By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
As contractors intensify palliative work on failed sections of the Lokoja-Benin highway to ease the challenges faced by travellers during the Christmas and New Year festivities, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has ordered contractors and the federal controllers of works in Edo and Kogi States to ensure the completion of one of the two alignments of the road latest by June 2020.
The road is broken into four sections with two alignments.
The Director, Highways Roads Design, South-south, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Mr. Oluropo Olajide Oyetade, disclosed this while on an inspection tour of sections of the road on the Edo axis.
Speaking during a courtesy call on the Onogie of Ekpoma, the traditional ruler of Ekpoma, Chief Anthony Ehizogie Abumere II, he said about a month ago, the minister had given all the four contractors and the federal controllers of works in Edo and Kogi States an order to ensure that rehabilitation work is done on the alignments as well as the four sections of the road.
He said: “Our focus is on the two alignments in the four sections of the road. The sections include Lokoja-Okene; Okene-Auchi; Auchi-Ehor and Ehor-Benin. All the four sections of the roads are receiving very aggressive work by the four contractors and the federal controllers.”
After several meetings in the last two months, he said the minister gave the directors in the four departments on federal highways to deliver at least one alignment from Lokoja to Benin latest by June 2020.
Noting that the four sections of the road were being addressed with particular reference to Ekpoma in Esan-West of Edo State where erosion menace is pronounced, Oyetade urged the royal father to sensitise his people to cooperate with the federal government and the contractors when work commences to address the erosion challenge.
He stated that the design to tackle the erosion problem would affect some houses, adding that the government was ready to pay compensation to the owners of such property.
Responding, Chief Benson Idobiowa, who stood in for the Onogie of Ekpoma assured him that his people were ready to cooperate with the government and contractors on the project.
The erosion menace, he stated, had been a source of nightmare to the people until a few weeks ago when the rains ended.
During another courtesy call, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, assured him that his government was committed to ensuring improved road infrastructure in the state, adding that his administration was in discussions with the federal government to ameliorate the suffering of commuters on the Benin-Lokoja road during the festive season.
Obaseki said his administration was ready to cooperate with the Ministry of Works and Housing to ensure success in the reconstruction of the road.
He also promised to sensitise those whose houses will obstruct construction works, assuring him that necessary compensation will be considered.
“The road alignment from Benin to Okene is the main economic artery of Edo State because it cuts across the three senatorial districts of the state. Anything that happens to that road affects both the economy and the administration.
“The poor condition of that road has also affected our internal roads in the state because of the huge traffic that goes through it. When the road is bad all other state roads around it will be affected. It has been like that since the construction of the road started in the last eight years
“We are in a difficult and desperate situation in Edo State; we are afraid of entering another raining season with that road remaining in that state. Whatever can be done to complete the critical alignment of that road will be appreciated by the Edo State government,” he said.
Earlier, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola said the Ministry will collaborate with the Edo State Government to achieve their developmental objectives in line with the ministry’s mandate on road construction.
The Minister who was represented by the Director, Highways Roads Design, South-South at the Ministry of Works and Housing, Engr. Oluropo Oyetade said the visit to Benin City was to supervise the road design and brief the governor on the effort of the Ministry in improving federal roads, especially the Ekpoma stretch.
He said, “About one month ago, the Minister gave all four contractors and the two Federal Comptroller of Works in Edo and Kogi State a matching order to ensure that rehabilitation work is done on the old alignment as aggressive work is on-going in the four sessions of the Federal road.
Our focus is on the two alignments in the four sessions of the roads. The sessions include Lokoja-Okene; Okene-Auchi; Auchi-Ehor and Ehor-Benin. All the four sessions of the roads are receiving very aggressive work by the four contractors and Federal Comptroller”.
Oyetade disclosed that the minister after several meetings in the last two months, gave the directors in the four departments in the federal highway to deliver at least one alignment from Lokoja to Benin latest by June 2020.