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Development Update

Anxiety, Hope As RSG

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If there is anything that had tended to diminish the status of Port Harcourt, and indeed, Rivers State, in the past, it is the simple fact that the state had no befitting market of international standard, where reasonable activities in commerce could be carried out. In fact, the state only had three popular markets that could pass for nineteenth century community markets, where villagers converged to buy and sell commodities. These were Mile One, Mile Three and Town markets, all in Port Harcourt Local Government Area in the Rivers State capital. The first two are located in the densely populated Diobu area while the latter is located in the heart of old Port Harcourt Town.

These three markets have been the major centres of commerce in Rivers State, and have provided millions of residents measured access to goods of all kinds. In fact, buyers and sellers of goods, especially essential commodities, have had to pay their way from far and near to one of the major markets, particularly Mile One Market, in order to make life more meaningful and worth living. But for many years, these markets remained mostly as make-shift cubicles and ramshackle shanties. Indeed, the popular Mile One Market was a typical case of market-in-tents. None of its walls was in blocks; most were zinc walls and roofs while others were merely wooden walls with zinc roofs. And these took in almost a thousand traders within a circumference of about 450X300 square metres, in addition to other road-side traders and hawkers running into hundreds. As for the Mile Three and Town markets, the story is slightly different. Parts of the two markets were built-up in two-storey standard block structures, but most parts were akin to the razzmatazz that characterised the glorified Mile One Market. While the built-up section of the Town Market was virtually fully in use, the Mile Three Market stalls were almost abandoned, with traders feeling cool with road-side trading despite its hazards.

Little wonder, therefore, that all three markets frequently witnessed devastating fire disasters. In fact, there was hardly any year that the three markets did not witness horrendous and bizarre infernos, triggered by almost always scarcely identifiable causes. The aftermath of these had been millions of wares, commodities and even cash lost by traders in the markets. The intervention of emergency response teams, such as the fire services, police and other relief providers had failed to make the impact of any reasonable rescue effort felt, for very obvious reasons. The Mile One Market was a major victim, as it was razed to ground zero in early 2005. In fact, within December, 2004 and February, 2005, all three markets witnessed various degrees of fire, which wiped off an entire market, grounded the viability of one, and threatened the continued existence of the other.

Frankly, there were a lot of reasons why the markets could not scale a simple test of minor fire outbreak or even a technical hygiene evaluation for sound sanitation, environmental and health certification. The markets were constructed in such haphazard fashion. Drive-ways were not provided for, and the litany of pat-ways that dot the markets were mostly over-crowded by a sea of heads of people, desperately struggling to make one purchase or the other, or indeed, of traders hopping from one end to the other to meet the demands of customers. Such faulty construction works left in their wake poor electrical connections, open woods and zinc, polyethylene, ropes, cables, nails, and a whole range of combustibles, explosives, and their likes. None of the markets had dedicated managers, let alone insurance cover to mitigate disasters, and no in-built fire-proof or fire-fighting equipment. It was, therefore, to check these anomalies, guarantee the safety of traders and their customers, increase the viability and revenue profile of the markets as well as elevate the face of Port Harcourt, and indeed, Rivers State, that the government decided on a phased reconstruction of the markets to meet world-class, 21st century standards. And the first in this process is the Mile One Market.        

Development Update recalls that the first phase of the contract for the construction of an ultra-modern Mile One Market was awarded in July, 2007, to Diamond Group Nigeria Limited, at a cost of N3billion. The initial contract scope was to deliver 1,000 lock-up stalls in a modern, state-of-the-art, multiplex structure, in three floors, to the Rivers State Government. But based on expert advice, the design was changed to a two-floor multiplex complex. The market was designed to accommodate fire-fighting equipment, parking lot for cars, good drainage network, and spacious, inter-connecting drive-ways for fire-fighting vehicles. It also includes a security post, offices for facility managers, and other technical components. The second and third phases were planned to deliver 1,300 open and lock-up stalls in two floors of multiplex structures, bringing the total number of stalls to 2,300.

The government’s vision for this gigantic project is simple. Development Update notes that the market is envisioned to redefine the face of Port Harcourt by planting an edifice of modern architecture, with all the paraphernalia of a 21st century centre of excellence in commerce. It is intended to raise the bar in the business of buying and selling, of especially commodities and household goods, appliances, electronics and others. The market is designed to help rewrite the history of often vulnerable commercial centres in the heart of sprawling Garden City of Port Harcourt. Indeed, the market is expected to take-in all the traders on the streets of Mile One and Mile Two in Diobu, particularly those around Ikwerre Road, Sangana and Uyo Streets, Railway Line and Flyover, among others, while doubling as a means of checking street trading and hawking in the epicentre of Port Harcourt. And, of course, it is meant to significantly boost the revenue base of the state, assuming that all the traders fulfil their obligations to government. These are tall goals that any government worth its salt would do well to pursue. And that is why the government of Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has religiously shown commitment to ensuring the timely completion of the first phase of the market to facilitate commerce in the state.

Only three weeks ago, Governor Amaechi told anxious Rivers people and other residents of the state, after some briefing, that the market would be delivered at the end of this month. Development Update recalls the governor had also said the 1,000 stalls in the first phase would be allocated to traders originally displaced in the old market, especially those now in make-shift tents and wood-shops around the new Silverbird Galleria in the flyover area as well as those at the Rumuwoji Playground, adjacent to the Assemblies of God Church, near the market. This has raised hope of a dream come true for hundreds who have waited for years to get their stalls back. It has also raised the hope of millions who have wandered from one illegal stall or hawker to the other in search of wares and commodities to buy. At the same time, the governor’s remarks have jerked the anxieties of many traders, whose make-shift tent-shops have not been demolished, yet feel they could still be accommodated in the already built-up stalls. 

Just last Friday, Rivers State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Prince Ogbonna Nwuke accentuated the governor’s remarks when he told Development Update that an inter-ministerial committee has been set up by the State Executive Council to harmonise the issues arising from the old market, including taking statistics of original traders and weighing that against the number of stalls in the new market to ensure adequate allocation of available stalls to genuine traders while also taking other interests into consideration. He noted the hopes and anxieties expressed by traders in the market, and assured genuine traders in Mile One Market that the Amaechi government would be fair and just too to all stakeholders.

As one of the major sustainable infrastructure development projects of the Rivers State Government, Nwuke noted that the committee would also look into other issues, as government was serious about making returns on its investments. One of such is the recommendation for appointment of a facility manager that would ensure proper management of the facilities, liaise with the traders to guarantee peace and work to enhance proper environmental sanitation in the market, renamed Rumuwoji Market by the last administration. He said the facility managers, when appointed, would also be saddled with the responsibility of insuring the facilities against any natural disasters.

Nwuke told Development Update that the government was not interested in paying extra money to contractors, who ask for variation of contract values, because of its belief that most of the projects were properly valued at the time of contract award. He said the government was gearing up to move to the second phase of the project, by finalising the tender process, which would open the floodgate to competent contractors, including the present contractor handling the first phase of the project, if they so wish to be part of the potentially competitive process. The commerce and industry commissioner, pointed out that the present contractor has had a lot of experience and surmounted several difficult challenges in the course of the first phase of the project, and would require all that in competing in the process leading to the second phase, and expressed satisfaction with the quality of work done so far. He said the Rivers tax-payers’ money has been judiciously expended on the project, because according to him, the market would recoup the huge investment of the government to help in developing other desperately needed infrastructures to drive the economy of the state.   

Nwuke stated that when the last administration awarded the contract for the first phase, it did not invoke any laws requiring mandatory tenders to be done before award of contracts, but stressed that the Amaechi’s administration has put in place Public Procurement Law, and a bureau to implement the enabling laws making it mandatory for competitive bids to be done in open and transparent manner before any contracts are awarded. He added that the second phase of the project would pass through due process as prescribed by the law, and allayed fears of favouritism and victimisation of any contractors.

But Development Update can honestly state, after seven inspection visits in the last three weeks, that the entire inter-connecting multiplex structures in Rumuwoji Market, would not be ready by the end of this month. The simple reason for this divergence hinges on the fact that the contractor still needs time to put finishing touches to the complex. For instance, the welding works on some of the steel doors and the dump fence are still being done while the painting has slowed down. The inter-locking tiles on the north and the stretch running through the north-west and south-west wings are yet to be fixed, just as the main gate and security post at the south-west fringe have not been completed. Also awaiting the contractor’s final push is the desilting of the huge drainage stretching from the south-west to the north-west fringes of the market, and the moulding and fitting in of the remaining slabs. Excavation, evacuation and removal of debris are other aspects of the finishing that sometimes, take preciously under-estimated time. And with barely 10 days left, it is acutely difficult to conjecture a realistic month-end handover to government, or indeed, smooth allocation and occupation of the stalls. Or perhaps, the government may allocate the stalls, but some of the beneficiaries would not put their stalls to effective use until, at least, two months. This is where Development Update has problem with the proposed timeline.

The Chairman, Mile One Market Traders Association, Mr Daniel Iheme and the Vice Chairman, Building Materials and Hardware Association in the market, Mr Chioma Wonodi, argued that the traders in the market were about 4,000, but agree that the Port Harcourt City Local Government Council has a list of little above 3,000 traders. They also expressed reservations that the contractor would deliver the project as promised, saying that a lot of work still needs to be done. Both Iheme and Wonodi said they were satisfied with the quality of work on the project so far. They noted the slow pace of work in the last two weeks, and appealed to government to impress on the contractor on the need to keep to the October end deadline, as most of their members were suffering untold hardship as a result of the crammed environment they now trade in.

Iheme noted that about 1,700 traders were relocated to the Rumuwoji Playground and the premises accommodating the uncompleted building near the Silverbird Galleria, and expressed happiness at the government’s promise to allocate available stalls in the new market to the displaced traders, as a priority. The chairman lauded the governor for touching the lives of the poor, especially the traders at the market, and pledged their support and loyalty to the development aspirations of the government.  

On the other hand, Wonodi appealed to government to ensure that their 50-member traders benefit from the new allocations in the complex. He also suggested that the contractor re-enforce the window glasses, especially those on the ground floor, facing the roads, with burglary proofs to check criminals from looting their goods in the stalls at night. Although, he noted the arrangement for a permanent security presence in the market, but said that was not enough, given their past experiences.

The Project Manager, one Mr Desmond could not be reached for comments after seven attempts to meet him personally at the project site office. When contacted on phone, he promised to call back but never did. He also did not respond to text messages from Development Update on a number of issues. But a senior official of the company handling the contract told Development Update yesterday that he was optimistic the project would be delivered within the next 10 days, saying that the management was working round the clock to raise funds to complete the project. He agreed that work has slowed down at the site, but attributed it to lack of sufficient funds to fast-track the project delivery process.

Now, if the contractor delivers the Rumuwoji Market by the end of this month to government, it means that the hopes and anxieties of the traders would have been doused. It also means that a significant milestone would have been achieved by the government in delivering sustainable development projects to the people of the state. It would further give a facelift to that area of Port Harcourt. Besides, it would raise a glimmer of hope that a safer, decent and more orderly environment now hovers as the countdown continues for the utilisation of the 1,000 lock-up stalls at Rumuwoji Market in Port Harcourt.        

Readers’ comments are welcome.

 

Nelson Chukwudi

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Development Update

Rumuibekwe/Elelenwo

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The Rivers State Government under the leadership of Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has since October 26, 2007, placed physical infrastructure development as a priority. The reason is not far-fetched. The government had realized that the state lacked basic infrastructures to kick-start an aggressive development strategy. It reckoned that the problems in the state were attributable to the dearth of basic foundations to absorb the shocks associated with the realities of present-day socio-economic development and growth. The governor, therefore, decided to frontally pursue an aggressive policy that integrates all sectors of human development.

For the government, the programmes that would facilitate the speedy development of the state include good road network in both urban and rural areas; primary, secondary and tertiary hospitals; primary, secondary and tertiary education facilities, water and sanitation infrastructures; strategic food security policy; urban renewal programme; and good transport network. But the government, also realized that all the listed pillars of development would not make any meaningful impact if a good road network is not put in place in both rural and urban centres in the state.

Thus, the government began a policy of constructing roads in all the rural communities in the 23 local government areas. Most of the roads are designed with bridges and drainages to check storm waters and subsequent flooding of the state, which experts argue, is way below the sea level. And today, the government has constructed more than 50 internal roads in the local government areas. More road projects are still ongoing in the communities. It has also constructed more than four dual carriageways already while work is ongoing on more than seven in both Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre and Port Harcourt local government areas. About four flyover projects are in the works, with one at Eleme Junction already completed and commissioned by President Goodluck Jonathan while the Eliozu flyover project, awarded to Bulletine Construction Company has seemingly been abandoned. Contracts for about five more have been awarded, and work would soon commence on them. In all, contracts have been awarded by the Amaechi administration for about 800 road projects in the state. Some of the internal community roads and dualisation projects have been highlighted in this column previously.

Today, Development Update takes a look at one of the strategic link roads being constructed by the state government in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. This is the Rumuibekwe/Elelenwo Link Road. In fact, contract for the construction of Abua/Okoba Close/Rumuibekwe Estate Road with extension to Elelenwo in Obio/Akpor was awarded to Deansgale International Limited on November 26, 2008. Valued at N1,340,133,621.75, the 1.3kilometre road project was designed to be completed in 24 months.

The vision of the government in awarding the contract to link the two important communities in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area by road is to further enhance communication between people from the area. Another vital reason is to ease human and vehicular traffic in and around the communities. Perhaps, it is not out of place to stress that the link road would serve as a very important access route for many vehicles desperate to exit or access the critical Port Harcourt/Aba Expressway or even Woji and Old Aba Road. It is also an important conduit for those striving to access Elelenwo and Akpajo to Eleme or the interchange at the Eleme Junction, en route Aba or Rumuokurusi on the East West Road.

Therefore, the new link road would serve as a critical access route for residents of Port Harcourt and those who do one form of business or the other around the state capital and its environs. The decision to open up the road, hitherto hidden in the mass of buildings sprawling in and around Rumuibekwe Estate and Elelenwo is, indeed, commendable. It shows that the government is not just thinking fast on how best to move the state forward but how positively its programmes can make a difference in the lives of Rivers people and those who live and do business in the state. It is because of the immeasurable benefits of the road to the people of the state and other residents that the government, has been closely monitoring the progress of work on the road to ensure that the contractor meets not just the project specifications but also delivery timeline.              

Between November, 2008, and the end of the first quarter of 2009, the Ministries of Works and Urban Development marked the buildings encroaching on the expanded road for demolition. Landlords who owned properties along the road were directed to demolish them while illegal structures on the right of way of the link road were also marked for demolition.  The issues of compensation were taken up by the government, and those whose properties were affected were listed and paid compensation later last year. And by October, 2009, the state government indicated that about 10 per cent of the project has been executed. But, honestly, the contractor was nowhere near the area as evidence of mobilization to start the real work at the project site.  

However, the contractor mobilized to site in February, 2010, and within a space of three weeks, graded, leveled and piled some stretch of the road from the Okoba Close axis to the Deeper Life Bible Church end. This is a stretch of about .450metres length and 12metres breadth. The shoulders on both sides collapse into new drainages constructed to take storm waters off the road, and empty into the creek separating Rumuibekwe from Elelenwo communities. Development Update notes that in one month, Deansgale completed the asphalting of this stretch of the road.

The asphalting of this stretch of the road, Development Update learnt, was necessitated by the need to allow for free flow of traffic at that end of the road, which attracts heavy vehicular movement on a daily basis. Another reason for the speedy process adopted by the contractor is the fact that the Abua Close/Okoba axis of the road was in a terrible shape and gave residents serious nightmare prior to the award of the contract by government.

Now, with the completion of work within that stretch, Deansgale shifted emphasis towards the creek, an axis that had never been motorable since the creation of the road and the massive development of the area by those who had acquired land for residential purposes. But one thing that has impacted negatively on the project is the need to expand the road to allow for a major construction effort. Consequently, new developers and those who had built their houses were asked to demolish either their fences or even structures that literarily hampered progress on the construction process.

At the same time, the contractor moved over to the Elelenwo end of the road, and began clearing the road. Now, a few hitches have delayed the job from this axis. One is the fact at the time residents began acquiring land and developing their properties, none ever imagined that one day, a major road would be carved out of that area to link Rumuibekwe Estate New Layout. Thus, houses had been built indiscriminately, some close to the less than six-metre road hitherto used as access route for those who live around the area. With the massive development effort going on in the area, a new strategy to create a link road within that circumference has been met with difficult challenges, including the challenge of paying compensation to large number of residents whose houses have had to be demolished to give way for the road construction as well as the time lag in the relocation of those affected. All these are issues in the road infrastructure development process. Of course, Deansgale, and the Rivers State Government are bracing up to these challenges.

In spite of the challenges highlighted above, Deansgale has continued with the process of bringing the vision of the government in awarding the road contract into manifest reality. Indeed, work is now progressing with the demolition, grading and leveling of the road from the Elelenwo axis. The drainage has also been created to take storm waters off the road into the creek nearby.

After about nine inspection visits to the project between February and last week, Development Update notes that attention needs to be given to a few issues relating to the standard delivery of the project to the government. From the Rumuibekwe Estate end, it is important to point out that the stretch from Ahoada Road has yet to be attended to. Even the buildings still appear too close to the road in spite of the fact that certain level of demolition of structures encroaching on the road has been made. The initial asphalting that had been done on the road appears light, and needs to be standardized to ensure that it is not washed away soon by erosion and heavy vehicular movement. The shoulders that are supposed to create convenient thorough fare on the road for users are virtually non-existent, thereby making it difficult for pedestrians to have an easy walk through the road when it becomes functional.

At the Elelenwo axis, Development Update reckons that the issues look more complex. For instance, the drainages on both sides appear light and shallow. Even the width of the road is small, at between 7-8 metres instead of 10-12 metres. In fact, the width of the road at this end does give some concern to development watchers.  A number of houses obstructing access and progress of work are still standing.

Development Update notes that work is yet to begin on the bridge meant to link both communities together. The suspended bridge has already attracted the excitement of residents of both communities, who see the development as worthy of commendation. But issues have also arisen.

Chairman of Rumuibekwe Estate Landlords Association, Emenike Nwokeoji, spoke the feelings of residents, who expressed their concerns at a monthly meeting of the estate recently. One of the issues raised is the fact that the link road would expose residents of Rumuibekwe Estate to a torrent of criminal incidents that have hardly been experienced. The other concern is the need to restrict heavy duty trucks from accessing the road, and causing severe damage to the road and the bridge in no distant time. They also canvassed the construction of speed breakers to check excessive speeding and unnecessary accidents on the new road. The same fear was expressed by some impacted residents of Elelenwo community. Take Chief Alex Kanu, for example. This estate surveyor agrees with the residents of Rumuibekwe Estate that these issues are of concern to many in Elelenwo.   

As for the security risks, they suggest the deployment of police patrol teams to the road, on completion. In fact, some insist on a permanent road block to serve as a deterrent or containment factor to criminal elements who may want to take advantage of the new road to create panic and discomfort to residents of the area. On the issue of heavy duty trucks plying the road, if completed, the residents suggest that in addition to the construction of speed breakers, a permanent cross bar to serve as barrier to such heavy duty trucks should be constructed and erected at the base of the bridge on both sides to prevent lorries, trailers and tankers from using the road.

In all, residents from both communities praised the Rivers State Government for the bold initiative to award the contract to link both communities by road, and said the project would help accelerate the pace of development in the area.

In his response, the Project Manager, Deansgale International Limited, Engr Eric Hatcho, said the company was working round the clock to deliver the project since mobilization to site and payment of certain percentage of the total contract sum by government. Hatcho noted that the initial delay in the progress of work was caused by the reluctance of those whose buildings or fences were affected to remove their structures to facilitate the speedy delivery of the project within deadline. He said that since compensation has been paid to affected residents, the company has strived to fast-track the project delivery process in the interest of the government and people of the state. The project manager assured that the project would be delivered to the government within agreed specifications, and timeframe. But one thing he could not state for sure was what percentage of the work has been completed so far. For Development Update, however, about 30 per cent of the job has been done thus far.              

Now, if Deansgale is to deliver high quality Rumuibekwe-Elelenwo Link Road to the government in the next 17 months, then the Ministry of Works needs to intensify monitoring of the project to ensure compliance with specifications. The ministry’s officials also need to ensure that all road blocks to the timely delivery of the road are cleared, especially approvals of design adjustments, work completion certificates, milestone payments, among others. This way, it would be possible for Deansgale to deliver this all-important link road to the government within the agreed timeline.

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Development Update

Challenges, Hope As Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road Takes New Shape

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When the Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi administration came on board after the October 25, 2007, Supreme Court verdict, the first thrust of the government was to put policies and programmes in place that would justify the huge financial resources available in such a way that the people feel the direct impact of government in the state. It’s belief was that if Rivers’ money is spent on Rivers people, sustainable development would be achieved in record time. This is, therefore, why the administration decided, on assumption, to focus on quality service delivery, accountability and good governance.

The first sector to attract government’s priority attention was physical infrastructure development owing to the very sorry state of infrastructure in the state at the time. And the principal beneficiary of this upgrade of infrastructures is roads. This is because the government saw poor road network as the cardinal cause of the frustration among the people and the slow pace of development in the state.

The government’s vision in this respect centred on first linking all sections of the state, including the rural communities with all-season motorable and enduring road infrastructure that would drive development of the state. The other aspect of the vision hinged on the desire of the government to reinvent and transform the city of Port Harcourt with the aim of restoring its Garden City status. To achieve this, the government reckoned that it would need to invest significantly in building a world-class city with cutting-edge facilities that leverage on 21st century road governance mechanisms.

It, thus, began the upgrade of some internal roads and massive expansion of many. This has resulted in the unprecedented road construction works going on in all parts of the state capital and beyond. In fact, in all the 23 local government areas of the state, a number of road construction works is progressing steadily. Also in the scheme, are the upgrade and or reconstruction of existing bridges or outright construction of new ones where none existed before! The bridges are designed to complement roads and make them stand the test of time.

In addition to the bridges, are ring pipe surface and underground drains interspersed with man-holes incorporated in the design of most of the roads. This is a clear departure from the past when roads were constructed without drainages, thus, making it difficult for storm or flood water to find its way out of the road after the rains. This, of course, has been the major cause of flooding in the state capital, and the government decided to correct this anomaly with the new state-of-the-art designs.

One of the roads in the state capital that benefited from this policy is the Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road. This was initially a two-lane road, one lane each side with a tiny drainage running from Rumuomasi to Stadium Road Junction. Another stretch starts from Government Secondary School, Elekahia, Junction and empties into Nwaja Creek on the right, with about six miniature offshoots at intervals. At the other side, a tiny drainage from Rumuomasi to some metres before Nwaja Creek ran through the left.

The road is designed to take traffic off Trans Amadi Road from Garrison, Rainbow axis and Nkpogu. It is also expected to take traffic off the Elekahia Estate from Trans Amadi Industrial Layout through the Nigerian Engineering Works Road opposite Ordinance Road and another traffic flow from Rivoc and Pabod Breweries ends of Trans Amadi Industrial Layout. Besides, the road is also expected to take traffic off Shell Third (Back) Gate, Stadium Road, and Rumukalagbor Link Road to the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway. But, in the main, the road will push traffic faster through the newly dualised First Bank-Rumuomasi-Rumuobiokani-Rumuogba-Artillery Road to the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway. Or, the new Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road will directly take vehicular traffic to Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway through Rumuomasi Market Junction.  

Today, the Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road is being upgraded with a world-class dualisation scheme. The new road design is accompanied with a bridge at Nwaja Creek that will enable motorists access Trans Amadi Road from Elekahia with ease. In fact, the new road is expected to run across the railway line some 15 metres high. The 3.7-kilometre dualisation project, consists of four lanes, with each showcasing two wide lanes.

It also has carefully laid underground ring pipe drainage system to take storm or flood water out of the road through Nwaja Creek or Aba-Port Harcourt Expressway to Mini-Okoro. There is also a connection to the Old Aba Road drainage network, about now being completed as part of the dualisation of the road from First Bank through Rumuomasi to Rumuobiokani, Rumuogba to Second Artillery by Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway.

This road project, being executed by the same company which undertook the construction of the Rumuobiokani-Oginigba-Slaughter Road dualisation, Reynolds Construction Company Nigeria Limited (RCC), is costing the government about N6.5billion. Government signed the contract for this road dualisation with RCC on June 17, 2008. It has a project delivery timeline of 12 months, and work began on the road about October last year.

After more than ten inspection visits since October last year, Development Update can now state that the project is progressing steadily. In fact, the pace of work at the site, no doubt, gives an impression that the construction company is steaming to meet delivery target, to avoid a recast of the story of the Rumuobiokani-Oginigba-Slaughter Road, where the goal post was shifted, at least, three times, before the project was delivered early last month.

For now, Development Update can state that about 80 per cent of the ring pipe underground drainage work has been completed with more work going on at the Rumuomasi to Market Junction by Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway axis. At the Nwaja Creek end, sand filling of the area between the railway line and Trans Amadi Road by Nkpogu Junction stretch to the Nwaja Junction is still ongoing. However, serious work is yet to begin on the new Nwaja bridge that will take vehicular traffic off the road to Trans Amadi Road.

But from the Stadium circumference on the Elekahia Estate fringe to some metres before Nwaja Creek, RCC is intensifying the leveling of the road with sharp sand, gravel, water, and other components, preparatory for asphalting. This is a stretch of about 2.2 kilometres. Meanwhile, Development Update notes that RCC has yet to commence the setting and fixing of the median. It is also instructive to observe that the provisions for the fitting and or fixing of interlocking tiles on both sides of the pedestrian walkways have not been made. But in all, the pace of work is encouraging.

However, a lot of challenges abound. One is the critical issue of demolition of and compensation for structures removed on both sides of the road to make way for the dualisation. Of course, the demolition was extensive. At some points, more than 100 metres of already existing structures for residential and or business accommodation were demolished. In fact, unspecified number of structures, including private residences and business outfits were affected.

Although, compensation has been paid, but it has been met with deafening complaints from beneficiaries, both personal or private residences and business owners alike. They told Development Update yesterday that the amount paid them by government was inadequate. They alluded to the fact that the paltry sum of between N300,000 and N500,000 for shops and private residences as against between N800,000 and N900,000 paid to other communities, especially Oginigba and Rumuobiokani did not reflect the  actual cost of properties around the area.

Perhaps, the hardest hit are business operators, who have been told not to reconstruct their demolished structures until work is completed on the road. For them, business is almost at stand still, some can not even display their wares while others who have managed to find a space, are still leaking the wounds inflicted on them by the demolition exercise. Some don’t even border to come to their former shops, as there is nothing left to shelter them or their goods. Life, for some, is acutely agonizing and the bitter pill is hard to swallow. But all the same, this is the price of development. 

Generally however, the residents and business operators along the Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road are pleased with the dualisation project. They commended government for the foresight in awarding the contract, and also praised the choice of Reynolds Construction Company as contractor for the execution of the project.

Mr Godspower Ibuchi Owhor, vice chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Rumuomasi Unit, who spoke the mind of motorists plying the road, is one of the stakeholders of the road. He told Development Update yesterday that members of the union were happy with the road project and the pace at which it is going. Owhor said the road would reduce accidents, improve traffic flow and create enabling environment for businesses to thrive. For motorists, he said, the expansion of the road would enhance the ability of members to increase their returns to vehicle owners.

For the Paramount Ruler of Rumuomasi and Elelenwo, Eze A.B.C. Adele, the government has done significantly well. The Nyenwe Eli Orsuiji 111, commended government for awarding to road project to RCC, saying that he was happy that a competent contractor such as RCC was handling the road. He advised government to award similar road projects to competent companies to undertake, in order to deliver quality jobs to government and the people of the state. Eze Adele also stated that the new road, when completed, would improve businesses in the area, and lauded government for leaving a shining legacy for the state and its people.

Another stakeholder, a senior public official in Elekahia, told Development Update last Monday that the road project was one of the best things that has happened to the people of both Elekahia and Rumuomasi. The public figure, who pleaded anonymity, noted that the dualised road would ease vehicular traffic and eliminate congestion on the roads around the area. He said, motorists and commuters would, on completion, access Trans Amadi Industrial Layout and Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway with ease. The stakeholder also stated that the road would help facilitate security agencies’ drive to curb criminal activities because it will reduce response time to distress calls.

He also advised government to help security operatives in the area by constructing speed breakers at intervals to check vehicles that may take advantage of the dualisation to apply excessive speed while plying the road. The concerned stakeholder stressed that this precautionary measure was necessary because the area was mainly a rural community, with high population density, saying that the construction of such expanded road around the area could trigger other consequences, including accidents.    

Development Update thinks that the road, when completed would provide the needed impetus to drive development in the area, and serve the purpose for which it was embarked upon in the first place. And from the general consensus, it is clear that majority of the residents and business operators around the area are for now, pleased with the government and contractor handling the project. Their hope for the future, as major contributors to the state’s economy has no doubt been elevated by the government’s decision to dualise the Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road. At least, this has given them hope that government reckons with them and appreciates their contribution to the development of the state.

But for Development Update, a lot needs to be done in order to meet the target timeline for project delivery to the government and people of the state. This observation has become necessary because, six months after the commencement of work, a critical aspect of the project has yet to be done. This is the bridge at Nwaja Creek, for which work is yet to begin.

Granted that the contractor is striving to optimize available time within the dry season to complete the main road work, including asphalting, so as to allow vehicles easy use of the road, it is important that RCC realizes that it has less than six months away to deliver the project. This is also imperative because it took the company about one full year to mobilize to site after signing the contract for the job. Having taken that time before mobilizing to site, every thing that needed to be done to deliver the road within agreed timeframe should have been put into consideration. RCC, therefore, needs to know that there are no excuses for failing to deliver this road at the end of September, this year. It has every thing working for it!

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Development Update

LG Polls: EFCC, Scare Heightens Tension In Bayelsa

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As the hunt by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), for the runaway Bayelsa State Commissioner for Finance and  Budgeting, Dr. Sylvia Opuala Charles continues top government functionaries in the state have decided to shun their offices.

This is sequel to the rumour going round that the anti-graft agency have listed 160 persons on their wanted list.

Among officers said to be on the run include commissioners, permanent secretaries, head of parastals and director in different government organisation in the state.

Official activities in all the affected ministries and parastatals have grounded as visitors and staff were seen discussing the development in the place of work in low tunes.

Beside the hunting of the officials by EFCC, the proposed council elections coming up this weekend has added to the tense situation in the state.

Although, the state government is trying to down play the whole scenario as handiwork of its opponent, the facts remain that most people are very apprehensive of what the state will be like after Saturday’s election.

Meanwhile, Dr. Chales has denied being on the run but said he would not honour the invitation from EFCC, unless the three officials of the state government now facing trial in Abuja are released in line with gentle man agreement reached between the agency and the state government forthnight ago.

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