Posted by News Express | 24 February 2020 | 3,513 times
By ODOGWU EMEKA ODOGWU
The worries and lamentations of the various communities and their leaders’ appeals to the government of Anambra State eventually yielded the desired result.
Their tears as well touched the member representing Awka North State Constituency, Chief John Nwokoye, who observed at a plenary of the Anambra House of Assembly that Awka North roads are deplorable. He presented a motion urging Governor Willie Obiano to direct the Commissioner of Works to complete the construction of Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbenu-Ugbene-Awba Ofemili road, with a spur to Omor-Omolum in Ayamelum Local Government Area.
Hon Nwokoye emphasised that: “for my Constituency to truly have a sense of belonging, serious attention must be given to basic infrastructural development, such as roads. We need access roads to improve on our Agricultural farm yields. He stressed the need to declare a state of emergency in his constituency. His colleagues supported the motion and a resolution was passed in that regard. But nothing happened months after.
Even, the Speaker of the House, Hon Uche Okafor, assured that the executive arm of government would do the needful, as it places high premium on good road network. He read out the resolution which the lawmakers supported it through a voice vote. The house also passed another resolution urging the governor to direct the commissioner for works to complete the construction of Isuanaocha-Amanuke-Achalla road, to alleviate the sufferings of the people, as sponsored by the member representing Awka North State Constituency.
Nwokoye lamented that since 2006 when the road was awarded for construction “only nine kilometres had been done while the rest is still unattended to.” He regretted the delay given that the road links the communities to the Local Government Secretariat; and, as a result, it cannot be accessed due to the state of the road.
Some lawmakers, including the member representing Aguata who doubles as chairman, House Committee on Information and Culture, Mr Okechukwu Okoye, the member representing Orumba North Constituency, Chief Emeka Aforka and the member representing Oyi Constituency, Mr Charles Obimma joined in urging Obiano to direct the construction firm handling the projects to expedite action on it to give the people of Awka North a sense of belonging.
The House of Representatives member for Awka North/South Federal Constituency, Engr Sam Onwuaso, had raised the alarm over a possible landslide at a primary school in Amansea. He had warned that if proactive measures were not taken, scores of pupils would be at risk from the looming disaster.
“The topography of the school environment is terrible and sinking, which may result in loss of lives if no urgent step is taken. I cannot afford to see pupils of the school or any member of the community being swallowed by landslide,” he said.
He also pointed out that he had discussed with the people of the community and came up with ideas on how to tackle the challenge to avert calamity.
Onwuaso Continued: “I have visited the site at the instance of members of the community. I will raise the issue as a matter of urgent importance on the floor of the National Assembly. We’ve checked, tested the soil and discovered it has to do with the underlying mud. It is so soft that vehicles can’t pass and the place is sinking.
“There’s a stream with a bridge within the school environment, which is risky for children moving around. I’ll bring it up as a motion on the floor of the National Assembly for immediate intervention, because we can’t afford to see our people being swallowed up alive by the ground.”
Commissioner for Works, Anambra State, Engr Marcel Ifejiofor, reacted, saying that Awka North was not completely abandoned because work is ongoing. He noted that the bridge to Achalla through Urum and Amanuke is completed. And, that, Governor Obiano directed that work should begin immediately after the rains on Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbene-Ugbenu-Awba Ofemmili road.
This was at the peak of dry season. He maintained that Awka North roads have not been abandoned as speculated, adding that the area is a priority in line with the governor’s directive that roads go to places where there was none before.
He said internal roads in the Anambra State Polytechnic, Mgbakwu, has been completed and soon other areas would be attended.
He reassured that the abutment at the collapsed Belly Bridge connecting Amanuke and Ugbene would be done. He equally said government has completed design of Abba-Nawgu-Isu-Aniocha road which has also gone to tender, awaiting executive approval, which will soon come to reality.
Recall that last year, flood sacked the pupils of Ezigbo Primary School in Okukwa village, Ameasea, preventing over 650 students and their teachers from accessing their classrooms. As a result, the school Head Mistress, Mrs Leticia Umeadi, had appealed to the Anambra State Ministry of Environment and other related agencies to come to their rescue to enable them have access to classrooms.
The 7th State Assembly member representing Awka North, Nwokoye recalled: “I wish to draw the attention of the governor to this very bad road. Isuaniocha-Urum-Amanuke-Achala road was awarded by the former governor of old Anambra (Second Republic), Jim Nwobodo, 1979-1983. Up till today, the road has not been constructed. In 2006, former governor Peter Obi awarded that road again. Before Peter Obi, Dr Chris Ngige re-awarded the road. Before Chris Ngige, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju re-awarded the road.
Isuaniocha-Urum-Amanuke-Achala road has been nicknamed campaign road by the people of Awka North.
“This year marks the 13th year that road has been under construction. I hear people talking about rehabilitation of roads but Awka North is still talking about construction of roads. This road is the only road that links the entire Awka North to the local government headquarters Achala. Before someone from Mgbakwu, Oba-Ofemili, Amansea, Isuaniocha can access the council headquarters, which is about five minutes journey, you will go through Awka South, Njikoka, Dunukofia, Oyi and Anambra-east local government areas before you get to Achala the headquarters of Awka North Local Government Area.
“Today, Awka North is being relegated to the bottom pit of hell. I am ready to sacrifice my four years salaries so they can add it to the amount mapped out for the construction of Isuaniocha-Urum-Amanuke-Achala road. That road is now a security threat because bandits use it as hideout. So we are begging Governor Willie Obiano to come to our rescue and make Awka-North part and parcel of Anambra State.”
In June 2018, Obiano paid unscheduled visit at the Okpuno-Urum-Amanuke-Achalla road project site, and directed immediate asphalting of the 15.9km road with 20m bridge. But despite that and Mr Leo Okoye, Project Director’s promises, nothing happened.
The Obi-led administration awarded a contract to construct the 32 kilometre Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbenu-Ugbene-Awba Ofemili road to Brecco Nigeria Limited at the cost of N2.5 billion (two billion, five hundred million naira). The contract was later revised to N7,816,193,590 (seven billion, eight hundred and sixteen million, one hundred and ninety three thousand, five hundred and ninety naira).
The road was awarded on April 11, 2007 and flagged off on July 2, same year with a completion period of fifteen months. The collapse of Ezu bridge hampered the progress of work.
By 2013, Obi’s administration did 12.31 kilometres asphalted with N3,309,349,475 (three billion, three hundred and nine million, three hundred and forty eight thousand, four hundred and seventy five naira) paid to the contractor. The contractor, Brecco, was to be paid N4,506,845,115 (four billion, five hundred and six million, eight hundred and forty five thousand, one hundred and fifteen naira). Engr Tony Madi of Tamad Construction later took over from his boss, Brecco as the contractor. But, the road construction never progressed beyond Ebenebe, even with all the promises from Obiano-led administration.
Obi’s administration in 2013 awarded a contract for the construction of the 15.9 kilometre-Okpuno-Urum-Amanuke-Achalla road alongside three other projects in the other parts of the state, at the cost of N1,604,29,466 (one billion, six hundred and four million, two hundred and ninety one thousand, four hundred and sixty six naira) with a completion period of twelve months.
The project, awarded to Grand Star Limited, was supposed to be delivered in April 2014. But a visit to the area revealed that work stopped on the road in August, 2015 while the contractor had left the site. The road had been asphalted up to Urum, and inched into Amanuke.
The chairman, Community Empowerment Network in Awka North, Mr Albert Chinwuko, spoke earlier with Premium Times on the cheating of Awka North with projects in what he termed lopsided budget.
Chinwuko had charged that the road leading from Awka to Achalla was awarded in the 2014 budget seven times, with different names and amounts allocated to them. So, we believe that government is marginalising us because we don’t have somebody to come and talk for us. So I am saying that the problem is from the government as well.”
He observed: “The 2014 and 2015 budgets, if you look at them, you discover that Awka North is rated so high in budget allocation, but when you come to implementation, you see that nothing is being implemented. Our code is being used in other locations in Awka South and other places.”
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, Umeobi Andrew Ubinwa, had punctured the claims with an explanation that no reasonable government would intentionally short-change any section in its jurisdiction.
He opined: “Poverty and backwardness are dependent on a number of factors. What government had done for the people, what the people have done for themselves. If you look at Anambra State, you find some communities and LGAs that have developed due to the activities of their people. Awka North is described as backward in the poverty map because of certain indicators such as: availability of health facilities, education, water and, of course, infrastructure were lacking.
“And one of the follow-ups to that survey was the award of contracts to refurbish health facilities, facilities in the education sector, boreholes are sunk, and drugs are supplied to their health facilities, among other measures. The road projects in the local government are still on despite some constraints that government has. Government had been trying to see what it can do to complete those projects. Government will always intervene to provide environment to enable individuals, communities, LGAs to move on. But not all LGAs can move at the same pace. Government is there for the people and in Anambra State we had decided to distribute projects across the local government areas.”
Former chairman of Awka North Local Government, Cosmas Okonkwo, had denied the allegation of poor political representation in an interview with Purity FM Correspondent Andrew Ajayi, adding:
“I don’t think it is so. The politicians that have served Awka North in the past, to the best of my knowledge, had done their best. The problem of Awka North mainly comes from the topography of the local government. If you check the story of Awka North, it is the same thing that happened in the Niger Delta that is happening here.
“In the Niger Delta, to construct a road will cost ten times of what will be used to construct a road in the states of the north. And to construct a road in Awka North will cost government about four times what they will use to construct a road in Agbenu areas. Why they call them Agbenu is because there is no water there. In Awka North, there is no particular road you can construct without bridges and they are not small bridges.
“So I think this a major factor that scares the state government from embarking on road projects in the area. But thank God that the governor in this present administration is from Anambra North and has started tackling the problems of the northern people.”
While still awaiting the governor’s intervention, the blame game continued. Mr Albert Chinwuko from Urum had held the people responsible for their backwardness.
His words: “I will say that why Awka North is in this mess is that we are the problems of ourselves, we Awka North indigenes. In the sense that the attitude of the people is too bad that nobody is ready to go and talk or plead our case. I believe that it is only when you come out and tell the government what you need that it will come to your aid. Part of Awka North land, especially in Amansea is being used by the government both federal and state: but we are not getting anything from it.
“And I ask, why should hamlets in Anaocha, Idemmili, Ihiala, Ayamelum, Anambra West and Anambra East, Awka South, among others have tarred roads; yet Awka North cannot be connected by road or sea to its neighbours?
“Awka North is close to Ezeagu in Enugu State through Ebenebe and close to Aguleri in Anambra East through Awba Offemili, yet no roads to connect them and decongest the cities. What a shame to Obiano’s administration. So many promises, yet nothing much on ground in Awka North but propaganda!
“There is nothing to show in Awka North for Obiano’s six years in office. Former governor, Peter Obi in the spirit of continuity handed him over the Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbene-Ugbenu with a spur to Awba-Ofemmili road, (among others) but he did not drop a tipper of sand there till date. The road has been abandoned and the people are in agony.”
The Commissioner for Works, by March last year, had said that the administration has executed 80 roads across the three senatorial districts of the state since he assumed office five years ago. Ifejiofor said the roads were part of the 200 active road sites across the three senatorial districts, yet none is completed in Awka North.
Please, Obiano, Awka North is thanking you for the ones you did but needs your intervention now than ever. Thank you, my Governor!
•Being the second and concludludng part of the piece, Obiano abandons Awka North? Odogwu, PhD, a blogger, can be reached @ www.odogwublog.com; 08060750240 and firstname.lastname@example.org
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