‘Rot Was the Hallmark of the Okorocha Years in Imo’

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Rochas Okorocha

Mr. Ralph Nwosu, Commissioner for Works, Imo State holds a conversation with Amby Uneze on the effort of his ministry to meet up with the ‘Three R’-Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery-mantra of the Governor Hope Uzodinma administration

The roads in the state are gradually being tackled as your administrationenters its first year, where do we go from here?

We do not have to sound like broken records, bemoaning our fate, what we need is to face challenges and see what we can do to ameliorate the situation. When we came, we saw MCC Road, Assumpta Road, World Bank Road, we met the Relief Market road, we met Douglas Road, and even World Bank Road that were not in good shape, and we tackled these roads with swift action. Today, what we have on the ground is far better than what we met. From Assumpta Road going to the General Hospital, Assumpta to World Bank with a spur at Federal Secretariat are all constructed. If you go to Relief Market Road you will agree with me that no government in the past had touched that area. Go there now, it is constructed with street lights, walk ways; all modern facilities are there as we speak and that is what we replicate on all the roads we are constructing.

Go to Dick Tiger Road, it is done with walkways and street lights. Of course the tunnel we are doing is almost 85 percent completed. It is terminating into the Otamiri River. And once we finish that all the problems of flooding on MCC Road and Trans Egbu axis are gone once and for all. Look at Douglas Road upto Naze Roundabout; it has not been there before because nobody could believe that you can drive through Douglas Road all through without hitches, all those things are gone, the traffic is smooth as we speak.

What we are doing with urban renewal will marvel you. We have flagged off the road that had given us a headache, that is, the Naze – Federal Poly- Ihiagwa-FUTO- Obinze road. That particular road is where the viral members of the society are staying; you have a large population of students living there. That road was awarded to a contractor by the previous government just as we met other 28 roads being constructed but they abandoned them. We inherited them and because government is a continuum, we must work with what we see on the ground and since we have the best intention, we continue on them because they are very important to our people.

There was so much outcry about that Naze-Federal Poly-Ihiagwa-FUTO Road that was initially awarded by Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha’s administration with almost 50 percent work done before the Supreme Court sacked him. Why did this government not continue from there?

That road was awarded and N980 million was paid to the contractor. They did the drains and earthwork of about 6.8 kilometers, and they had started construction on the bridge. It was a 14 kilometer road. If you are doing construction you must benchmark what you are doing and if they had started from the beginning because for a four-year government, you don’t have upto 12 months construction window bearing in mind the rains, you have to devise a means of embarking on construction to meet this period to the benefit of the people. The contractor was doing classical construction, but the rains met them, the earthwork became bad, it turned into custard on the road and people were yelling. They did not realize that they ought to do their stone base at the same time in order to avoid what happened. Now where is the 50 percent they did? If you are given a job, you work with the development partners and if that was done, today we would have been talking about taking off from Federal Poly and not the beginning at Naze Junction.

Is there any plan to recover the excess money paid to the contractor for the work not done?

Of course, we have notified the bank. Like I told you, government is a continuum, the other government did the right thing, they got APG (Advance Payment Guarantee), that is a performance bond. We don’t have any business with the contractor but with the bank, we have notified the bank. Bear in mind we have to pay for what we can see and measure. If you are talking about the earthwork, we cannot pay on what we cannot see and measure, maybe the rains washed them away, that is their business.

Roads construction happens to be what people see and feel by any government, especially your government that prides itself on three R-mantra of rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery, what is your government doing to ensure that the roads you are working on are perfect?

It is a practical thing, go and see the roads we have constructed and gauge the quality and the facility around them. You know, at the time we came, we met COVID-19 when we were trying to articulate what to do and the contractors also did not give us the required confidence, they were like scared and we gave them the assurance to work and by the time we persuaded them to move to site lockdown came in. It became very difficult for them to get the materials to work with, even Dangote cement was also difficult to get and by the time they settled for the materials, rain met us. Thank God we continued and under the rains how do we manage cement stabilization, do the earthwork, do the stone base and all that? Now our stone base is super and the finishing is equally superb, it can last for 20 years, go and check. Any road we are doing we want the best for our people. The Governor in his wisdom, called me to work with him, I must give my best so that posterity will remember a certain governor who put in his best to work for Imo people. Some of us will make sure that the right thing is done, that is why I commend the Governor for appointing a world class consultant, Delliot to engage the Owerri-Orlu and Owerri-Okigwe roads.

These two major roads you just mentioned are very important to our people, I hope it is not going to be like the former administration of Okorocha that used sand and block to divide the roads and concluded that it had dualized them?

This company is going to take care of the whole stretch of the two major roads, from beginning to the end. Orlu-Owerri road is 34 kilometres dual carriage way and Owerri-Okigwe is 68 kilometres single carriage way. We are going to get nine metres with shoulders and well-paved sides.

Can you explain in your own estimation if this government has achieved a milestone in its first year in office?

I can tell you in the area of roads, he has done well because he started from the scratch. By the way, by the time this government was inaugurated, Relief Market Road was not awarded, Dick Tiger was nor awarded, Chukwuma Nwoha was not awarded, MCC was not awarded. These areas were abandoned because of the terrain. The balloon technology we are doing along Chukwuma Nwoha Road is something on paper that looks impossible but today we are on it with about 90 percent completed. In other areas, the Governor has done well too. In the area of trying to stabilize the salaries and pensions, people don’t understand the rot that happened in the state in the past. You will cry for the state. During those eight years of Okorocha, the former government asked Imo civil servants to go to work for only three days in a week, people used that opportunity to write names of ghost workers, and you can imagine where a 30-year person is a pensioner. These things take courage to bring back to normalcy. I appeal to Imo people to support the government and encourage us, because this administration means well for the development of the state.