By Abasifreke Effiong Uyo.
If you drive slowly from Ikot Akpaden, Mkpat Enin to Uyo through the 12.742 kilometres Mkpat Enin-ONNA road, from Comprehensive High School Ikot Ayan to the Y junction which leads to Awa, you will count about 50 potholes and multitude distresses of different geometric patterns. The road has moderate volume traffic with limited heavy vehicles, yet it has failed within a year after it was completed.
Indigenes of Akwa Ibom state, including three journalists who traveled recently through the newly completed Nto Edino – Ekwerazu road observed that some portions of the road are already unmotorable. A resident of Nto Edino, Mr. Uwemedimo Udo said, “the current state of Nto Edino – Ekwerazu road few months after commissioning remains an indictment on the contractor, Seyang, the client and those who ‘supervised’ the work”.
A frequent user of the road who works with the state government said “potholes are everywhere on the road, particularly before and after the bridge”. “It is just terrible to see the road that was commissioned last year has totally collapsed”, a journalist and lawyer, Barr. David Augustine who plied the Nto-Edino road last week wrote in a comment on Facebook on Tuesday 19th November.
Members of the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly recently noted the poor state of the Nto Edino road and the structural defect on the newly constructed bridge on the road.
Also, portions of the controversial 1.5 kilometre Akpasak estate road which was inaugurated by Governor Udom Emmanuel on 25th May 2019, after his re-election have failed. The road was constructed by JOSUN Engineering. Residents of Chief Udo Eno street had to fill up two potholes on the road with concrete to prevent further tearing up of those spots, during last month’s sanitation exercise. The state government early in 2018 chased out NDDC contractors who had begun construction of the road and took over the project. This road receives very low volume of traffic and limited heavy vehicles, yet it started failing three months after it was inaugurated.
On Monday 18th November, the chairman of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Judiciary, Justice Public Petitions and Human Rights, Barr. Victor Ekwere, said 97 percent of roads constructed by the Udom Emmanuel administration have failed. Being a lawyer of repute and a government person, Ekwere would not sensationalize his data for whatever reason. In fact, he said he undertook a study of roads done by the Udom Emmanuel administration in nine local government areas.
“I have taken a case study of nine local government areas. So far, out of the 57 roads constructed by this administration, about 97 percent have failed according to statistics.”
“The Awa-Ukam road was commissioned barely two months on May 29th 2019, but it is now a total mess. I have gone to check the road myself. It is a real mess”, the lawmaker observed.
Ekwere is not the only member of the House of Assembly who has made this observation. Elder Mark Esset, member representing Nsit Atai said during an inspection tour recently, the bus that conveyed his team collapsed in one of the bad spots on Nto Edino -Ekwerazu road.
Esset said the commissioner for works, Ephraim Inyang-Eyen was using “learning contractors” who are incompetent to construct roads, noting that within four years, the state government has awarded contract for the dualisation of Nsit Atai- Oron road to four contractors, yet the road is getting worse.
“You brought inexperienced construction companies for the Nsit Atai road. The road instead of improving is getting worse. This is unacceptable!”, Esset fumed.
Mark Esset noted that the state government has paid at least N1billion to contractors it awarded the project to. However, the commissioner for works said the government has recovered N700 million from one of the companies that was awarded the contract. By acknowledging that N700 million has been recovered from the contractors is an admission of Elder Mark Esset’s assertion and an indictment that the commissioner flooded the state with incompetent contractors.
The overnight dilapidation of these roads may be the failure to meet standard specifications of acceptable base-course materials or inadequate knowledge of the geotechnical characteristics of the soils over which the roads are built, by the contractors and government team. Whichever of the two is the cause of the wastages, this terribly embarrassing reality is an indictment on the Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen and his lousy style of project supervision, as well as the quality engineers in the ministry of works whose duty it was to monitor compliance to specifications.
The ministry of works under Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen has done more visibility supervision of road projects than it did under the immediate past administration, with Mr. Don Etim, as commissioner. Accordingly, the public expected better quality of roads. But, it appears that the ministry delivered to the state far more better quality roads under the former, silently. This is an embarrassment to the Udom Emmanuel administration whose brand reputation is “superior performance”.
Akwa Ibom people are worried about these poorly done roads. They are asking questions about the losses on these transactions and the dangers sub-standard roads pose to users. The state is running at a loss. And, who will bear the indemnity for these costs of quality? Are some persons trying to sabotage the good intentions of the governor which is to see that more communities in state have quality roads? Is anyone usurping a privilege at the detriment of the entire state?
Tongues are beginning to wag. Accusations are being peddled. People are arguing that the commissioner for works has stained his hands with asphalt, that is why he approved those poorly done roads. Of course such wild accusations are expected when people entrusted with responsibilities fail irredeemably as it is in this case.
The governor had set up a project verification and compilation committee towards the end of his first term, chaired by Ephraim Inyang-Eyen.
This committee could pass for an audit team. The question is, did the audit report submitted by Inyang-Eyen contain the mess as evident today? It is hightime the governor ordered an independent audit of these failed roads.