The emergency repairs of the Calabar-Itu-Ikot-Ekpene-Aba Federal Highway by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has been described as a critical intervention necessary to save the very busy and important road artery in the Niger Delta from total collapse.
Speaking after inspecting the on-going repairs on the road yesterday, the Acting Managing Director of the Commission, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said that the urgent intervention was necessary to arrest the deterioration of the road and reduce the pains of motorists commuting to Cross River State from other parts of the country.
Mrs. Semenitari, who had inspected the road barely two weeks ago, had directed the remedial works begin immediately to salvage the road. Accompanied by other directors yesterday, she expressed satisfaction that the road which was cut in half, has been restored after just one week of intervention.
She said: “If it had not been for our intervention, we won’t be on the road today because it had been cut into two and people were literally crossing with canoes. Now we have done the whole length of the road from Itu through Odukpani to Tinapa Junction, Calabar. So clearly, we have made a lot of progress and the contractors were mobilized to site just one week ago.
“The whole idea is to finish recovery of the road and allow commuters to use it without further difficulties. What we are doing on the road would last for at least three years, by which time, the Federal Government would have started a total reconstruction of the road. But for the meantime, we are doing a remedial work to ensure that the road is usable until the Federal Government is ready. We are responding to the emergency that exists now but even at that we are doing a quality repair that would stand the test of time.”
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said that the emergency repairs covered about 86 kilometres and was awarded to four different contractors. She observed: “Some spots are very bad and some are not as bad but you will notice that there is less traffic on the road now.
According to her, while section one of the road, which covers Ekim Junction to Itu Bridge, was awarded to Faithplant Global Limited, section two; Itu Bridge to Okuruikand Junction, was being handled by a different contractor. The other two she said, were being executed by Basse Engineering Limited, working from Okuruikang Junction to Odukpani Junction while Zenith Construction Limited was working on section four, which covered Odukpani Junction to Tinapa Junction, Calabar.
Mrs. Semenitari gave kudos to NDDC engineers whom she said had shown commendable commitment to professionalism, adding that their performance was encouraging and worthy of emulation. “They have done a good job and by the time the road is done, Nigerians will admit that we have great engineers in the Commission who are doing good work,” she said.
“The engineers advised that we add culverts in some areas that are very bad especially in the area where the water crossed the road recently. We would have to make a culvert for the water to pass. We would not have this road rehabilitated in a long time and we would ensure that this is done very well.”
The NDDC boss said that at the time the road was constructed in 1976, the traffic was not very heavy and the load on it was a lot less. She said that the situation today was different, with many heavy trucks and tankers plying the road. She added: “I think that that is why the Federal Government decided to reconstruct the road. I think that the Federal Government has done what it should do. That is to plan a reconstruction on the road that will accommodate the kind of load that goes on it currently, but you cannot stop deterioration from taking place. You would expect some problems at some point. What must happen is that we will build a road that can carry the weight of the load.”
Mrs. Semenitari said that the NDDC had no choice but to rise to the occasion in the face of the emergency which had brought so much pain to road users. She said that because of the urgency, the Commission could not wait for other development agencies for partnership before the intervention. “FERMA which is a Federal Government agency said they could not afford to intervene at this time and that they needed a sister agency to come in quickly. So, we had to move in immediately to save the situation,” she said.
The site engineer for Faithplant Global limited, Engr. Shola Adenekan, assured the NDDC team that work on section one of the road would be completed in two weeks despite the challenges of frequent rains and that of getting materials to the site.
Similarly, Engr Bassey Ekanem who spoke for Basse Engineering Limited said that his company had fully mobilised to site and was responding to the urgency of the situation. He said that transporters and other road users were appreciative of what the NDDC was doing to restore the road.