By Ikenna Emewu
If you would want to know what it means to leave a project in sorry and deplorable state, then visit the Nguzu hills in Edda, Ebonyi State.
There you will come face to face with road construction project in its worst imaginable state.
When the company grudgingly commenced work on the project after a confrontation with Oriental News on whether the contract had been signed, which it denied, it made appreciable impact that it meant business.
But after the initial move, the firm that handled about four kilometers in the first six months of commencement of work has got itself stuck at a point on the rugged hills between Nguzu and Amaiyi Edda for about two years.
Within this period, there have been two signs noticeable from the firm’s activities – massive bulldozing in the dry season and massive water erosion that has created craters, gullies, lacerations and ugly/dangerous canyons on the middle and sides of the road with deep slopes and valleys.
At the present state, it seems the firm has created more problems on the road than it came to solve.
Oriental News visit to the site last week revealed a dismal state of the road that won’t even be passage during the dry season as it used to be in previous dry seasons.
While the road was barely passable during dry season at very great pains to the road user, today, such little advantage is lost for good by the activities of the construction firm.
The last time Oriental News visited the site where work stopped late last year, we made inquiries on whether the work would not skip the rugged hills and continue at the plains as the firm never showed enough capacity to handle the section, a worker of the company notified us that they have definite instructions not to skip that point.
But the irony, according to our observation and the words of the natives we spoke with, is that they still can’t fix the point and have rather after the massive bulldozing exposed the road to more danger from water erosion.
All over the road as Oriental News visited are scars and gullies, ditches and gapping erosion tracks created by surface water. They are so bad that one would wonder if at the pace the company is going it can fill back the craters and get the road done at last.
We inquired from a man who supervised some four others hired among the local people making a very discouraging effort to mix concrete manually with spades and fill some sides of the road preparatory to building drainage if the work was adequate.
Meanwhile, the point they were trying to build the drain has no link with an existing drain as there is a gap between where the drainage stopped up hill and the one they were putting in place. The only reasonable revelation from the supervisor is that whenever the surfacing of the road starts, it would touch from drain to drain and no provision for road elbow as a means of checking rains finding their way to wash off the surface.
Although he replied that the gutter was sufficient, some other persons from the village we spoke with doubted the work. It is a narrow drainage with upright concrete walls that stand at 90 degrees to the base instead of a slant to make room for more water volume given the sharp slope. Moreover, the concrete work makes the drainage look rather slim in thickness and given strength with tiny iron mesh that looks so feeble to posses enough strength for the terrain and volume of water it is meant to accommodate.
At the opposite side of the road to the point the workers laboured to build the drain, there is a washed off part of another drain that had been exposed to the tear of the merciless erosion and left hanging with some parts already broken, torn in pieces and scattered all over the erosion plain.
The construction company had already finished a stretch of about 300 meters of the road from the beginning of the hills at the Nguzu end, but the high earth walls from sections of the hills cut and not fortified have collapsed at about three points and thrown down heaps of earth to cover a space of half of the road on those points.
One of the respondents, Mazi Okoro Agwu lamented that the initial hope the company raised on handling the project is fast waning as they have got stuck on the hills for about two years.
“Yes, the topography is a peculiar one and we know that. When the firm commenced bulldozing, they succeeded in scaling down the high hills, and eliminating some or many of the sharp bends, but they did nothing to fortify the surfaces they cut through the hill, and it looks like they went into unnecessary whole scale bulldozing. So when the rains came because the earth had been stripped of vegetation and not compacted or surfaced with concrete work, water erosion had a free run on the entire surface.
“Today, we have worse road surface and gulley channels than what the company met here. We are worse off and only consolidated effort by the construction company to fortify their stand would save the day or at best, the government should withdraw the contract and award it to a more competent company because the firm is everyday proving incompetent to do this work.
“We can’t understand why in today’s world a company that means business to construct the road of that peculiar terrain would be mixing concrete with shovels and nothing more. It is a sign that it lacks the equipment and human capacity to do the job. We call for government intervention to ensure that as the rains abate soon, the company would pull out and the job given to another company.”
Oriental News also got complaints and also visited to confirm that even the stretch of about 5km that the company had fixed before getting to the hills, it never did the elbow of the road as specified in the contract.
History of failure
Before the company got the job to handle the Nguzu Junction, Etiti, Oso Edda road, it was one of three companies the Federal Government awarded segments of the Abakaliki-Afikpo road. A stretch of the road between Abaomege-Amudo in Ezza South and Onueke remains a death trap.
It is the failed, unconstructed and deplorable part of the road and the rumour in Ebonyi was that the untouched segment was awarded to the same company. It is an indigenous firm that its ownership is traced to some powerful politicians from Edo State that enjoyed immunity for impunity while the PDP leadership lasted. What the people of the state would not confirm is if the two roads given to the same company and threatened by abandonment came as coincidence or deliberately done to make sure the projects suffer.
The people who spoke to Oriental News wondered if the company would return to site after some 25 per cent of the outstanding contract sum had been approved by the Federal Government for further payment some two weeks ago.
Before now, there had been reports of the absence of workers of the company from site and even the removal of their equipment. The pace of work Oriental News witnessed cast so much doubt on the fitness of the company to deliver on the project to justify the intention of the Federal Government to have that road fixed that would serve as the
The road was listed in the Federal Ministry of Work’s Ministerial Tenders Board meeting for the ‘Opening of Financial Bid Form on September 6, 2012 or thereabout. A list that appeared before the Federal Executive Council meeting for approval had 10 contractors bidding for the same job in what was tagged ‘Category B, Lot 11: Construction of Ohafia (Abia State) – Oso (Ebonyi State) road.
All the bidding contractors in the list gave completion duration of between 28 and 12 months. One of the prominent bidders was CCECC, listed as number ‘5’ that applied to handle the road at a cost of N3.83billion. But at last the job was awarded to Uniglobe, the number 2 in the list at N2,415,922,550. The company offered to complete the project in 18 months from the time the work approval was given.
From our facts also, the company got mobilized with N344,094,000 after a final contract sum of N2,293,965.30 was approved by the Works Ministry at the last week of December 2012. Uniglobe was expected to report to site and commence work immediately.
Early last year, another source disclosed that Uniglobe had the problem of sustaining the work financially, but raised some hope as according to him, the company had received payment for two of the four kilometers already completed, and that might empower it to do more and fasten the pace of the work.(Source and photo credit: Daily Sun)