The efforts of Abia federal lawmakers and the state government to ensure that federal roads in the state are rehabilitated are beginning to pay off, writes Peter Uzoho
Road users in Abia will soon heave a sigh of relief as efforts of the federal lawmakers and the state government to ensure that federal roads in the state receive a facelift have started yielding positive results.
This is as the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs have penciled down some roads in the state for rehabilitation.
A recent advertorial by the agencies, indicated that maintenance and repairs are to be directed at the critically failed sections of Umuahia-Ariam-Ikot Ekpene Road in Abia State, in the phase 1 of FERMA intervention projects for 2016, while the rehabilitation of Egbelu-Adaelu Road, off the Aba section of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, was captured in the phase 2, of FERMA proposed projects.
In the other hand, Ministry of Niger Delta in its 2016 capital projects listed consultancy services for civil works on Orie Ngodo-Lamara Road in Umunnochi LGA, Mbom-Ameke-Olokoro-Umuikae Road, in Umuahia North LGA, Abia/Akwa Ibom States and consultancy for the design and supervision of 7UP/Umuola-Nkwo Elechi Ohuru Road-a 5km road linking Aba North, Obingwa and Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Areas. That road when rehabilitated, would reduce pressure on the Ogbor Hill Bridge section of Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road.
The federal lawmakers are also working tirelessly to ensure that the Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road that links Abia, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States is rehabilitated. The Abia section of that road has failed completely, making it difficult for patrons from the neighbouring states, as well as Cameroon to access Aba.
The Ohafia-Arochukwu road, which has been abandoned for years, also requires prompt attention. That road, if rehabilitated, would spur economic activities in Abia North. Arochukwu and Ohafia have large deposits of lime stone, which is a major raw material for cement production.
Senator Mao Ohabunwa, who represents Abia North Senatorial zone in the Senate, in 2015, attracted a team from the National Assembly to assess the deplorable state of that road.
This cheering development is no doubt the result of a good synergy between the Abia State Government and its representatives at the National Assembly. Unarguably, the state can achieve more as consensus is better than confrontation.
Provision of road infrastructure in Abia, especially Aba, would boost economic activities in the entire South-east and South-south regions of Nigeria, because of its geographical location and large population of artisans.
Aba is a confluence city linked to all the states in the South-east, South-south regions of Nigeria and it is the dream of the present administration in the state to establish a megacity that would not only have a seaport, but also industrial clusters that can converge Port Harcourt and Aba into a mega-industrial hub.
Aba is at a confluence, just about 40 minutes away from Ikot-Ekpene, Port Harcourt, Umuahia, Owerri, among others.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, on assumption of office, decried the deplorable condition of federal roads in the state, which according to him, has stifled business activities in Aba, the pride of the South-east and South-south regions of Nigeria, touted to be the Japan of Africa, because of the entrepreneurial acumen of the residents.
The roads include Port Harcourt Road, Aba-Owerri Road, Ikot-Ekpene Road in Aba as well as Ikwuano-Ikot-Ekpene Road and Ohafia-Arochulwu Road.
According to Ikpeazu, “those roads are strategic to the economy of the state, especially Port Harcourt Road that hosts machine fabricators; however it is painful that we can’t access that road at the moment.”
To solve the incessant flooding of Port Harcourt Road, he revealed that it would require drainage of about 13 kilometres as well as the demolition of illegal structures in that area, stressing that the state government cannot afford the resources needed to do a very good job on that road.
He revealed that the state government is to access $200 million grant from the African Development Bank (AfDB), specifically for sanitation, storm water management and the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt Road, among other roads in Aba.
Anthony Enukeme, chairman/chief operating officer, TONNIMAS Nigeria Limited, a wholly indigenous oil firm, based in Aba, lauded efforts of the state’s federal legislators to rehabilitate Abia roads, noting that investment in infrastructure, especially road and electricity, would encourage manufacturing and get the country out of its economic doldrums.
He affirmed that the real sector holds key to the economic development of the country and advised government to create good business environment, among other essentials that would enable micro, small and medium enterprises function effectively.
Enukeme, insisted that the country’s economy will grow if government focuses more on the development of infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the state government is in the last lap of discussion with the African Development Bank, geared towards accessing $200 million grant to rehabilitate Port Harcourt Road and check erosion in the Aba City centre, among other things, a move that was initiated by Senator Theodore Orji, the immediate past governor of the state now representing Abia Central in the red chamber of the National Assembly. Senator Orji’s presence in the National Assembly has brought cohesion among the Abia federal lawmakers, who now speak with one voice on matters affecting the state.
The AfDB delegation, led by Mwila Aeron Katambula, a transport specialist with the Bank last week were in Abia State for the final lap of talks between it and the state government on some developmental projects of interest to the Bank in the state.
Ikpeazu, who received the team in company of some officials from the Federal Ministry of Works, Abuja, at the Government House, Umuahia, affirmed that the state can’t wait to see the commencement of reconstruction of some major roads in Aba, especially Port Harcourt and Ikot Ekpene Roads, among others.
Ikpeazu stated that providing road infrastructure in Aba is important to the state, noting that apart from being the commercial hub of Abia, Aba is the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) centre of Nigeria. “Aba is very important to the economy of both Abia and Nigeria,” the governor added.
He stated that road infrastructure, waste and storm water managements are the challenges faced in Aba.
The Governor explained that the state does not have the resources to do good work at Port Harcourt and Ikot Ekpene Roads, noting that the visit of the AfDB to the state, has rekindled the hope of residents and other patrons to Aba that help would come soon and the roads would be rehabilitated.
According to Ikpeazu, “We have tried to do what is required of us in terms of ensuring that the ground work is done to enable AfDB come in.”
Speaking on why they’re in Abia, Katambula said, “We are eager to participate in the development of Abia State. Our mission today is a follow up to the meeting we had before, we want to ensure that everything is ready, because we want to fast-track the projects that the Bank will take up in Abia.”
The AfDB and Federal Ministry of Works teams later met with the state’s Commissioner for Works, Hon. Eziuche Ubani, and that of Finance, Obinna Oriaku, and other top state government officials.
After several hours of meetings, Ubani led the two teams to Aba, on the spot assessment of the two key federal roads: Port Harcourt and Ikot Ekpene Roads, located in the commercial city.
The inspection tour offered the visiting teams the opportunity of first hand appreciation of the level of decay of the roads as well as the daily trauma and suffering of the residents and travelers in and around these two key federal roads.
AfDB is currently doing the technical analysis and studies of the roads before releasing funds for repairs of the roads in line with agreements reached with the federal and state governments.
This explains why the AfDB team had to come with the Federal Ministry of Works team to meet with Governor Ikpeazu and his team in Abia.
During the visit to Aba, Ubani told the AfDB and Federal Ministry of Works team that the state government “is desperate to rehabilitate roads in Abia, and Aba in particular, to stimulate economic activities and drive development across the state.
“So far we’ve done a good number of roads, which fall within the responsibility of the state, but unfortunately, we can’t reconstruct federal roads without first agreeing terms with the Federal Government.
“Unfortunately we don’t have the amount of money required to repair these roads, especially Port Harcourt and Ikot Ekpene Roads and that is why we are delighted to have the AfDB here together with a team from the Federal Ministry of Works, to see the level of deterioration of these roads.”