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Understanding Obiano's Aggresive Focus on Road Construction. 

By Ifeanyichukwu Afuba
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Good roads are continually in demand all over the country but with a marked fervour in Anambra State. Alienated from the people at the inception of his regime, Dr Chris Ngige soon won the hearts of the people by delivering on durable roads. Mr Peter Obi, the first two-term Governor of Anambra State learnt the lesson of good roads the hard way, winning second tenure with a slim 100,000 score after initially saying his priority was industries. And as at July 2020, the Willie Obiano led government has taken on a total of 202 roads, completed and ongoing; distributed at 77 roads in Anambra North Zone; 72 for the Central Zone and 55 in Anambra South Zone.

For the Willie Obiano administration, the hundreds of kilometres of asphalted roads it has done is a secondary matter; what is foremost is the impact the roads bring to bear on the socio economic well-being of the society.

Engineer Marcel Ifejiofor, Anambra State Commissioner of Works, says the extent of road construction achieved by the present government is not to be measured in number of kilometres but in the nature of these roads. 'If you're doing a kilometre of road upland and another kilometre of road say in a swampy area, they're not the same thing. In the swamp you do sand filling and stone filling.' He cited ongoing work at Onono, Nzam, Umueje - Anambra oil field and Ogwuaniocha as examples of capital - intensive road construction as a result of their riverine terrain.

Explaining further at a recent interactive session with the governor's media team tagged "Meet the Media," the Works Commissioner said the height of sandfill on the Onono road was 4 metres; the 14 kilometre Nzam road would carry a bridge while the Ogwuaniocha road had 24 culverts. In the light of the peculiar scope of work and cost considerations brought about by the State's varying topography, he maintained that it was more useful to assess achievements in road construction from the felt needs they addressed.

One of the considerations of the Obiano administration in the selection of new road projects is taking asphalted roads to areas where they had not existed before. A number of road works being undertaken by the State Government fall into this category. Nzam, headquarters of Anambra West Local Government has the unenviable distinction of being the only council authority without a tarred road. That is about to change. The 14 kilometre road leading to Nzam has recorded ninety percent completion rate. Onono is another encumbered community whose citizens have to access their homes through Delta State. The area is now at the verge of being linked up with other parts of Anambra State with asphalted road. Enugu - Otu, Eziagulu - Otu and Mkpunando are other communities that had not previously seen tarred roads. A 42 kilometre road connecting these communities has advanced to 21 kilometres.

Another major consideration in the determination of road projects is their economic importance. Road works have been taken up to access areas of strategic economic investment; to ease evacuation of farm produce; to motivate teachers go to rural - based schools and to enable commuting between remote places and the State's heartland.

According to the Works Commissioner, the road passing through Aguleri - Uno and Aguleri - Otu to the State's oil field costs N23b. 'The road is swamped throughout. But what do we do? Before, we got to the place through Enugu State but the Governor said no, we must have a good road to what belongs to us.' Ogwuaniocha in Ogbaru Local Government Area is another town with petroleum deposit. And in reflection of this strategic interest, a solid 12 kilometre road with 24 culverts is ongoing to ease access to the oil community. An 11.2 kilometre road is in progress to link Ayamelum and Anambra East local government areas. The road, with a bridge, has the additional benefit of serving the nearby multi billion naira Chelsea Farm which hitherto negotiated it's entry through Enugu State.

Similarly, the Obiano administration is focused on completing a road between Igbariam and Anaku, an area considered a major food basket of the State. The contract is being executed by the Nigerian Army Construction Company which early this year delivered on 8 Onitsha city roads in the Fegge suburb. Ifite - Ogwari, a far flung rice - growing community is also inching nearer to the embrace of asphalted road.

With the economic effects of Covid 19 continuing, the State Government has moved to review it's uncompleted road projects. Some will subsequently be executed in phases. However, the Works Commissioner assured that the Oye - Agu Abagana - Nimo road which has attained fifty percent performance will be completed by December this year.

Hon Ifejiofor also clarified that the present government inherited 6 bridge projects which have all been delivered. 'On our own we awarded 20 contracts for bridges, 8 are completed and 12 in different stages of execution.' Among the finished bridges initiated by the Obiano administration is the magnificent Aguleri Otu, Aguleri Uno 290 metre bridge, the longest in the southeast outside the Niger Bridge. The accomplishment is better appreciated with the awareness that the cost of a 3 metre bridge will asphalt about 5 kilometres of road.

Roads had assumed centre stage in the socioeconomic life of Anambra State following the ravages of soil erosion. The State's soft, alluvial soil has left road projects vulnerable to degradation, thus, raising the financial cost and political stakes of road construction. Consequently, for the Obiano - led government, erosion protection works are both environmental issues and extended arm of road building. Notably, N2. 6b was spent on reclaiming the Minaj Television, Obosi, erosion site. The 100 Foot Road, Nnewi, 35 metre gully intervention gulped N3. 5b while the Onitsha Aroli - Obeleagu ongoing protection work is projected to cost N4 b.

The Works Commissioner identified broken water channels, blocked drains, heavy duty trucks and illegal bumps as posing the greater threats to durability of the State's internal roads. He disclosed that a Design Review Committee has been set up to ensure that road drainages terminate into natural body water. There are also plans to put barriers on State roads to prevent articulated vehicles from plying these roads not designed for them.