“Measure our Performance on Road Construction in Anambra State based on Impact – Engr. Marcel Ifejiofor

By Emmanuel Onwubiko 
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Appearing as a guest on the inaugural edition of “Meet the Media” the Hon. Commissioner for Works in Anambra State, Engr. Marcel Ifejiofor articulates the basic philosophy of Governor Willie Obiano’s approach to the construction of roads and bridges in the state. Engr. Ifejiofor also offers a far-ranging insight into the status of roads, bridges and erosion control projects across Anambra State.

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Opening remarks by Ifejiofor: Thank you CPS and the Governor's Media Team It's a pleasure to be here. Our ministry is media friendly and in this administration headed by Chief Willie Obiano ,we state the facts as they are. We don't play politics with the things we do for Ndi-Anambra. Anything we say is verifiable. You can check for yourself to confirm if what we are saying is true. My ministry is in charge of roads, bridges and erosion control and we are doing that perfectly.

Question: One contentious issue is the area of the number of roads done by this administration. Ndi Anambra would like to know how many they are. Another one is the Onneh-Achina-Ogborji Road. Where are we on that road?

Answer: Thank you. In assessing what we have achieved in road construction, so many things are put into consideration. It's not determined by the number of kilometers, because when you are building a road in the upland area, a kilometer of road might cost about N200m. But if you're doing same kilometer of road in Nzam, the same amount cannot get up to 200 meters. If you go to Onono in Anambra West, Onono is a community that has not seen a tarred road. The people travel to their community through Delta State. The height of sand filling on a road done by Tamad in Onono is 3-4meters. But you know that when you are building a road in Awka, you don't need any sand filling. You use the laterite. So, that is why we are not much interested in saying that that we did 1000km of road. The important question for this administration according to His Excellency, Governor Willie Obiano, is how does the road we build impact the lives of people? It is on record that Nzam is the only Local Government headquarters that doesn't have a tarred road. But we are building a road of about 14km with a bridge to Nzam. The bridge is completed and we have about 2.4km to sand-fill in order to take the road to Nzam. We are building a road to Aguleri-Uno/Aguleri Otu to the oil field. This road is about 42km and it will cost Anambra State about 23 Billion to build this road. This road is in a swamp throughout but what can we do? We claim the oil is in Anambra State and belongs to Anambra State but how can you be going to what belongs to you through somebody's house? Before we used to go to that place through Enugu State through Igah and they was a lot of contentions. But His Excellency said; no, we must build a road to what belongs to us. Enugu Otu/ Eziagulu Otu/Mkpunando, are three communities in Anambra State that have never seen a tarred road in that area and that is why we are building that road. We are now in kilometer 21 out of the 42 kilometers. You can go and verify the level of work being done there. To make sure that there is a connection between Ayamelum and Anambra East, he's building another road that road is about 11.2km from Umueje to the oil field with a bridge. The bridge has been completed. You have been hearing about Chelsea Farms but in the past, Chelsea Farms could only be accessed through Enugu State. But now, we have completed that bridge and we have done some sand filling of about 4.km into that road. Check Ogwuaniocha, it is a community in Ogbaru North. It's an oil bearing community. Sepcol is doing some oil drilling in that community and they don't have a tarred road. But we are building one there now. Tamad is handling the construction of the road. If you are going to Osamala you'll see the road by your left. The road has about 24 culverts and we are doing sand-filling now. After sand-filling, we do crushed stone filling. The federal road that goes to Ogwuikpele we are also working on. This administration is not only building roads, ecological problem is a Federal Government business but because of what erosion is doing to Anambra State, we have gone into erosion and watershed management. The cost of controlling one gully erosion site is enormous both in human and material resources. For instance the one we did at Minaj Obosi cost Anambra State about N2.6billion. It was done by IDC. It is completed and if you go there now you won't even know that anything happened there. In Nnewi, the 100Ft Road was once a terrible site. It was about 35 Meters deep. It cost Anambra State about N3.5bn` and it's done now. We have the before and after images of the site. There's one we are now doing in Onitsha; Aroli-Obeleagu. Work is going on there. People have lost more than 50 buildings to the menace. Many residents of that area have all packed out and if the erosion is not quickly controlled, in the nearest future it will get to Awka Road. What did His Excellency do? He said should we wait for Federal Government? His Excellency said; let's go and save our people first. That thing might cost Anambra State about N4bn because first of all we want to do a diversion channel there to make sure that water doesn't flow to the gulley anymore. That's one project so that by dry season we are going back there to fill up that erosion. Why I am giving this elaboration is so that anybody that compares kilometer of road being done will see that it does not make sense. What matters is how the work done impact on the lives of Ndi-Anambra. But that notwithstanding, we have done wonderfully well. I have a list of all the roads we have built in the whole three senatorial zones. I often chuckle when people talk about roads inherited. The most important thing about this administration is not about what we inherited but are you doing what will make Anambra people happy? And His Excellency by God's grace, is doing that. We are completing inherited roads and we are building new ones. Do you know what it takes to build a bridge? The cost of building a 100meter bridge it can build more than 3km of road. And we have done so much on bridge construction. It is on record that we built the longest bridge in the South East, measuring 280 meters across the Omambala River. It is on the road that goes from Aguleri-Uno to Aguleri Out. So, we don't measure our achievements by the number of roads. What we consider as an achievement is in finding out how happy are Ndi-Anambra with what you are doing. The day we went to Ogwuaniocha to see the traditional ruler they were so happy that they were singing the praises of His Excellency. This week, we shall be in Nzam. His Excellency wants to see the completed bridge. We shall also be in Aguleri uno/Aguleri otu, because when I told him that we had constructed up to 21km, he said let’s go and see it. So, that's our position on questions about the number of roads, number of kilometers, number of inherited and non-inherited roads. It doesn't matter; the important thing is that this is Anambra State and we are going to do our best. So, what we are doing today is to help agriculturists, help people that sell their produce, help people come to town help teachers that are posted to the riverine areas to access the places. This is our interest.

L-R:James Eze (Chief Press Secretary to the Governor), Engr Marcel Ifejiofor (Commissioner for Works), Emeka Ozumba (Deputy Chief Press Secretary to the Governor)

On Enugu-Umuonyia -Achina-Onneh road, the road was fully awarded and the contractor mobilized to site. I want to assure them that the road must be completed by this dry season. His Excellency has directed the contractor to move back to site. Unfortunately now, the contractor travelled overseas but he will soon be back. He's equally the same contractor building the bridge at Umueje and the road from Omor to Umumbo. So, let them be rest assured the road will be completed.

Question: People will always bring up this issue of favouritism in terms of the distribution of infrastructure. Can we get a break down of roads in terms of senatorial zones so that people will have a full picture of what the Ministry is working on? Again, there are some roads that appear to be lagging behind in development a case in point is the Oye-Agu- Abagana-Nimo Road. Can you tell us the true position?

Answer: We are mindful of the need for equitable distribution of these roads. I'll give you the numbers. In Anambra North we have 77 Roads, completed and ongoing. In the Central we have 72 completed and ongoing and in the South we have 53 completed and ongoing. These are all verifiable. If you come to my office I'll give you the list.

on the Oye-Agu Abagana – Nimo Road, I meet with the Commissioner for Finance and the Accountant General because of the current economy. We have sat down to review all the roads based on percentage completion and fortunately that road is one of the roads that is almost over 50% completed with the drains. It is in our top priority. Let me assure them that before December that road will have been completed.

Question: When this Administration began, His Excellency made it very clear that his administration would focus on the construction of roads that are of economic importance. Has the focus changed or is it still the same?

Answer: It is still the same. That is why we are building the roads to the oil fields and the one that goes to Chelsea Farms. That is why even though it is a Federal road, His Excellency has directed and the contract has been awarded and the job is ongoing to construct a road between Igbariam and Anaku. Ayamelum is one local government that has been cut off. So, that road has been awarded to the Nigerian Army Construction Company because that place is almost the food basket of the state. That is why we are building another one in Ifite-Ogwari. Before now, they used a boat to go to their waterside and into the Agrarian area where they plant rice. That's why we are building the one to Ogwuaniocha; an oil bearing community and they are also very good in Agriculture. That is why we are building one to Onono, a community in Anambra West. That's why we are building one to Nzam, because administratively as a local government headquarters, they were supposed to have a tarred road. So we are still following the vision.

Question: Why is the road connecting Amansea-Ebenebe- Awba Ofemmili still in a terrible condition? Could please tell us how many bridges this administration has built?

Answer: This administration inherited 6 bridges and they have all been completed. This administration awarded 20 Bridges and 8 have been completed while 12 are on-going.

On the Amansea-Awba Ofemmili road, the case would have been different this time if not for Covid-19 because when I took over as Commissioner for Works, I visited the road and saw that it was very bad. We have constructed between 60-70% of that road. The earth work and drains have been completed and it is remaining asphalting. We have agreed to build the road in phases, one after the other. Many people have complained about the road but we are pleading with Ndi Anambra in that area to be patient. God-willing this administration will complete that road. We are also building a spur of about 500 meters to Ugbenu. We must complete that Road.

Question: How you are collaborating with ARMA to make sure the roads in the Awka Capital Territory are done well?

Answer: Since inception, ARMA has been independent. I don't supervise them. I don't know what they do. But we only synergize as a Government. They have an MD. But on Awka internal roads, when I came in, we designed about 8 roads in Awka just like we did in Onitsha. Obodoukwu road is an eye sore. I'll be there on Wednesday to assure the people that we have not forgotten them that we are coming. We are doing the design and let them bear in mind that we are solving the major problem in Okpoko which are drainages not roads. Sakamori is where all the water in Okpoko flows into. We are trying to dredge Sakamori and Idemili River.

Question: Most gully erosion sites in Anambra State were caused by the poor handling of road construction and wrong termination of drainages. Is there any mechanism in place to build more ecologically friendly roads in Anambra State?

Answer: That has been done. Immediately I came in His Excellency set up what we call a Road Design Review Committee, because like you rightly said one major cause of erosion is poor termination of road drainages. The big gully in Aroli-Obeleagu was caused by a broken drainage. Once it gets broken the water will flow and create a gulley. Same as 100 foot road. Basically what this Design Review Committee does is to make sure that all road drainages are terminated to a natural water body. Anambra has a loose soil. There is a dangerous one around Amichi caused by the same poor termination. So, His Excellency created this Committee and we are making sure that all roads including the ones done before the drainages are properly terminated. It will reduce our vulnerability to erosion. I am the chairman of the Committee. There are other commissioners who are members plus two reputable consultants like Emplan. So by the time we finish what we are doing we must get value for any job awarded in Anambra State, both in terms of cost and in terms of serving its purpose.

Question: Can you give us an update on Amansea-Awa-Ndiukwuenu-Ufuma Road?

Answer: The contractor Stefanutti, is back to site as I talk to you now. There is a terrible erosion in that area but they are working and what we agreed with them is that we won't do this road anymore and expose them. If you do 1km then we Ashpalt it, so we know that anywhere we get to we'll know we have completed it. They have been paid some money so they are back.

Question: The Chisco- Ogbodi Road in Amichi as you pointed out had a gully erosion site seriously springing up in that area and the people are complaining that with each rainfall the gully expands. What are you doing about that road? Again, is there a general standard for road construction in Anambra State or do the standards vary from site to site?

Answer: First of all, on Amichi I had expected you to say thank you to His Excellency and the Ministry of Works for completing one road project in Amichi. That is the fastest road we have completed in history. It was done by the Nigerian Army. I have driven on that road. We are going to do a redesign and we are going to do the road. I have been there to survey the road I can confirm to you that I have plans on how to do the road and do it quickly. On quality of roads, there are so many factors to consider especially in Anambra. The number of Dangote trucks passing our roads are many, every road is designed to carry a certain load. So when the Federal roads in Anambra failed completely the trucks diverted to our internal roads and these roads were constructed to fit into varying grades. Thank God the Expressway is getting better. In addition to that we are going to start putting barriers on our internal roads. That will help prevent heavy duty trucks from plying them.

Question: On the Enugwu-Ukwu -Nise -Nibo Ring Road, there is one particular spot that is very bad and impassible. What is your Ministry doing about that?

Answer: The road you are talking about is under construction. We have completed Nise axis and the contractor is coming back soon. I know the area, it is in a terrible state right now but they will come back to site to tidy up the place.

Question: On Eziowelle-Oyeagu Raod, there is a spot prepared for repair but has not been done. There is another spot close to the Secretariat; it's disturbing that it has not been done.

Answer: I'll talk to ARMA to see how they can fix those broken down portions. But what you said about synergy between Ministry of works and environment we have the synergy and that is why everywhere that we go, we remind the people of the importance of not throwing waste into drainages and having waste bins. I am appealing to Ndi-Anambra, no matter how beautiful a road is, if the drainage is blocked the road will be destroyed. People also build on drainage channels and physical planning has been directed to pull down such buildings.

Question: We are in the 7th year of this administration. Is your Ministry mindful of the time remaining to finish all on-going projects in the state to avoid controversies and to know when to put a stop to awarding new contracts to enable the current administration tidy up and give the next administration a clean slate?

Answer: It is important to note that the politics of what is inherited is not necessary. Government is a continuous process and the most important thing is to do all that you can within the available time. This administration is making sure by the time it hands over, it will be indelible in the minds of the people because of the good works we did. As issues arise we tackle them no matter the time remaining. We are going to leave but anything that we are going to leave must be properly left in a state that it won't be a problem to anybody.

Question: Within the Awka axis, is there is any hope that the GRA can have the facelift deserving of a proper GRA.

Answer: We have designed a lot of roads in Awka. By the time we build 10km of roads in Awka everywhere will be opened up. The design is ready. We are waiting for approval before we get down to work. The one in Agulu Awka will be handled by Niger Cat.

Question: What is the status of the Regina Caeli footbridge asplanned by the administration?

Answer: The Regina Caeli bridge has been designed but His Excellency didn't like the aesthetic of the design and has requested Julius Berger to redesign it. And it will be done. It won't just be just a footbridge but a flyover from St Patrick’s to the other side of the expressway. But in the interim, we'll put speed breakers and speed bumps to reduce the rate of accident on the road.