A Functional Agency for Rivers Roads

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Simeon Nwakaudu
There was little to show that a government existed in Rivers State between 2011 and 2015 as far as roads are concerned. The immediate past APC administration in the state left many of the roads to degenerate to the level of village footpaths. It was a sad commentary on the state of the government. Governor Nyesom Wike inherited this disturbing situation, when he was sworn in last year. The roads in many urban centres of the state were so bad that they were used to mock the Rivers people.

This was despite the fact that the Chibuike Amaechi administration had the rare privilege of accessing over N3 trillion in eight years.

From May 29 last year, when Wike came in, he outlined a double-barrelled approach to fix the roads in the state and rebuild the state’s economy for the benefit of the people. The governor’s road construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes are built around the Ministry of Works and the Rivers State Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Agency.

The Ministry of Works has delivered over 150 kilometres of roads in the last 15 months of the administration of Wike. These over 100 roads are spread across six local government areas of the state. Many of the roads were commissioned during and after the governor’s first year in office. Others are on-going. New roads in the other 17 local government areas are being processed for contract award and execution.

The governor said he started with the urban centres because of the need to address the traffic problems of the larger communities, where majority of Rivers people reside and do business.

The Rivers State Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Agency, which was transformed by Wike, has made more roads motorable in the urban centres of the state than at any other time in the history of the state. The agency has delivered more than 130 roads in the last 15 months of the Wike administration. Dilapidated roads in Port Harcourt City, Oyigbo, Eleme, Obio/Akpor, and Ikwerre local government areas have been rehabilitated, to the delight of the people.

Most of the roads that have either been rehabilitated or are being maintained by the agency were completely neglected for over two decades. They degenerated beyond imagination. Upon assumption of office as governor of Rivers State, Wike repositioned the agency, equipped it and ensured that it was appropriately funded to serve as an interventionist institution to address the challenges faced by the state regarding road infrastructure.

For the most populated suburbs in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas, the Rivers State Road Rehabilitation and Maintenance Agency has rehabilitated the worst roads and created access to neglected communities. The agency has also intervened on failed portions of the Aba Road, a major federal road that is critical to traffic in Oyigbo, Obio /Akpor and Port Harcourt City local government areas. This road is also critical to traffic from the South-east and northern parts of the country into the Treasure Base of the Nation.
Today, motorists are happy that the Oyigbo junction on Aba Road and Rumuola Flyover have been completely rehabilitated by the agency.

Road rehabilitation has been democratised under the leadership of Wike. Residents report the road situation in their communities to the Rivers State Road Rehabilitation and Maintenance Agency via the social media and short message service from mobile phones. The agency then sends its technical officials to conduct feasibility studies on the reported roads. Upon completion of the feasibility studies, the roads are rehabilitated. This practical approach to project implementation has been quite successful.

Executive chairman of the agency, Chief Okey Okah, has since his appointment by Wike made outstanding contributions to the governor’s vision on road repairs and rehabilitation.

Since May 29 last year, Rivers State has ranked among the best in the country in terms of road construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation. This achievement is not a function of the availability of funds, as it is public knowledge that the federal allocations to the states have dropped tremendously. If it had to do with access to finance, the immediate past APC administration in the state would have fixed these roads since it received nearly N20 billion monthly from the federal allocations. This is excluding loans that the administration accessed.

The outstanding success in the rehabilitation of existing roads in Rivers State flows from the careful planning of Wike, diligent application of scarce resources, and high level supervision of projects. All projects are wired to succeed, as failure is not an option.
–– Nwakaudu, Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media, writes from Port Harcourt.