Posted by Victor Edozie, Port Harcourt | 9 July 2017 | 2,236 times
Youths from four local government areas in Rivers State – Eleme, Gokana, Andoni and Tai – last week issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, reconstruct the collapsed section of the east-west road leading to Eleme and Onne or risk a complete shutdown of the road.
The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers of Nigeria (NUPENG) had earlier threatened to withdraw their services if the road was not fixed. But the timely intervention of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who pleaded with them and promised to fix the collapsed section of the road in collaboration with Indorama Petrochemical industries, saved the situation.
The East-West Road, which stretches from the popular Eleme junction to Onne, is very strategic as it is the only gateway to both communities, which play host to oil and gas industries in the state.
Federal Government’s strategic oil and gas and petrochemical industries such as Indorama; Port Harcourt Refinery; Integrated Logistics; the Nigeria Ports Authority; Federal Ocean Terminal; Oil and Gas Free Zone, Notore Fertilizer industries and many others, are located along the stretch. Apart from citing oil and gas industries along the area, Eleme/Onne road connects Rivers State to other states in the South-South, such as Cross River and Akwa Ibom.
The present state of the road has cut off local government areas of Ogoni extraction, such as Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme, as well as Andoni and Opopo. This section of the road has broken down, to the extent that motorists spend close to seven hours to meander through it. On this road, a journey of 20 minutes takes many hours.
Last week, two persons were crushed to death along the road. The incident happened when a truck fell on a car.
The NUPENG had complained that the state of the road constituted a deathtrap to their members. The industrial relation officer of the union, Bassey Harry, during a peace meeting with Governor Wike at the Rivers State Government House in Port Harcourt, said no day passed without their trucks, loaded with petroleum products, crashing on that road. He said that as a result of the bad state of the road, so much money had been spent in fixing their trucks. Shortly after the intervention of the Rivers State Government, the NUPENG called off its strike and resumed loading petroleum products at the refinery.
Speaking to journalists shortly after their meeting with Governor Wike, Harry said, “We understand the effort of the governor. We took into consideration that when he came into office, the area we are mentioning today was like a deathtrap. But within six months in office, 80per cent of the road was fixed by him.
“With him, that road will be fixed as soon as possible. We are prepared to cooperate with him to see how the road will be fixed. There will be no fuel scarcity. We will manage the road as we know how to go about it. We have given him our word, that we will manage the situation to ensure that there will be no fuel scarcity. So people should not go for panic buying. People should not store fuel in their houses.”
The issue of reconstructing the east-west road, which has lingered for a while, has become controversial. Last year, Wike solicited the assistance of some of the organisations operating along the road for reconstruction. Integrated Logistics, Indorama Petrochemicals and four other companies had collaborated with the Rivers State Government to raise the sum of N3 billion to fix the six-kilometre portion of the road, from Eleme junction to Onne.
Speaking at the flag-off ceremony of the road construction, the governor said the project was expected to be completed within two months but it had lingered for more than one year. He added that the road was critical to the improvement of the state’s economy as it leads to major companies.
“Because of this road, many companies threatened to pull out of the state. In the next two months when the road is completed, companies will start coming back. I plead with the contractors to do a quality job. I thank interest groups that have contributed to lessening the burden on road users. Imagine the man-hour wasted on the road between Port Harcourt and here because of the bad state of the road. The wealth of the nation comes from here. We cannot wait for the Federal Government to come. So let us do this,” Governor Wike said during the signing of memorandum of understanding with companies that contributed money for the reconstruction of the road.
The memorandum of understanding signed at the Indorama Petrochemicals before the flag-off of the reconstruction work, indicated that the Integrated Logistics Company contributed N100 million while Port Harcourt Refinery contributed N300m. The Nigerian Ports Authority and Oil and Gas Free Zone contributed N200m each. The Rivers State Government, on its part, contributed N300m.
The donor companies were expected to pay in their money into the account of the construction firm that was awarded the contract. As soon as the contributions were made, construction work commenced from Eleme junction and ended at Akpajo junction while the remaining stretch of the road from Akpajo to Onne trailer park was abandoned.
The dilapidated state of the road has paralysed economic activities in the area as motorists are held up in traffic logjam for hours.
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) said recently that it would cost her N70bn to fix the road.
The managing director of the NDDC, Mr. Nsima Ekere, said the commission and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, its supervising ministry, needed over N70bn to complete the construction of the road.
Speaking recently while receiving the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs at the NDDC headquarters in Port-Harcourt, Ekere said: “The NDDC will partner with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and private sector investors on the construction of the east-west road. Over N70bn is needed to complete the road. So the strategy will be to harness private sector collaboration to complete it. The portions that have totally collapsed will be addressed immediately.”
He lamented that the Eleme refinery junction section of the road was in a very terrible state, saying, “It is so bad that a 10-minute journey on that axis now takes three hours. That section of the road has failed and we will get contractors to the site immediately.”
Ekere further said the construction of the remaining sections of the road would be handled by many contractors. “Our strategy involves multiple contractors. The road, which is a strategic link to the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, connects Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states.” (Daily Trust on Sunday)
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