One of the major milestones of the Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi administration in the last two years is the award of contracts for construction, reconstruction and upgrading of 170 road projects, spanning more than 700 kilometres, across all the local governments in Rivers State. About 30 bridges are also being constructed on some of these roads. They are four flyover projects going on, with one fully completed, and another, 95 per cent completed. Of this stretch, about 35 roads, running through 240 kilometres have been completed. This has turned the state to one vast construction site in the country.
The aim of the government is to link up all communities with durable, year-round motorable and sustainable road infrastructure that would drive development. Another strategy is to use good road network to reinvent and restore the state, and especially, the city of Port Harcourt into a 21st century, world-class city with modern facilities and internationally acceptable road infrastructure that would be a delight to investors and the business class. This is basically the driving force behind the road infrastructure development revolution of the Amaechi administration in the last two years. This initiative has resulted in an overall completed road network data of 240 kilometres as against the 450 kilometres the state had in 40 years. The remaining 460 kilometres would be completed in the next 730 days. The financial commitment of the government on all these road infrastructure projects is around N100billion annually. This is, indeed, a huge burden of responsibility on a government desperate to make a significant difference in the lives of the people.
One of the roads cueing to add to this feat is the 2.8-kilometre First Bank/Rumuomasi/Rumuobiakani/Rumuogba/Artillery Road dualisation. The road has been expanded to impact positively on the people and change the traffic landscape of the state. This strategic road project was awarded by the government to Zerock Construction Company Limited on May 6, 2008, at a cost of N2.2billion. The 2.8-kilometre road project has a 24-month delivery timeline.
The vision behind the reconstruction and upgrading of this road is hinged on the premise that it constitutes a strategic gateway to the industrial hub of the state. In fact, the road links the Trans Amadi Industrial Layout and other industrial complexes in that axis through a loop at the Rumuobiakani Roundabout. The road also links the Industrial Area of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), the leading oil and gas exploration and production company in Nigeria, as well as connects one of the major roads to the Liberation Stadium in Elekahia and Trans Amadi Industrial Layout through Nwaja Junction. This road, popularly known as the Old Aba Road, serves as the principal link to the heavily populated Woji Town and its neighbouring communities. It also connects Okporo Road through Port Harcourt/Aba Expressway to Rumuodara and the East/West Road.
Given these multiple connections, it follows that the road has a lot of functions in the traffic management system in the state. Hitherto, it was one of the most heavily congested road networks in the state for very obvious reasons. First, all vehicular traffic to Trans Amadi Industrial Layout from the Western fringes must meander through the road to get to their destinations in the industrial hub of the City of Port Harcourt. Vehicles from the East/West Road and Rumuodara through Okporo empty onto the Old Aba Road. Those from Oyigbo or Igbo-Etche through Eleme Junction must empty onto the road vide First or Second Artillery on the expressway. Besides, vehicles from Igwuruta/Eneka/Elimgbu through Rumuokurusi also make their way to the road vide the expressway. And, of course, most vehicles from Woji and Rumurolu by the rail, including Rumuibekwe, also link up the road en route to Trans Amadi Industrial Layout.
This deluge of vehicular traffic is what makes the Old Aba Road strategic to government, investors and small business owners around the area. In fact, SPDC had severally attempted to expand, repair and or maintain the road so as to continue to play the important role it has been playing in the management of both human and vehicular traffic in that part of the state. But those efforts did not address the fundamental problem of traffic congestion on the road permanently. This is why the Amaechi administration’s decision to dualise the road has brought heavy sigh of relief to many.
Indeed, Zerock mobilized to site in September last year, and began actual activities after the thorny issues of demolition and payment of compensation to owners of structures that would have interfered with the road construction effort, and the relocation of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) poles and cables. The road dualisation process, which also includes the construction of a new 40-metre bridge by the existing Mini-Okoro Bridge, has progressed steadily without any incident since commencement of work. In fact, the bridge component is also progressing at an acceptable pace.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Works, Hon Dakuku Peterside said recently that the First Bank/Rumuomasi/Artillery Road dualisation project would be completed by the end of this year, all things being equal. He assured that Zerock would deliver high quality, all-season and durable road to Rivers State Government that would justify the huge investment on the project. The commissioner noted that the road, when completed, would enhance the traffic situation in the area, and make ease the movement of goods and services, as well as human mobility and communication amongst people around that axis. This, he said, would facilitate economic growth and general development of the state as investors and business moguls would find easy access to their investments in the industrial hub of the Niger Delta. An October, 2009, publication of the ministry puts the percentage of work done on this project at about 40 per cent but Development Update thinks differently.
The commissioner’s assurance was again re-echoed by the state Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, after an unscheduled inspection visit to the project mid-October. The governor had stated that, when completed, the administration’s vision to transform the lives of the people who live and do business around the area as well as those who ply the road to transact one form of business or the other in the epicentre of Trans Amadi Industrial Layout would be realized. Amaechi lauded the contractor handling the project for the encouraging pace of work, but insisted that more vitality needs to be put in to ensure that the job is delivered to government and Rivers people within the agreed timeframe.
Project Manager, Zerock Construction Company Limited, Engr. John Haddad told Development Update that more than 60 per cent of the work has been completed, and that the project would be delivered by the end of this year or first quarter of 2010. He said the company was working round the clock to beat the 24-month job delivery timeline specified in the contract document, saying that a high quality, world-class dual carriageway would be delivered to Rivers people. The Zerock project manager stated that the drainage system has been completed with a depth of between 11 and 13 metres in some areas. The road has ring pipe drains with manholes and service lines at intervals. The drains run some 1.7 kilometres from First Bank through Rumuomasi to Rumuobiakani and then empty storm water into the Mini Okoro River, and another 1.1 kilometres from First Artillery through Rumuogba to Mini Okoro River. This is intended to check erosion and flooding along this critical road. The company has also leveled the road with sharp sand, making free flow of vehicular traffic easy on all sides of the road, thereby eliminating the hitherto chaotic congestion on this strategic road.
The project manager noted that apart from the issues of demolition of and compensation to owners of structures affected by the road dualisation activity, as well as relocation of PHCN poles and cables, the other major challenge the company faced was that of heavy traffic on the road. He stated that heavy vehicular traffic on the road caused a significant delay in the effort of the company to complete the job on schedule. Even so, John said that the company has blazed the trail by striving to complete the project before schedule without compromising the quality of the job and safety of workers on site and others using the road. He said the company was using state-of-the-art equipment and machines as well as skilled manpower to make the project one of the best, high quality masterpieces, on delivery.
The project manager noted the regular monitoring and inspection visits by special project teams from the Ministry of Works, saying that these regular visits have helped the company in facilitating the progress of work on the project. He said that officials of the ministry have been easily accessible and responsive to requests and enquiries from the company, adding that this proactive disposition has made possible the success so far achieved. The Zerock manager also pointed out that the issue of funding has not posed any serious problem to the early completion of the project, and commended the Amaechi administration on its two years of sustainable and integrated infrastructure development of the state. He also lauded the government for restoring peace to the state in two years, stressing that the state was now enjoying unfettered security and safety of investments and residents, more than any other state in the Niger Delta region.
Development Update, after about ten inspection visits within a month, can now authoritatively state that the project may be completed as claimed by both the government and the contractor handling the project. And most users of the road, who spoke to Development Update, agree. They also reckon that the dualisation has, to a very large extent, addressed the problem of traffic congestion on the road, which hitherto made life miserable and a nightmare on Old Aba Road. One startling achievement of this dualisation is the fact that usually chaotic Old Aba Road, especially Woji Junction, no longer experiences traffic congestion, even at peak periods. This is a feat tells anyone that when completed, the road would guarantee free flow of traffic and facilitate the development of the state.
As of the moment, a reasonable number of workers are at different points on the site, working on one aspect of the project or the other. For instance, while some currently working on the walkway have achieved about one kilometre, the others are battling to fit in the components of the bridge. And, according to workers at the site, who corroborated the project manager’s earlier remarks, once those aspects are completed, asphalting won’t take time to complete.
Now, about 17 months after the contract was signed, 15 months after mobilization to site, and 13 months after commencement of actual construction activities, the road is already more than 70 per cent completed. And the contractor promises to beat expectations on the project. Development Update thinks that this specific project has witnessed tremendous goodwill and accolades from residents of the area, commuters and others who daily use the road.
This is sustainable development in action in Rivers State. This is good governance at its best in Rivers State. If this road beats contract specifications, especially the 24-month timeline for delivery, then Amaechi can be said to be ready to make history as one of the first governors in Nigeria to exceed expectations and deliver earlier than promised. This is a record in infrastructure development in yet achieved in Nigeria. Development Update hopes Zerock will make this happen!