Communities along the Abuja-Lokoja Highway have blamed indigenous contractors and federal agencies for the slow pace of construction work on the 196-kilometre road project put at N42.3billion at inception 18 July, 2006.
The communities lamented the lingering deplorable condition of the road and the snail-speed approach to the project awarded by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration with a 30-month completion span.
They said the project had not only become a death-trap but a den for robbers and kidnappers.
The Odumi of Omoko, a community along the highway, Mallam Umar Zozi, said they had resigned to fate.
He said: “Had the construction of this all-important highway been completed on schedule, it would not only have facilitated movement of commuters and goods from the south and northern Nigeria, but the many fatal accidents caused by potholes which have claimed lives would have been avoided.”
Corroborating the claim, a CHISCO bus driver, Mr John Eze, said accidents on the dilapidated road were a daily occurrence, particularly from the Koton-Karfi- Chikara axis, stressing that the multiple potholes made it easier for highway robbers and kidnappers to waylay commuter buses, rob, rape and kidnap passengers.
Amos Yakubu, a commercial bus driver, lamented the spate of accidents on the road, particularly from the military Check-Point after Chikara down to Ohuno, Gegu and other communities in-between up to Konto-Karfi.
Also, a commuter, Alhaja Binta Adejo, regretted government’s decision to award the contract to indigenous firms, stressing that “the delay in the completion has made travelling on the road not only a nightmare but literally gives underworld persons ample chance to conduct their amorous businesses with reckless abandon.”
A community leader in Gegu, who did not want to be named, said: “It appears the federal government and its agencies have not been proactive in the quest to get the highway completed, otherwise, it would have compelled the indigenous contractors handling the project to complete it or revoke the contract and award it to a more competent contractor.
“In fact, had the contract been awarded to a foreign firm, the road before now would have been tear-leather completed and even commissioned.”
Complementing the position of an earlier respondent, Mallam Zozi, the source said the communities had resigned to their fate because of the seemingly lackadaisical approach of the authorities to the respective contractors’ delay on the completion of the highway.
In yet another interview, a commercial driver, Mr. Oluwakemi Adebola said despite leaving Gwagwalada 5.00am for Garki, he would not reach his destination in good time because of gridlock.
Similar view was expressed by a truck driver, Abubakar Shehu, plying the road from Kano with tons of cement.
Shehu, who bemoaned the gridlock at Gwagwalada, said: “It is not the first time, it happens every day as long as the construction work is ongoing. We don’t know when the construction work will be completed.”
Another respondent, Mr Akande Shitu, said motorists go through tough times getting to their destinations.
“We pass through Kuje to the airport road before getting to Garki. He said those going to Kwali, Abaji axis have to follow Chukuku, a suburb of Kuje on rough roads before getting to Kwali and Abaji,” he said.
“The same fate often befalls us as civil servants when going to work. We just urge the federal government to up its game and get the contractor to do the needful and complete the job,” said a civil servant who craved anonymity.
Investigation further revealed people died on a daily basis while crossing the road, especially the Okada riders who carried passengers owing to lack of pedestrian bridge.
Meanwhile, Nathaniel Hule, a building and construction engineer who spoke to Eagles News correspondent in Gwagwalada, said the federal government needed to hasten up and address the factors responsible for accidents on the highway.
“Infrastructural deficiencies and budgetary constraints are some of the challenges militating against efforts to keep the roads safe. The government has to commence the rehabilitation and resuscitation of the highway system as well as the dualisation of major highways across the country.
“Many countries are passing legislation and bills to increase penalties against road traffic offences and bad roads; nothing is too much to reduce deaths to zero on the roads in our country. That is supposed to be our goal.
“We are advising government at all levels to support all efforts towards reduction of accidents fatalities on our roads, revamping of the lingering issues of bad road and substandard roads, absence of standard road furniture and limited technology in the enforcement and motoring process on the roads, ‘he stated”
President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Samson Ayokunle, recently bemoaned the lack of urgency in the construction work saying “It is a shame to the country, that 15 years after, the construction of a 200-kilometre road is yet to be completed,” and wondered why the authorities seem to be less concerned about speedy and quality delivery of projects.
One of our correspondents, who monitored the work, observed that “from Chikara to Omoko alone- a distance of about seven kilometres-there are no fewer than 127 potholes, which is even relatively better than the condition of portions of the road from Konto-Karfi to Chikara. Some potholes are up to 4.5metres in depth and about 30 metres in width.”
Though the Kwali- Chikara section handled by SUKKU was in good condition as at the time of this report, some portions on the opposite section supposedly completed by an indigenous firm, had started wearing off from the shoulders while some portions had also folded thus making driving less than smooth and pleasant.
How the contract was awarded
The Obasanjo administration had initially awarded the Section 1 of the road at the sum of N11.2 billion, section 2 attracts N9.6 billion, section three at N9.6 billion, while section four gulped N11.9 billion respectively.
The N42.3billion contract sums had undergone upward reviews at different times.
The Abuja-Lokoja section 1; Juba to Sheda 42km to Dantata and Sawoe, Section 11 Sheda to Abaji, 57 km to RCC Construction Coy, Section 111- Abaji to Konto-Karfi Abaji to Bulletine Construction Limited and Section iv from Konto-Karfi to Lokoja awarded to Gitto Construction Coy.
A brief on the section 1 of the project (Zuba Junction to Sheda Junction), also sighted by Blueprint, was re-awarded 18 September, 2018 with an initial completion date of 30 June, 2019. However, the completion date was extended to 30th of June, 2021.
During a recent inspection of work progress on the project, Minister of State for Works Abubakar Aliyu, said the contract was reviewed in 2018 and the cost increased based on exigencies raised to N29billion by the present administration.
The minister allayed the fear of people that the project was jinxed by expressing the hope that it would finally be completed within the second quarter of 2021 to be commissioned by December.
“It was reviewed in 2018 and the cost increased based on the time value of the money to N29bn, so the work has been going on and has reached over 95 percent completion. We are here to agree on certain grey areas that are making this road not to be completed at the stipulated time,” the minister said.
It was gathered that among the grey areas are ‘upgrade needed for the perfect delivery’, inclusion of a service lane in the pick park within the Gwagwalada metropolis and needed approval for its inclusion by the authorities.
This was recently disclosed during the minister’s inspection by the Executive Director Dantata and Sawoe, Mallam Nasiru Dantata, who confirmed that necessary approvals were needed to get the work done without further delay.
“It is to be easy work once it is approved. So, this is the missing link, only one stretch in Gwagwalada that is remaining. Once we do that, we have small things to tidy up and hand over the job,” Dantata assured.
He said observers were concerned that the ‘necessary approval’ may include extra-cost for the ‘grey areas.’
Funding our challenge -FG
Speaking with Eagles News correspondent, the Director of Highway, Construction and Rehabilitation, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Engr. Funsho Adebiyi, identified funding as one of the factors delaying the project.
He, however, clarified that the present government had brought funding of the project under Sukuk intervention.
Adebiyi also noted that soil texture in one of the sections delayed the space of work on the project site but assured that it would be completed soon.
He said: “Funding was one of the factors responsible for the slow space of work. Before the life of this administration, the project experienced funding challenges. But now we are using Sukuk to bridge the funding gap.
“The Gwagwalada exit point of the project is being fixed. And it will be ready in two weeks’ time and will be open to traffic.
“There are four contractors on that road, and the challenges of soil problems forced us to do a lot of self-re-modification there. In a nutshell, funding and soil problems were what we were addressing and now that we are through, very soon, the project will be completed.
“Work is going on in the remaining sections of the road and it will be completed soon. We want to give the road users comfort on the route and I appeal to them to bear with us; we will soon be through.”
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