Nweze Kings Fidelis, an engineer and Ebonyi State Commissioner for Works and Transport is, undeniably, the busiest commissioner in Ebonyi State. In this interview, he gives an insight into the reconstruction of roads in Abakaliki, the state capital territory as well as in the rural areas and the challenges of doing the roads against the backdrop of the current economic downturn in the country. Felix Uka in Abakaliki reports for The Authority. Excerpts:
Most roads in the state capital and rural areas of the state are being reconstructed. What is the magic wand?
It is just determination. The bible says whatever your hands find doing, do it well because it is that thing that will showcase you to the world. If you are a driver and a very good driver, everybody will like to have you as a driver. If you are a bus driver and every time you travel, people have accident, they will avoid you whenever they see you. We are determined. Whatever we are asked to do, we do it well collectively as a people. We are here to do the job because we will live tomorrow to see those things we have done. If we do not do them well and after eight years we see that those jobs that we have done have collapsed, we will not be happy because our conscience will tell us that we did not do the right thing when we were supposed to and that is why whatever we are doing, we do it well.
How soon are you getting to do the roads in the rural areas?
We are already there. Just recently, the state government took delivery of 13 bulldozers for construction of roads in the rural communities. Each of the 13 local government areas of the state is to get one bulldozer and one grader. The idea is that when we see any area the government needs to visit in terms of road construction, we draw government’s attention to those areas because this accords with the promise His Excellency, Engineer David Nweze Umahi made to the people during his electioneering campaigns, namely, that he will try to remove dust from every part of Ebonyi State when elected. And that is what we are doing. We cannot make these promises and turn back.
Whatever has proceeded out of your mouth, you have to keep to it. We try to emulate God because whatever God has said He is able to do. Whatever we have said we would do, we will do, not minding that the economy is a different thing; your determination to do that thing is another thing. If you are determined to do it, God will find avenues through which he can help you to do those things. God who brought the young man, Gov. David Umahi to seat this time has, I am sure, brought him to salvage Ebonyi State, to bring us from where we used to be. It is not evil if Ebonyi becomes the first economy in Nigeria where people will be making reference to and I know God is determined to do that.
What you are seeing now happening is not by our own power. We are not doing any magic; we are not the people doing it. We believe that there are angels helping us to do the job in the night.
I know contractors when you give them two kilometres of road, they spend six months. But, when we are constructing a two-kilometre road and within one month, we have done it, I can only put it down to a strange hand backing us.
What challenges besides funds are you faced with?
We take every challenge as meant to lift us to next levels because it is only when we tackle a problem that we have a victory to celebrate. If you have seen anything good in this administration, one is that you should advertise it and two to pray that those things continue and that the tempo and zeal do not go down. And all hands must be on deck to make sure that those things come to reality. Speculation of cost, if you go to the market the same Nokia 3310 you bought from Fine Brothers may not be the same cost you will buy from C-net. We try as much as possible not to put our clothes where our hands will not get to.
We do these things judiciously. We go to the market to buy these things ourselves. We go to the market; we check the raw cost before buying them. The road is still far. We go to the market if it is N1.00, we pay N1.00. If it is N2.00, we put N2.00 so that Ebonyians will know that these people we voted for are the right people.
Some residents where roads are being reconstructed are complaining about the level of demolition done in the course of these constructions. How could you ameliorate the situation?
You talked about demolition. The people that have buildings in areas we do our construction are violating what we call set-back in every road work. If it is a state road, there is a distance you are not supposed to build any structure or local road. For federal road, it is about 30 metres. But our people are still violating that law and building along that area they are not supposed to build. We have tried as much as possible to talk to them to either carefully remove their property when we are doing construction work or see the best alternative to reduce the destruction of property because they are our brothers and sisters. We are involved and they are involved.
We do not want to put anybody under pressure. We place ourselves in their shoes. It is not that there are no properties that are affected but we try to make use of our brain to ensure that many properties are not affected but we still have to develop the city. Like Ezeekeikwo Street, you will see that there are buildings along the road. Between this fence and the other fence is five meters while our road is supposed to be 11 meters. All of them build along that line and they are calling government to come and construct roads for them. Government will not construct these roads on top of their buildings; it has to be on ground. So, some of these fences have to go except they do not want the road.
How are you going to monitor how the local governments manage the bulldozers and graders recently procured?
I do not envisage any problem in that respect. The governor told the council chairmen to ensure that some staff of the councils should be trained in how to operate the facilities so that a greater number of them would be skilled in that. What we expect is that the council officials would identify the roads that need to be reconstructed and new ones to be opened and engage the machines in doing so. With the arrangement we are going to ensure that all the communities are linked up. We also are going to use the machines in the rice farms. So, you would realize that within a short period of time, the state would have been repositioned to generate more revenue locally thereby saving a lot of funds that would have ordinarily been used to pay for contracts that might not even have seen the light of the day. I know for sure that the administration is on track, ready to prove that we can turn out as a pointer in various spheres and sectors in this country