Much of the controversies that have pitched the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration in Akwa Ibom State against the immediate past governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio on one hand; and the Niger Delta Development Commission on another phase have centred on road construction. The state Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen tells Nseobong Okon-Ekong that his principal has provided more road infrastructure to a wider section of the state than previous administrations
With the time left before this administration terminates, how many of the road projects do you think you will be able to take to completion?
Most of the ongoing one particularly, if we look at the dual lane roads, I will be able to complete Uyo-Ikot Ekpene. That I’m very sure. That will completed before December/January. We will also be able to complete Etinan-Uyo even with the Cable Bridge at Ekpene Ukpa. We have already finished Ibeno-Eket. Eket-Etinan should be nearing completion. Where we have delays will be areas that are fully built up. There will be restrictions and work may be slowed down because of getting people to leave those locations. For the dual lane roads, we are looking at completing works on on-going projects within Ikot Ekpene, Etinan and Uyo. The tidying up of the bridge front of Eket-Ibeno Road will be done. We are also sure that Eket-Etinan, if anything, will be very minimal but we have taken Ikot Oku Ikono-Etinan to almost completion. I’m not sure we can complete Airport Road between now and May next year. For the other single lane roads, we will get them done by December, with the present level of funding. The peculiar project in Ini local government, that is in terminating in Arochukwu, by this December the road will be fully ready, so that we can get the bridge done before May and the projects in Oron going on now about 1.82 kilometres is done with additional 500 metres that we are sure we can take. The Obio Akpa campus of the state university where we did over six kilometres internally and external roads will be finish by November and by December, the governor will commission it. In all, it is about 18 kilometres. As at our last visit, we have done nine kilometers, but the contractor has assured me that with the last money we gave him, he will able to take it to 15 kilometers. If that happens, we will be able to almost take that road to completion.
The road between Ewan and Etebi and Eket the entire road stretch will be completed, that bridge is the longest bridge in South-south Nigeria. We are at about 58 per cent completion. It’s not something you will do at will. If we don’t finish the bridge, we will finish the road. For Oron Intervention Two, we just released the money and we will be able to take that place by May. We are finishing Nsit Atai Road. All the interventions in Uyo are about 60. All of them will be commissioned. We will be able to take those interventions because we are funding it. Most of them will be ready by December. The road at Ika just got awarded. It is 22 kilometres. The seven kilometer road will be completed, but the 15 kilometre might not be completed. There’s a road between Ukana and Etinan, more than 70 percent has been done and by December, we will take it. The other roads between Awa, Ikot Edem, Ukam, Asong, Ikot Ebiere the main alignment has been done and will be commissioned in December; Ikot Abasi Road even if we flag it off, it will take one or two weeks, we can’t finish it. If you come back to Uyo that 3.5 kilometre road that takes you from Udo Udoma to Abak Road by Quebec we will clean it up. We will change the pattern. It was 50/50 funded by the government and the contractor. We will change it to full-funding by government so we will be able to take it by December. It’s almost completed. Eket-Ibeno, before December that bridge that we are building is as good as done. The 13.87 kilometre individual roads in Esit Eket will be completed, the contractor is an indigenous contractor is firing the work from all cylinders. The 13 kilometres road in Nsit Ubium will be completed, so I think that the bulk of the single lane roads, if we have sunshine from now till April, most of them will be done. But for the double lane roads, even if you finish the road, until you are able to get the road completely ready with the street lighting, you wouldn’t say you have completed it. The entire design has to be realised for you to say it’s completely done. If you do a road without drainage, you have not done a good job. That’s what is happening right now on Ikot Ekpene Road. If someone comes to me and says Ikot Ekpene Road is done, I will say, ‘no’. Those additional things are what makes a road what it ought to be. I think if I can get it right, we have attempted to run through almost all the local governments that we have projects and believe me with God helping us and with funding that the federal allocation, if we have consistent funding, we believe that most of the roads will be get to completion level except a few double lane roads.
Cost of road construction, particularly, in Akwa Ibom in the last administration was said to be more than any other state. What have you done to address this perception?
I have no fear of contradiction. What Governor Udom Emmanuel did was to create a cap on the cost of a kilometre of road. He never allowed it to be more than USD1 million, at a stage, he brought it down to N320 million. If it’s roads in the rural areas, he will bring it further down. I think in southern Nigeria, we have the best roads in terms of quality and price. It’s been brought drastically down. Road construction are in segments. There’s what we call Bill 1, it constitutes compensation, relocation of electric poles, planting of the electric poles, Bill 2 includes clearing of the place, getting the place ready while drainage works and others is in Bill 3. Bill 4 is the actual finishing of the road while Bill 5 is the bridge. Between Bill 2 and 5 is exclusively for the contractor. What used to balloon our road construction bills used to be Bill 1 that was managed by the Ministry of Works and Governor Emmanuel has drastically cut it down. When we went to new road 2, the governor didn’t permit any Bill 1. He said the compensation has been paid. If you go to new road three, he didn’t allow billing compensation. When you look at such critical things, he has an idea of these roads. If it’s a new road that there are no houses or farmland, you won’t have Bill 1. If Bill 1 is crashed, that means the construction cost is crashed. This governor has done that. You may hear stories in Akwa Ibom of how the governor isn’t paying compensation. He’s paying compensation, but he pays compensation within the limit of what the compensation ought to be and to the rightful owner.
Is it the true like some people think, that majorly of what you have done in road construction is to finish what the previous administrations started?
That’s absolute falsehood. Let’s run through it. The last administration didn’t not do any road in Eket senatorial district except Etebi Bridge. The two interventions in road construction Oron were carried by the Udom Emmanuel administration. The Etinan to Eket Road was on paper. No work had started. They didn’t do any work. If any money was paid I don’t know where it went to. It’s this government that started Eket-Etinan Road from the scratch. From Okopedi to Uya Oron, Governor Udom Emmanuel initiated it. So if you comes to Uyo and you look at the massive intervention in road construction, Believers Assembly- all the roads that are being done around that church, it was not the previous administration that did them. We didn’t inherit any direct road
Built and commissioned by Udom Emmanuel in Mkpat Enin. That 14 Kilometrre road in Awa to Ikot Edim to Awa and Asong was initiated by him. He is going to commission it. When the former Deputy Governor, Engr. Chris Ekpenyong sent an SOS that there was not road done by the previous administration in Obot Akara, the children were not going to school, the Nto Edino over six kilometres of road was initiated and completed by Governor Emmanuel. There was no road in Ini local government. The rod from Ini to Arochukwu which is 15 kilometres was initiated and completed by Udom Emmanuel. The 3.5 kilometre road in Ibiono was initiated by this governor, so that story is absolute falsehood. The only road we inherited were just about two roads-Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road, which was taken to 15 kilometres and a first phase of asphalt was laid. The real cost, this government bore it. At kilometer 15, there was a three-storey building with N280 million compensation demand on it, this government brought it down to N141 million and took down the building and has taken that road to the completion level. Uyo-Ikot Ekpene was badly handled. How do you design that kind of road without drainage? The major part of that road is flooded. Only 40 per cent of that road was done by the previous administration. The rest has been done by this government. The other one was Ikot Ekara-Ibesit Okpokoro-a road that ought to have long been completed, it was not completed, this government took it at where they had done one kilometer and when the contractor did not do well, we terminated it. My wife comes from there, so I am an indigene in Ibesit Okpokoro. I am not speaking as a stranger. The construction of that road was supposed to last for 18 months. It lasted more than three years. It was awarded in 2012. We came in 2015, the contractor was still there. So, something was wrong. If you sincerely ask those who say, if two roads, out of the entire lot I have listed were what we inherited and have finished; just like Eket-Ibeno Road, Exxon Mobil said they brought N8 billion. This government did not see that money. The governor raised money from the bank to execute that road. That was why when Exxon Mobil wanted to participate in the ceremony of the commissioning of that road, I did not allow them because we did not see their N8 billion. If you do the total analysis, 99 per cent of the jobs that are ongoing today in Akwa Ibom were initiated by this governor. That is the honest truth. That is why you can see me drive to those projects and stop and nobody will raise any alarm.
Go to where you have the traditional Uyo council headquarters. All those streets around Bassey Attah and all those roads, it is this administration that started it. If you go to Onna, there was no road previously done by any administration in this state. Every of those roads in Ikot Ebidan, Mkok, Okat and Awa were done by Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Eket re-modelling, Udom Emmanuel initiated it. The intervention in the internal roads, the super highway to the Ibom Deep Seaport, Udom Emmanuel initiated it. The story that they used to talk about Ibom Deep Seaport, nothing was done by the previous administration. It was propaganda. It is Governor Udom Emmanuel who has started the nitty gritty of the processes of getting approval, which today is almost completed. This government has started the process of getting people to access the seaport. You don’t go to seaport with helicopter. That is why we started the road. If you get the approval, how do you access the seaport? There was no attempt made by anybody to access the seaport. A seaport is a heavy road transport project. You cannot carry containers with helicopter. Every access of the deep seaport up till today is by helicopter. It is this government that has made a bold attempt to construct a road so that the process of owning a seaport will start because even after all the approvals and there are investors, how do they access the seaport? Those are the imaginations of those who think wild. There are dreamers
Where will you consider your showpiece road?
I will simply take Ikot Oku Ikono-Etinan, Etinan-Ndon Eyo, Etinan-Eket; opening up Eket-Ibeno to the super highway. If you leave Ikot Oku Ikono, you traversed to Etinan on a dualised road, you have a choice of going to the East-West Road on the right through Etinan through Ndon Eyo to Mbioto, if you choose to go through Eket, when you get to Eket, you are not seeing the former dirty Eket, you are entering a re-modeled Eket and if you go on the re-modeled Grace Bill Road, you are getting to where the oil wealth of this country is obtained and the federal government has not considered building a road to the place. There was a resolution by the House of Representatives that roads should be built to all areas where oil is drilled. It was a paper tiger. Along that road, you will get to where the next wealth of Akwa Ibom is coming from. There is super highway that takes you back to Uya Oron and takes you to the seaport. If all these road networks are completed, that will be the masterpiece of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration, in terms of road infrastructure.
What are the hindrances that you have with communities and owners of structures in executing the road infrastructure in the state?
I will give you an instance, the compensation that was said to have been paid on Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road were badly done. We had close to 1000 cases in court on that road alone. The genuine property owners did not get the compensation. That was a big challenge for us. It set us back for a season. We needed to get people to leave the courts by negotiation and then we started paying them to get the job done.
Where are you at now concerning the matter with the NDDC?
They have slowed down because we have two challenges. One is that if you are doing road for us, let us know so that there is no conflict. We are the landlord. All the roads belong to the government. The governor supervises it. If you have 100 roads you want to do for us, give us the list, we surrender those to you and we can do the others. Number Two and very critical was poor quality roads. These roads are quoted at the value of quality roads and sub-standard roads were done. We refused because it will be recorded against our state that such were done at such exorbitant amount and it did not reflect the quality of job done. That affected them and the NDDC does not really have a presence in the state anymore.
IN THE MIRROR:
*Holds a Bachelor Degree of Science in Chemistry from the University of Ibadan and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Lagos
*Currently a candidate for a doctorate degree in Business Administration from Walden University
*Began his professional career as an Auxiliary Teacher in the then Cross River State Teaching Service Commission where he taught Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics at Community Secondary School, Okat in 1982
*In 1989, during his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme, Ephraim worked as a Chemist with the Nigeria Railway Corporation and on 31st August, 1990, he enlisted in the Nigeria Customs Service as an Assistant Superintendent of Customs
*For over 25 years, he maintained a glittering and dignified career spanning various key departments of the service
*He is a member of several professional bodies including Institute of Management Consultants (IMC), Chartered Institute of Administration (CIA) and the Institute of Professional Managers and Administrators of Nigeria (IPMA)
*Best Performing Commissioner of the Year (2017) South-south by the Independent Public Service Award which focuses on Works & Infrastructure Category
*Most pro-active commissioner by Bureau for Investigative nd Balance Reportage
*Kwame Nkruma Leadership Award by West Africa Student Union Parliament