By Ekemini Simon. Uyo
Members of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Finance and Appropriation in my appraisal were very impressive yesterday when the Ministry of Works appeared before them to defend the 2020 budget estimate for the ministry.
Their demeanor and words showed a readiness to bring to an end a situation that is gradually becoming the bane of the State.
They queried the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-eyen over what they described as poor execution of roads by inexperienced contractors.
The lawmakers observed that although huge amount of money have been released for road infrastructural development, most of the roads constructed by the Udom Emmanuel’s administration may not be durable beyond the lifespan of the administration.
Leading the probe was a first timer in the 7th Assembly and Member representing Mkpat Enin State Constituency who serves as Chairman Judiciary, Justice, Public Petition and Human Rights, Hon Victor Ekwere. He noted with displeasure the early dilapidated condition of Awa-Ukam road and Ikot Edehge road in Mkpat Enin which are less than six months after commissioning.
He decried why a road which huge resources spent will become dilapidated barely two months after commissioning.
Hon Ekwere noted ” I have taken a case study of nine Local Government Areas. So far, out of the 57 roads constructed by this administration, about 97 per cent have failed according to statistics. Maybe because they were made to be trunk A roads but now turned to trunk C .
” The Awa -Ukam road was Commissioned barely two months on May 29th 2019 but it is now a total mess. I have been receiving calls and I have gone to check the road myself. It is a real mess.”
Interestingly, the member representing Nsit Atai State constituency, Rt Hon Mark Esset collaborated the observation raised by the vocal member of Mkpat Enin State Constituency.
He noted that the dilapidated condition of newly constructed roads in the State have been of great concern to the 7th Assembly especially as the Member representing Mkpat Enin State Constituency, Hon Victor Ekwere had wanted to bring the issue to the fore through Matter of Urgent Public Importance but was held back by the leadership of the House for an appointed time.
Rt Hon Esset attested to the testimony of Member Mkpat Enin noting that the situation was very pathetic as the bus the committee used during inspection in the area broke down in one of the dilapidated spot.
He drew the attention of the Commissioner to another dilapidated portion of a newly constructed road along Nto- Edino Road in Obot Akara.
Esset maintained that since it is a road that leads to other States, it should not have been constructed as a trunk C road rather trunk A.
He complained that when the House Committee had embarked recently on inspection, they had discovered that the newly constructed bridge in Obot Akara has some problems.
The lawmaker who also drew attention to issues concerning his home front, brought to fore the poor condition of Nsit Atai -Oron Road. The Lawmaker wondered why inexperienced construction firms are contracted to carry out construction training on the road.
He noted that it was unbelievable and annoying that not less than a billion naira was paid to the first construction firm contracted for the road with subsequent contractors paid yet nothing to show for.
Esset noted ” You bring in inexperienced construction companies for the Nsit Atai road. The road instead of improving is getting worse. This is unacceptable! Tell those construction companies to leave Nsit Atai road.”
While advising the Commissioner not to rely only on reports from staff of the Ministry, the Lawmaker noted that the best approach to salvage the situation would be for the Commissioner to undertake unscheduled visits to construction sites.
He added ” What ever we are putting on ground should not be between 2015 to 2023. It should be beyond. It should stand the test of time. In Akwa Ibom, we are not only planning for today, we are planning for the future.”
Esset noted that if nothing is done by January to change the narrative of the dilapidated newly constructed roads, they will summon the Commissioner, Ephraim Inyang during plenary to answer questions.
He said ” You will not sit in Executive session to address us. You will be standing on the floor of the House to answer questions. The money Akwa Ibom State Government put on roads, we must receive the value. we can’t take substandard projects in Akwa Ibom State.”
While observing that so many road projects have been embarked upon yet left behind, the Chairman of the Committee, Rt Hon Uduak Odudoh advised the Ministry to remain focused on completing ongoing projects instead of embarking on new ones so that no road will be left abandoned by the current administration.
Responding, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-eyen admitted that the Ministry had to work at night to patch the Awa-Ukam road during the visit of the Vice President to the State.
He explained that the dilapidated condition of the road is not unconnected to the the fact that the road was constructed intermittently.
While admitting responsibility, he noted that the contractor has promised to resurface and re-asphalt the road when the rainfall abate.
On Nsit Atai road, Inyang-eyen noted that out of N1 billion paid Renaissance Construction Company, the State Government had recovered N700 million.
He said ” Government will not lose money on that road. No contractor will leave this State with Akwa Ibom money”.
With the pungent stance from the State Lawmakers towards changing the narrative on poor state of newly constructed and commissioned roads in the State, it is the hope of Akwa Ibom people that the lawmakers compliment their words with strict oversight function.