A cardinal parameter for measuring the success or failure of any administration is the availability of basic infrastructure to drive the sustainable development of the state. One of such infrastructures is good road network to facilitate communication and mobility of people, goods and services. A serious look at the roads development agenda of the Amaechi administration in the last two years is critically important because of the significance of good road network to the speedy development of the state.
Before the administration came to power two years ago, movement in and around Port Harcourt was difficult due mainly to congestion occasioned by heavy human and vehicular traffic on the few roads available within the city. This had been caused by the fact that successive administrations since the late 1960s had failed to implement the Port Harcourt master plan adopted by the British in the development of Port Harcourt Town area. Thus, increasing urbanization and population explosion without any effort to mitigate their impact had left overstretched infrastructures in residential areas in the old city, thereby compelling new residents and those who value nature to relocate to other communities in Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre, Etche, Oyigbo, Eleme, and Okrika local government areas.
Indeed, the expansion of residential houses, estates and quarters in these areas has been on a steady rise, and this has brought unprecedented pressure on infrastructure development, including roads in the city. Government-after-government had watched as people erected structures and residential apartments indiscriminately in the city and adjoining communities, and the result has been chaos in all areas. Buildings are crammed, some built too close to the roads, others on drains, yet government officials remained mute on the abuse of town planning regulations in mostly Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor council areas. And hardly were new roads emerging to ease the tension in the city. In fact, the whole of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas had no more than 400 kilometres of roads in about four decades; that is less than 100 kilometres in a decade. This is where the government of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi in Rivers State has done significantly well in the last two years.
It is interesting to note that within the first three months of Amaechi’s administration, 100 kilometres of paved roads were added to the about 400 kilometres the administration met in October, 2007. In the first one year of the administration, contracts had been awarded for about 450 kilometres of paved roads in the state. Two years after, about 200 kilometres of these roads have been completed while work is ongoing on the remaining 250 kilometres. In the same breathe; about 30 bridges are being constructed on some of the affected roads. Some of these bridges have been completed. This year, more road contracts have been awarded to link up communities, and spread development in the state. Other major projects of the government include the construction of flyover bridges, sand-filling, reclamation and shore protection. Now, it is important to take a holistic look at some of these projects.
First are roads, which must be segregated into two: Major roads dualisation and internal road works. The first of these is the Rumuola/Rumuokwuta Road dualisation awarded to MCC. This road stretching about 1.8 kilometres, is virtually completed at a cost of N2.3billion. The 14-kilometre Rumuokwuta/Ozuoba/Choba Road, awarded to Homan Engineering Company Limited at an initial cost of N5.7billion, has been reviewed upward. That project, which has given a lot of residents concern, is about 50 per cent completed. The 42-kilometre Airport/Isiokpo/Omerelu/Elele stretch through Rivers/Imo boundary, awarded to Setraco at a cost of N21billion is about 30 per cent completed.
Other roads that are facing dualisation are the 3.2-kilometre Rumuobiakani/Oginigba/Slaughter Road, with a bridge expansion, being handled by Reynolds Construction Company Limited at a cost of N6billion.That road is about 90 per cent completed. Another important road is the 2.8-kilometre First Bank/Rumuomasi/Rumuobiakani/Rumuogba/Artillery Road, with a bridge expansion, being executed by Zerock Construction Company Limited at a cost of N2billion. This road is about 80 per cent completed. As the Governor Amaechi administration marks two years in office, it is worthy to highlight the dualisation of the Igbo-Etche/Eneka Road by Omewa Construction Limited at a cost of N1billion; now progressing. It is also important to mention the Iloabuchi/Eagle Island Road, being dualised with a bridge, at a cost of about N3.9billion; and the N6.7billion Ada-George Road, now at about 30 per cent completion. Work on the Unity Road is nearing completion while contract for the Trans-Kalabari Highway has just been revoked due to contractor’s inability to keep pace with his contractual agreement.
Although some of these roads were expected to have been completed by now, massive work is still on-going. Take the Rumuola/Rumuokwuta for example. Work was supposed to have been completed by June this year; the contractor has not made good his promise. The Rumuobiakani/Oginigba/Slaugther Road was meant to be delivered in June this year; it is still on-going. Work is progressing on the First Bank/Rumuomasi/Rumuobiakani/Rumuogba/Artillery Road, to be delivered at the end of this year.
The rest for which contracts have been awarded but work is yet to begin, are the Rumuokurusi/Elimgbu/Eneka/Igwuruta Road, Rumuomasi/Elekahia Road, the Okujagu/Woji/Akpajo Road, with bridges, among others. This is in addition to the planned reconstruction of the G.U.Ake Road, formerly Olu Obasano Bye-Pass Road to Airport.
The flyovers have not been left out in this aggressive push for road development in the state in the last two years. Thus, the Eleme Junction Interchange has just been completed by Julius Berger. The Eliozu flyover is about 95 per cent completed. Both flyover projects were awarded by the Celestine Omehia administration in October, 2007. The Agip/Sani Abacha/Rumueme Roundabout flyover is about 30 per cent completed while work on the Rumuokoro Roundabout flyover is yet to commence. However, the Eliozu flyover was to be delivered in April this year; work has virtually been abandoned on the job. Julius Berger was to deliver the Eleme Junction flyover project in early April. The pace at which the Agip/Sani Abacha/Rumueme Roundabout flyover is progressing has given serious concern to many stakeholders in the state.
Two years after, Amaechi’s government has added more than 30 roads to the internal road network in Port Harcourt metropolis alone. So far, more than 180 road projects have been awarded by the present administration to ease traffic flow in the state. Most of these are in the local government areas, especially Bori, Ahoada, Isiokpo, Elele, Etche, Eleme, Oyigbo, Saakpenwa, Kpor, Okrika, Abua, among others. For instance, in Bori, Isiokpo, Elele and Ahoada, virtually all internal roads have been completed, while work on others are on-going. Elele alone has about 29-kilometre of roads. More than N3billion has been spent on good roads in Bori. Agbani, a suburb of Port Harcourt, has about 27 good roads already. Others have similar measure of roads running through their streets.
In 2008 alone, the Amaechi administration awarded road contracts worth more than N120billion, and paid about N75billion to road contractors. It also paid in arrears, some N20billion debts to road contractors, for contracts awarded by the previous administrations. The administration has continued to service those contracts while awarding more road jobs this year.
Other projects include sand-filling of low-lands, especially in Opobo Town. In this ancient city, the government has spent well over N3billion to sand-fill the town to accelerate the pace of development there. Other towns with similar development challenges are also receiving attention.
The significance of these infrastructure development programmes lies in the fact that it would make life more meaningful for Rivers people. It would, indeed, reduce the frustration commuters, motorists and business owners face daily in Port Harcourt. The development of these roads and flyovers will engineer development in a manner never before imagined. In fact, this will encourage proper planning, timing and execution of programmes by individuals, investors, business men and women, and even government, because movement of goods and services can be planned and executed on target just as wastages in terms of energy and resources would be minimised. Besides, the development of Greater Port Harcourt would also be facilitated. These are not all. There are other road projects being undertaken by the Amaechi administration as part of the ambitious road development programme for Rivers State, which has over the years, suffered poor road networks to make mobility and accessibility easy for people of the state and other residents. In fact, all the 23 local government areas of the state have a significant number of road projects, either completed or ongoing to drive development at the development centres.
Although the challenges are enormous, especially as it relates to the difficulties residents face as a result of the massive construction works going on in the state, this holistic infrastructure development strategy has brought immense relief and hardship to many, only for the benefit of posterity. These are infrastructures future generations are in a hurry to inherit from the Amaechi administration. So, two years after, the Amaechi administration remains on course to transform the state’s infrastructure landscape for the better.