*Calabar-Itu Road: Semenitari's Parting Gift *
You don't need to travel the road to understand that it kills. All that is
necessary is to listen the testimonies of lucky survivors or just a look at
still image shots of the road. The Calabar- Itu Road segment of the Calabar
– Itu – Ikot Ekpene – Aba Road, has completely collapsed. It has become a
death trap. There is no doubt that the road is federal highway, meaning the
responsibility of maintaining the road is the FG's. However, I have always
wondered how inconsiderate the state governments of Akwa Ibom and Cross
River have become. Since 2011, this road gradually started giving way, and
up till this moment, the road remains a terrifying death trap and a horror
track for travelers.
The road is the main economic route of the territories of the Old Cross
Rivers state. It is, till this day, the only unity infrastructure that cuts
across the two sister-states and conveys indigenes and visitors to these
states. The road is the only passage for heavy-duty trucks conveying stones
and cement from the quarries of Akamkpa to the many constructions yards in
Akwa Ibom. It is the main economic route for the distribution of
agricultural produce from the large farms in Cross River state to the
entire Old Eastern Region and beyond.
Destination Calabar is the tourist terminus of Nigeria, and most of the
visitors to Calabar are actually from the South-South and South-East
geopolitical zones. The Calabar-Itu Road is the major tourist
transportation route to Calabar. The city has enjoyed the bliss of tourism
in the last decade. But the last few years have witnessed a sharp decline
in tourism revenue due to the very bad state of the Calabar-Itu road. One
hotel manager in Calabar, Orok Samuel, told me that “Business has been
really bad, many conventions scheduled for Calabar this year have been
moved to other cities in the country because of the bad access road.” He
was right. A regional retreat for staff of a telecommunication major in
Nigeria scheduled for July 20-23 was cancelled. The event was eventually
held in Port Harcourt.
While Calabar remains the capital of Cross River state, there are perhaps
as much indigenes of Akwa Ibom who are permanent residents in Calabar, most
of them being third generation residents. When these Akwa-Ibomites travel
to their various home towns, there is but only one road to ply.
In 2015, the Akwa Ibom state governor, Mr. Emmanuel Udom, visited the
failed portions of the Calabar-Itu Road. He said, “This is the busiest road
in this part of the region witnessing huge commercial activities. This is a
federal road. Where the resources of Akwa Ibom Government could not afford
the construction of the road, Federal Government has to do something
urgently to aid us. The ecological funds are not coming.” The Akwa Ibom
State Ministry of Works undertook remedial works on a landslide that hit
the road last year, but if the state of the road is anything to go by, that
work was inconsequential.
While both states, waited for the ecological fund from the federal
government, the budget of Ministry of Works and the intervention of the
Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), the gully erosion continued its
havoc on the stretch, leaving the road like the site of an abandoned
archaeological site. The heart wrenching sight of helpless travellers
trapped in deep gullies, vehicles in the deep ponds, wooden canoes ferrying
passengers across the couloir, and badly damaged vehicles –evidences of
fatal accidents – along the road, highlights the insensitivity of
leadership and the failure of our kind of federalism.
I am happy that the Niger Delta Development Commission has stepped up to
tackle this emergency. Like all other agencies of government, the
commission's revenue is dwindling and it has its own fair share of
abandoned projects, but this emergency intervention is commendable. It is
the right thing to do.
The Acting Managing Director, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari visited the road this
week and has promised to commence emergency repairs immediately. But just
like the remedial works executed by the Akwa Ibom state government, the
NDDC is no stranger to remedial works on the Calabar-Itu Road. However, the
rains have proved to be stronger bulldozers. It will therefore be a good
idea, if the NDDC goes a step beyond emergency repairs to include some
civil works for erosion control. This is a sure way to retain value for the
investment on the road.
With just about 8 weeks to the end of her incumbency, Mrs. Semenitari has
impressed most of her fiercest critics (and I used to be one). As expected,
many politicians – mostly members of her own party – in Akwa Ibom and Cross
River kicked against her appointment as Acting MD because the top two
members of the former (sacked) board -the chairman and managing director
-were indigenes of Cross River and Akwa Ibom states respectively. But now,
they too may be having a rethink.
While my assessment is limited to extent of my status as a personal
observer, I conclude that in nine months she has demonstrated nothing short
of capacity, in a role that has never been ceded to a female politician.
She has managed the resources of the commission transparently (so far),
strengthened the communication framework and widened the public interface
with the agency. Today, the project monitoring process of the NDDC is
participatory and public via the PMIS she commissioned in June, 2016. Also,
the commission not only publishes its quarterly unaudited financial
reports, it plans to make its procurement process more transparent with the
launch of its online vendor management and procurement platform.
Still a long shot from Nirvana, but she has made good effort to reposition
the NDDC. For the people of Akwa Ibom and Cross River, and the thousands of
carnival-loving bees, this intervention is a worthy parting gift. Somebody
can say “Halaluya!”
*Follow me on Twitter – @imaginasion1*
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