbors and all the other users of the roads. What a shame!

We shall for now limit our discussion to the two intra-state roads.The Arochukwu-Ohafia road, which a lot has been written about constructed in early 1960s by the government of Eastern Nigeria led by Dr M. I. Okpara. About 30 years ago in1986, the then Nigerian Military President, General Ibrahim Babaginda(Rtd) awarded a new contract to an engineering firm, RCC, for full rehabilitation of this road. This followed a powerful delegation of prominent Umu Aro led by Late Eze Aro, Mazi Kanu Oji, CFR, with Nzuko Aro leadership led then by Mazi Emmanuel Okorafor and Col A. O. Eze to Dodan Barracks, the seat of the then military junta, to appeal for rehabilitation of the road which was in terrible bad shape. Though the contract work was performed by RCC, the road failed few years later, may be due to poor quality work done and or lack of good maintenance thereafter. In November 1993, General Sani Abacha, who sacked Chief Ernest Shonekan’s interim government by force, created a Petroleum Task Force (PTF) to execute some special roads and other critical projects across the country. Arochukwu-Ohafia to Ozuakoli-Umuahia road was considered and a contract awarded for its full rehabilitation. But the contractor began the work from the Umuahia end and unfortunately got stocked at around Ebem Ohafia when Abacha died in 1998. Since then till date, no serious work has ever been done to complete that uncompleted portion of the road.

In 2004 during President Obasanjo’s administration, Mazi Emma Kanu Ivi’s Nzuko Aro leadership led some powerful Aro leaders to Abuja to appeal to the then Hon Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, to consider at least a special rehabilitation contract on that uncompleted portion of Arochukwu-Ohafia road. Our appeal was considered and a special contract, limited to some assured available funds to cover only few kilometers of works at a time, was awarded to Hapel Nig Ltd. We insisted that work should commence from Arochukwu end this time around. That led to the work we see today done on that road within Arochukwu town from Amuvi to Agbagwu in about two batches of such contracts to Hapel. There were also some other negotiated FERMA palliative works on some selected parts of the road too. Bu tall the works were later halted. In November 2012, following powerful connections of some Aro patriots, a N4.8 billion contract was awarded, though to an inexperienced firm, BEKS KIMSE Nig Ltd, to rehabilitate the 27 km road scheduled for completion within 24 months. Unfortunately this turned out to be a political project fraud as no reasonable work was done by the contractor even after collecting some huge advanced sum. Former Governor T. A. Orji performed a funny political jamboree flagging off the project that failed almost at birth could not even raise an eye brow when work on the road halted. What a shame!Till now that road has remained jinxed.

Let us now turn our focus to the 34km Arochukwu–Ndi Okereke-Ozu Abam road. About October 1984, an Nzuko Aro special projects contact committeeled by Col A.O.Eze (Rtd), now late, paid a courtesy call on the then military governor of Imo state, General Ike Nwachukwu to appeal to him to fully construct this 34 km road leading from Amuvi to Ozu Abam junction.T he appeal was approved by General Ike Nwachukwu before he was replaced by Navy Capt Allison Madueke in August 1985. Madueke still went ahead in 1986 to award the contract to Hapel Nig Ltd, a firm owned by a prominent Aro man. The people of Arochukwu jubilated believing that their suffering would soon end as they expected the road would soon be completed. Yet five years later, the road was not completed as expected. In 1991, Frank Ajobena became the first military governor of Abia state which was carved out of Imo state. But a year later in January 1992, Ogbonnaya Onu became the first democratic governor of the state. He was sacked in Nov 1993 following a military coup. And Col Ike Nwosu became the military administrator till 14th September 1994 when he was replaced by Navy Capt Temi Ejoorwho held office till 22nd August 1996.Temi Ejoor claimed that Hapel, the contractor handling the road had been fully paid. He then told ndi Aro to hold their son responsible for failure to complete the work on the road. But our son disagreed and said that his firm had not been fully paid and that was why work had not been completed. On 22nd August 1996, Moses Fasanya took over from Ejoor till August 1998 when Anthony Obi also took over from him till 29th May 1999 as military administrator of the state. Throughout these administrations, the road was still not completed.

Then came Dr Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK) on 29th May 1999 as the executive governor of the state. He held office for 8 years. He was seen as “a good friend” to some Aro people. He claimed he had awarded a contract for the completion of the road to an Aro man. Yet nothing was done to complete the road and the people of Arochukwu kept suffering silently. On 29th May, 2007, OUK handed power over to his political crony, Chief T. A. Orji, who also held office for 8 years. That one unbelievably claimed that his administration was held bondage throughout his first 4 years in office by OUK, his political god father. He told Aros during his campaign for a second term that he would complete the road within the first year of his second term. When he got there he told Aros in 2011 that the road had been fully awarded to Masta Services Ltd, a firm owned by an Aro family. He assured that the road would be completed within two years. When he left office on 29th May 2015, the road was still not completed. They kept playing politics with the road as they came and left. Chief T. A. Orji somehow handed power over to his own crony, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who recently announced publicly at a town hall meeting in Ohafia in June 2016 that he had paid to the contractor, Masta Services Ltd, in February 2016, the sum of N60 million plus “some other unspecified sums of money” required to fix the bridge and complete the remaining works on the road. Engr.Ugo Ohuabunwa the CEO of Masta Services Ltd had also assured Aros in his interview with Aro News December 2015 edition, that the road would be ready for use before Easter 2016. Yet work on the road remained uncompleted even as at the time of writing this piece in early September 2016. We keep wondering why this Aro-Ozu Abam road could not be completed by all the successive governments all these years; and why the “who is fooling who politics” on this Aro road has remained unabated while ndi Aro and other users of the road keep suffering.

And so, Nzuko Arochukwu worldwide led by its President General, Mazi George Ezuma, at its well attended CEC meeting held in Lagos in June 2016 took the bull by the horns. The meeting after reviewing several failed promises of the government to complete the road and minimize the suffering of Arochukwu people all these years declared that ndi Aro would now go ahead and get the worst portions of the Arochukwu-Ozu Abam road fixed this year, without any prejudice to the existing government contract that has lingered for long without completion. Nzuko Aro resorted to this self help approach in order to minimize the suffering of ndi Aro and also to ensure that Arochukwu community is not eventually cut off from the rest of the world. Now we are delighted that responses by the people in making pledges in favor and support of this solution strategy have been very massive and encouraging. Aro people are now determined to solve their problems by themselves since the governments appear to have abandoned them. They now realize that “He who is not remembered by others should at least not forget himself”. If the government of Abia state had chosen to neglect the Aros as evidenced by the failed promises on this singular road all these years as chronicled above, Ndi Aro should try not to agree to neglect themselves and should therefore go ahead and help themselves to fix the road. By so doing, Ndi Aro will be boldly telling others that they are very important people to be so neglected and that self help within the boundaries of the laws of the land is a survival strategy anytime anywhere. Nevertheless, we still urge Abia state government, (whose primary responsibility it is to fix the road and who has also been informed officially by Nzuko Aro of its intention to resort to self help), to quickly do the needful and get the contractor to complete the remaining work on that road within this year, starting from Arochukwu end to at least Ndi Okereke Abam end. Aros are part of Abia state and are rightly entitled to the dividend of the state governance. The wealth of the state is our common wealth, as such Arochukwu should not be so neglected anymore. And to Nzuko Aro leadership, we urge you never to relent on your efforts in doing the right thing at the right time. Therefore if by this October the government still fails to take positive actions in fixing the road, then go ahead with your self help plans to get the worst damaged portions of the road fixed, at least by doing palliative works. But still keep pressurizing the government to see if it will fix the road. Yet in case the government may fail to do its responsibility, keep mobilizing the people, resources and materials to support the proposed self help so that Arochukwu and its people may get some relief from the sufferings of the many years of neglect. So help us God.

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