By Ignatius Ushie
Concerned by the security and safety of commuters, within and around the East – West road, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA), has proposed an extra-budgetary intervention for inclusion of the East-West Road Sections I-IV in the 2021 SUKUK issuance programme of the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the Debt Management Office (DMO).
According to a Press Release signed by Deworitshe Patricia, Director (Press & PR) in the Ministry and made available to Transport Day in Abuja, Niger Delta Minister, Sen. Godswill Akpabio who disclosed this in Abuja added that the project has attained an average completion of 78.40 percent (inclusive of the new section IIIA – Eleme Junction to Onne Junction and the Eket Bypass) against claims by stakeholders in the region that he lied to President Muhammadu Buhari that the project was 90 percent completed.
According to Akpabio, the move for SUKUK intervention was part of the efforts made by the Ministry to access adequate funding for the completion of the East-West road project, adding that the appeals for extra-budgetary funding intervention for the project was yielding fruits as the Minister of finance has graciously directed the DMO to include the project in the SUKUK issuance of 2021.
Akoabio who noted that due to poor annual budgetary provisions, the contract for upgrading of Section IIIA awarded in 2014 could not commence until the Ministry paid the contractors the full mobilization Advance in 2020, regretted that the condition of the road deteriorated during the period of delay, adding that there has been serious encroachment on the right-of-way initially delineated for the road.These encroachments leading to right of way constraints, especially at Onne Junction by the Power Substation belonging to Niger Delta Power Holdings necessitated a change in intercession design from interchange to flyover bridge with roundabout, which has to be applied to refinery junction and Akpajo junction also redesigned to have a flyover bridge to ease traffic flow.
Furthermore, the Minister resolved to adopt the Engineer’s professional advice to strengthen the pavement with additional load-bearing layers and reconstruct the two Aleto bridges with longer span with river realignment/bank protection works, which are all additional scope of works for the contract required to achieve the desired durability and functionality for the industrial need of the corridor.
Noting the efforts being made by the Federal Government through the Ministry on the progress of work on the upgrading of 15km Port Harcourt to Onne Port Junction Section lllA of the ongoing East-West Road Dualization project contract, the Minister explained that the initial contracts for dualization of the 338km road linking Warri to Oron through Kaima, Ahoada, Port Harcourt, Ogoni and Eket Townships (Sections 1- 1V) was initially awarded in four sections to four different contractors in 2006. “lt is well known that Section IIIA, covering Eleme Junction to Onne junction was not part of the contract initially awarded in 2006 because it was in good condition having been dualized earlier”
“It cannot be overemphasized that the implementation of the projects to completion will impact positively on the economy of the Niger Delta region through the generation of direct and indirect employment, increase in commercial activities along the road corridor, enhanced safety and security of the commuters, and reduction in travel time and vehicle operating cost”
“More importantly, it will satisfy the social inclusion and esteem needs of citizens of the region, and further endear Mr. President to the people.” He added.
Akpabio said, It was in pursuance of the ministry’s objective to ensure the completion of the project that it stepped down 345 projects and committed N10 billion in the current 2022 budget, adding that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) also made provision of 10 billion in the 2020 annual budget and another N25 billion in 2021 budget to impact positively on the rate of progress of work on the East-West road.
The Minister urged the Ogoni Youths, relevant stakeholders and Niger Deltans “to exercise patience as the Ministry is committed to bringing succour to the People of the Niger Delta”.