Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, has urged the state government under the watch of Governor Siminalayi Fubara to give credit to former Governor Chibuike Amaechi for initiating the Port Harcourt Ring Road, in April 2008.
The APC chieftain also tackled the immediate past governor, Nyesom Wike, on his recent comment that his administration gave approval for the project at the last State Executive Council Meeting in May this year.
Eze insisted that the project remains the brainchild of Amaechi, who he claimed “conceived and designed same to ease the crippling traffic congestion, drive a seamless urban – rural transportation network, connect the people, attract investments, open up every part the state for development and strengthen the economic competitiveness of the Rivers State”.
In a statement made available to journalists yesterday in Port Harcourt, the APC chieftain said the state government under Amaechi signed a memorandum of understanding with the African Finance Corporation (AFC) to construct the road conceived to be the largest municipal highway in Africa, under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
He said from its master plan the ring road would be the establishment of a new city north of the Port Harcourt International airport which is the Greater Port Harcourt City, another lofty idea of the Amaechi administration designed to compete with Abuja and Lagos.
Eze stressed that although the project, which formerly planned by Amaechi to cover about 88 kilometers, has now been reduced to 50 kilometers at a higher cost of N200billion.
“The new city received serious attention under Amaechi with the building of the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium which is just a component of the games village, an International Bus Terminal, the New Rivers State University, a five-star hospital, modern road networks, schools, hotels, central business district and several other projects which have been left to rot including the Port Harcourt monorail which has its destination in the new city.
“The project contracted to China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) originally spans through a distance of 88 kilometers at the cost of $700 million which is barely a hundred billion of the Nigerian currency as at that time. Unfortunately, from available records and fact, the project distance seems to have been shortened by Governor Fubara to about 50 kilometers to exclude Igwuruta, Omagwa Isiokpo and the rest of Ikwerre local government area including the Greater Port Harcourt City which extends into Etche, whereas the budget has jumped to over N200 billion, with a hike in the cost of each kilometer to an outrageous amount of around N4 billion.
“A breakdown from Alabo George-Kelly, State Commissioner for Works, a critical part of the project which is the Ikwerre axis leading into the Greater Port Harcourt City has been cut off thus distorting the entire master plan and depriving the people of Rivers State the benefits of the project from the way Amaechi had originally designed it.
“You would recall that during Amaechi administration, the ring road project advanced into the Igwuruta axis of the Greater Port Harcourt City with the beams of the flyover already on ground awaiting to be launched on the columns. But all through the administration of Wike, the Greater Port Harcourt City flyover project and the Greater Port Harcourt City project itself remained stagnated. This would not have been the case had those projects been located in Obio/Akpor.”
The party chieftain expressed the believe that it was out of alleged political bitterness that Amaechi was not recognized as the brain behind the project.
“Every foundation his predecessor laid for the good of the state, he avoided and toed the path that led him nowhere. Now, the buses Amaechi bought and the ring road Amaechi started, which form the basics of the current government has excited him to praise Fubara to high heavens as having done the best thing ever in the history of the state. But these things were there for him to ride on, and he never did because they are Amaechi’s legacies and that’s why he failed woefully.”
Eze commended efforts by the current administration to complete the ring road project but expressed dismay over the distortions of the original master plan which has led to the exclusion of the Greater Pert Harcourt City which is a key component of the project developed to support Port Harcourt’s ambition of becoming a regional commercial hub.
He noted that N200 billion was exorbitant for a project that has been reduced to mere 50 kilometers and accused former Governor Wike of being the brain behind the distortions and exclusions.
“The exclusion of the Greater Port Harcourt City which is a key component of the master plan of the ring road project was orchestrated by Wike in order to continue to downplay the development of the new city and surrounding environment especially those communities in Ikwerre LGA and his action is propelled by a sense of desperate hatred for other Ikwerre communities.”
Advising the Rivers Government to reintegrate the excluded sections of the ring road into the project in order that the project would not be haphazard, Eze called for an urgent attention to the “abandoned M10 40-kilometre Dual Carriage Freeway, designed and commenced by the Amaechi administration to connect the Port Harcourt International Airport to the Onne Sea Port.
“The first phase of the project was awarded to Lubrik Construction Company Ltd in March 2012, and connects the Prof. Tam David West Road to Ikwerre Road and opens up the Phase 1A Housing Development Area and the Central Business District in the new city (the Greater Port Harcourt City),” he said.
Eze described the ring road project as world most expensive road contract to be awarded in the anal of public procurement and added that “the sinister motive behind such outrageous contract is to loot the common patrimony of Rivers people and stockpile money ahead of the envisaged rerun election in Rivers State and the 2027 Presidential election,” he added.