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!