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Jonathan Angry With Delay in East-West Road Project

Jonathan Angry With Delay in East-West Road Project
President Goodluck Jonathan

As the new Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Dr. Steve Oru, toured the lingering East-West Road project, traversing the six states of the South-South region, penultimate week, it was palpable that there was fire on the mountain.

At Point Zero, Delta Steel Company, DSC, Roundabout, Effurun (Section 1) in Delta State, where Oru commenced his tour of the road project, he underlined the longing of President Jonathan to have the East- West Road commissioned at the end of the year (2014).

He told the contractors, “As the man charged with the responsibility of carrying out this desire of the President, I implore you to tell us what is needed to take the extra mile in realizing this strong desire of the President. We believe you must begin to consider working at night and increasing your resources as steps towards fast tracking the job.”

At the 900meters Patani Bridge, Project Manager for one of the construction companies, Setraco , Raed Salibe, said six out of nine segments of the second bridge had been laid, adding that “the remaining three and full completion of the Section 1 would be met by December.”

The Minister was visibly pleased with the 95 percent completion report on Km 15-99 from Onne Port Junction being handled by RCC.

Minister explodes

But he was not impressed at the pace of work on the Kaiama Bridge, where he was first confronted with an extended December, 2015 completion date, projected by Setraco.

Dr. Oru thundered, “That date is not acceptable. The President is receiving frequent complaints from his people accusing him of abandoning this section of the road. You have to redouble your efforts to give us an acceptable date. If you say this bridge was started in 2012, then you have not shown enough commitment on this section”, he told Setraco management.”

The reality that the December 2014 total completion date is an obvious impossibility started dawning on the minister as he observed very critical delay points, including km 0-15 on Section III, from Eleme Junction to Onne Port, where work is yet to commence, 398 mtr Eket Bridge above the Kwa-Iboe River as well as some defects requiring more road space acquisition and compensation between Oron to Calabar for the 13km bridge and 10km road, which Presidential approval had only just been given.

SURE-P’s marked contribution

From emerging facts, what has kept the project going is the multi-billion Naira intervention by SURE-P, which has released over ₦66 billion to the Ministry. A SURE-P source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Niger Delta Voice, “In 2012, ₦15 billion was released out of set ₦21.7 billion, in 2013, ₦42.27 billion was earmarked, but ₦36.75 billion was actually released while this year, ₦15 billion of budgeted ₦30 b has been paid by SURE-P on account of the East- West Road.”

Shoddy job

Despite the challenges, Oru remained hopeful, but his demeanor changed when he saw the shoddy level of job done on the ₦5 billion Niger Delta Ministry’s Skills Acquisition Center at Iwuoa-Chan, Ibeno Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State. He indicated the possibility of displacing the project consultant and contractors for poor performance following the consultant’s excuse of inadequate funding by the ministry.

“I put it to you that you are not hampered by poor funding, if you are telling me that you already had 60 percent of funds. What you have done here is a disaster. I am very disappointed. And I think we have to think of a new way of awarding our projects such that competence is determined by financial readiness added to technical capacity,” he declared.

Post tour verdict

Speaking to reporters at the end of the tour, he said, “I appeal to contractors to open up more work gangs. The ministry is pleased with the amount of work from the Port Harcourt end of Section II. The chaos on that section is now a thing of the past. It is cheering that Section I could be fully realized by November, including the bridge.”

He said he had listened to the contractors and have also seen the few critical areas where the 2014 target date certainly does not seem realistic, expressing strong conviction that with a mindset from the client and contractor to redouble efforts, any overlap should not eat too deep into 2015.

His words, “The East West Road, without doubt, is the flagship of the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry. The failure of the project is, therefore, being considered by many as failure of the ministry. Its completion is seen as the surest measure to judge the success of the ministry.”

His catch phrase to virtually all contractors was “Make haste, Mr. President is worried.” The major point of the Presidential worry, according to Oru, is not just because the road project is situated in his home region, but as the most outstanding project under the ministry, the delayed completion of the East- West is nourishing a public perception of failure.

On the lingering multi-billion Naira skills center, Dr. Oru noted, “Chasing completion of all nine skills center projects would make it impossible for any to be used in the next five years.

“The essence of these projects is to put them to use. We will ensure that Otuoke and possibly Ibeno projects are completed, staffed, equipped and youths admitted to put them to use at the end of 2014.”

Source: Vanguard

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