Go-slow In Rivers State - By Odimegwu Onwumere

Source: huhuonline.com
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A radio station in Rivers Stateis incessantly and wholeheartedly presenting a programme - 'Go Slow Matter'.Telephone lines are opened for information on the subject matter. People fromall walks of life in the state either call or send 

the presenter with textmessages anytime the programme was on, to inform where there is or notraffic-jam in the state (popularly called go-slow). This Reporter takes a veryperspicuous investigation of the many 'go-slow' in the state.

Alook at the menace of dilapidated roads in Rivers State under the GovernorChibuike Amaechi-led government could be likened to contributing to theenlarged enragement of many people. Many of them have become immune to hardshipthat surrounds Port Harcourt - the state capital - and its environs. Forexample, the residents of Ada George have been shouting on top of the roofabout the ill-condition of their road. Just to mention but a few, a place likeOyigbo is a story with hypothesis thus: 'entering Oyigbo from a clean town islike entering a place that is marginalized and totally forgotten by anymeaningful government.'

However,the state government has assured the people of Ada George that the contract fortheir road had been awarded only that the contractor is waiting for the rain tosubside. While that lasted, a political opposition party in the state has sincecriticized the whereabouts of funds allegedly allocated for the habitual roadmaintenance in the state through the 'Road Rehabilitation Agency' under ChidiWihoka. Again, the party criticized the whereabouts of funds for the 'ZeroPothole Tolerance' of the Ministry of Works underneath the regulation of theinstantaneous past Commissioner of Works, Dakuku Peterside. According to theparty, these agencies had produced nothing. But here is the government waitingfor the rains to subside before it embarks on road-work, without prior sendingits sniffing dogs to investigate the matter.

Itwas noted that the agencies for the maintenance of the roads allegedly betrayedthe trust reposed on them by doing gigantic ugly jobs, which resultant effectsare the useless roads people are enduring that are contributing to Rivers'Go-slow. Like the alleged misappropriation of funds directed for roadsmaintenance in the state, investigations also revealed that Rivers Statescholarship students in Malaysia are allegedly crying to the state governmentover the non-payment of their allowances and school fees resulting to theirsuffering in the faraway land.

'Whois in-charge of their allowance?' is a big question many people are asking. Itwas a shock to note through investigations that the authorities of theinstitutions they are studying in, allegedly want to stop them from going toschool. This is a pathetic story. And the students fear is that if thegovernment delays to answer to their clarion calls for assistance, the students'visas given them may be cancelled, not minding the alleged report that most ofthem have been thrown out of their houses. This boiled-down to the alleged lackof payment of house rents by the students. Therefore, the source has it thatthey are crying to the state government as a matter of urgency to come to theiraid, regretting their sojourn to Malaysia with the aphorism: 'life is not thatrosy outside Nigeria especially in Malaysia.'

Notwithstanding,their journey to Malaysia was not expected to be rosy and cozy for them owingto controversies that trailed the scholarship. And now it has been revealedthat these students only depend on the allowances to survive. Nothing more thanthis! Therefore, some of those whose persons are said to be affected in theUtopian scholarship in Malaysia are calling on the state government to come totheir aid. But their fear now is whether the ministry or agency concerned fortheir welfare would act with integrity if funds are channeled to it by thegovernment to see to their plight.

Inthe same manner the students were alleged to be in a 'Go-slow' scholarship inMalaysia, so also their kiths and kins are abundantly sharing in the 'Go-slow'trouble in Rivers State, especially on the roads upon the hope of 'dualisationand reconstruction' of the roads by the state government. This has brought thequestion about where 'all the major Urban Roads projects to form a connectinglink within Port Harcourt and its environs' are.

Thisgovernment, it's noted, has seldom identified and built all the rural roads,not taking to cognizance its promise, to make all communities in the stateaccessible by road. Somebody who claimed anonymity asked: 'What about thereclamation project?' The repairing of distress spots on roads, construct andsanitize drains whilst linking storm water to appropriate discharge pointsamongst many other project executions, all have been said, lacked sustenance assoon as they were born.

Thefaux headed problem of poor road network, flooding, difficult terrain, trafficcongestion etc. have all not terminated in Rivers State upon the stategovernment's full-bodied budgetary provision of a minimum of about N100 billionyearly to tackle these challenging issues. Upon these, all that have been heardwas that Hon. Peterside had maintained that 'the vision of this administrationon road development was a Rivers State where all communities were accessible byquality roads and infrastructure all year round.' A notable Rivers man whopleaded for anonymity reacted this way: 'Hogwash! Where are the 'quality'roads?' He vented this anger when contacted to comment on the road projects inthe state.

Hetherefore swore that the state government's boasts to actualize its vision ofbuilding an unprecedented Rivers State is still aloof, very far because of whathe described as the manner and measure with which some persons handling thedifferent projects in the state were/are making the projects to Go-slow.

UnderPeterside, it was noted that government through the Ministry of Works, awardedover 195 long-queue contracts. These comprised of over 900km of road, fourflyovers/interchange, 10 major bridges and 20 minor bridges, five landreclamation/shore embarkment, two ultra modern market building, the Rumuwoji(Mile I Market) and Port Harcourt town markets, yet the residents are crying ofthe activities government not-in-sight in their different communities.

Roaddualisation or duplication in Rivers State was aimed at easing traffic, yetvirtually all the roads in the state, traffic congestion and the painsexperienced daily by people on the roads is gradually becoming a culture. Theroads the state government reportedly embarked on dualising were to includeRumuokwuta -Choba East West road at a cost of about N8.8 billion; Airport-Isiokpo-Omerelu road at a whooping cost of N21 billion; the Ada George phase I& II - Choba phase 11- NTA- Choba- Airport road at a cost of N10 billion.

Reportsshow that others include Abuja Mile 3 by-pass 1.075km, Tam David-West Airportroad 13.5km, Slaughter Oginiba Rumuobiakani road 3.1km, Rumuola Rumuokwta orad2.1km, Igbo-Etche/Eneka road, Rumuokuta Mgbuoba Choba Road, Rumukurushi -Eneka -Igwuruta, Eastern by pass Amadi-Ama/Oginiba 5.7km, Ogu Eteo 6km, Prof Okujagu2km, Okrika Ring Road 4.5km, Rumuorlu Okeah Rumuwoke off Ada George 5.11km,Rumuosi Rumuakeni Aluu 6km, Okehi II Ndashi 14.1km, Rumuagholu Extension toProf Tam David West Road 3.5km, Rumuogholu road and adjourning Streets 10kmetc. This is a long list of roads, amongst others, that have been reported inmany local and international journals that works were/are on, butinvestigations reveal that it is muddled with less tangible result to show onmajority of them since three years and some months of the Governor ChibuikeAmaechi-led government of Rivers State.

TheRivers masses were once informed that the government was working on these roadsbecause of what it termed as 'in the quest to further address the perennialroad congestion on our roads.' Many residents, however, are not in tandem tograpple with the roads the government said it embarked on their constructionknown as huge link roads. Some, notwithstanding have said that the roads aresaid to be the N20billion Ogoni, Adoni and Opobo/Nkoro Unity Road, which thegovernment have claimed would link the rural communities by road to the Urbanand Semi-Urban.

Itwas noted that the Unity Road was to link about 30 communities separated bywater in the Rivers East senatorial district of the state, as the name implies,on completion, stretching a distance of about 41km on swamp with 10 bridges.According to the government, 'This project is often referred to as road on waterbecause of the swampy terrain and the many rivers that were crossed by bridges.'

TheTrans- Kalabari Highway was said to be designed for a total road length ofabout 47-6km at the cost of about N9.2 billion excluding the bridges, and whencompleted, will link the several areas of Kalabari Kingdom to Port Harcourt.But in January 18, 2010, a report - 'Amaechi's Dilemma' - was succinct that thegovernor had expressed his frustrations and his government's failures during achat with Rivers stakeholders and the media.

Itwas noted that Amaechi laid bare his feelings on the grim realities confrontinghis administration while presenting the 2010 proposed budget estimate of N429billion to the state House of Assembly on 23 December 2009. Prominent among hisworries was the drop from the state's 2009 budget of N432.28 billion in the2010 fiscal estimate. According to investigations, this was due to thereduction of revenue from the Federation Account as a result of the ceding ofabout 200 oil wells from the state to Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa and other borderingstates by the National Boundary Commission, NBC, and the Revenue Allocation,Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (which that of Akwa Ibom 86 oil wells cededto her have been reclaimed by Rivers State recently, 2011).

The'go-slow' continues with the incapacitation of the indigenes given contracts todeliver in Rivers State and this was the greatest Amaechi's dilemma. Becausethey are indigenes, reports alleged that Amaechi has found it very hard to bedecisive on what to do about the recalcitrant indigenous contractors. (However,he has recently braved-up and sacked that of the refuse indigenouscontractors).   

Investigationsrevealed that these contractors have the attitude to messing up constructioncontracts given to them. Many residents however have asked why Amaechi waslamenting that his 'fellow indigenes' have failed him in his government. Thisfollowed his several lamentation in many sessions that contracts worth over N10bnfor the construction of the trans-Kalabari highway that would link all theKalabari local government areas awarded by former governor Peter Odili, wereawarded to prominent Kalabari sons who, after collecting 40 per centmobilization, started raising security concerns as excuse for abandoning theproject. Amaechi has wondered why indigenes of a particular area could crosstheir hearts and stake their integrity, only for them to abandon the projectsor do shoddy jobs that would not benefit their people. And an anonymous said: 'Maybe,they are waiting for the rains to subside before they do a proper job.' ButAmaechi had warned: 'No contractor can take the people's money and goscot-free. I am not ready to go to jail for anybody. Those who abandon theircontracts would be made to refund the money collected. When they refuse tocomply, I will mention their names to you, the media.'

Thecry has not yet grows less. The Abuloma-Worji Road project which was said, whencompleted, will link the Abuloma/Worji axis to Akpajo at the East West road,has been characterized as a sorry tale. This project was noted, stretched adistance of 2km and comprise of a 187m bridge with sand-filling to the depth ofabout 9m due to its swampy terrain. The story of the government was, 'Inpursuance to decongest roads notorious for traffic congestion governmentembarked on the construction of flyovers/interchange.'  

Whenthe Eleme Junction flyover which was touted as the most prominent being theN7.2 billion interchange with the purpose of solving the unrelieved traffic wasbuilt, there were appraisals of it decongesting traffic jam at the mighty oilmill market and Eleme junction axis that links the State with other neigbouringstate as Abia, yet the aim of that project has been defeated as police tookadvantage of the flyover on the Aba Road to conduct checks on motorists therebyoften causing untold 'go-slow'.

Atthe Agip-Rumueme Abacha road junction where a 400 meter bridge was underconstruction at the cost of over N3.9 billion to ease the chaotic trafficproblem in that axis, are not singing a different song of the 'go-slow'. TheEliozu-Olu Obasanjo Bypass flyover bridge at N2.1 billion and the EasternBypass/Amadi-Ama bridge rehabilitation at the cost of N200 million etc., Bridgeproject have not seen a concrete work too.

Manyprojects that abound in the state, some of which are the over N1.2 billionOrashi Steel bridge project, which the government informed will on completionlink the communities on the two sides of Orashi River at Idu. 'Other suchbridges awarded by previous administration but paid for by this regime are theAbalama bridge, Iloabuchi Eagle Island and Ndoni bridge etc,' the informationgoes on and on.

Thereis no ruling out that some of the projects have been completed, but theirsophistications are questionable. According to the former Commissioner forWorks, at least, one to three road projects were being constructed in the ruralcommunities in all the 23 Local Government Areas (LGA), and where no road projectwere ongoing, land reclamation projects and shore embarkment projects executed.Also, the constructions of some drainage are not in the amiss.

Thesewere to include drainage along the UTC-Azikiwe-Lagos Bus-stop. This was handledby Lubric Construction Company. The purpose of this project was chronicled tochannel storm water that settles at the CBN entrance causing flooding at thataxis to discharge into the Abonnema wharf River, but the government hasshrugged itself of blames about the recent flooding in the state and hinged iton the metrological reports that said the state would be in for ultra-flooding.

Anarea that has been affected heavily by the flooding in the different parts ofthe state is also the Ikwerre Road, where a project was reported by thegovernment, stretched from Education Bus-Stop to University of Science andTechnology (UST) round about. This project whether completed or on completion,has not addressed the problem of flooding in that axis, with its heralded threedischarge points at Okiji, Ekuku and UST round about by Abuja Bypass, the SaroWiwa Road (Stadium Road). The Rumuomasi flooding has not been taken care ofeven when the government said it would be taken care of by the Saro Wiwa road project which it said, when completed, would discharge storm water intothe Ntawoba stream.

Whileall the roads dualization or duplication projects in the state were reportedlyintended with well planned drainages targeted at channeling storm water intonatural drainages/streams/Rivers etc., Rivers State has been in for intenseflooding upon the addition of the set-up of an inter-ministerial committeeaimed at de-flooding the state with a mandate to decontaminate lumped drainsunder Peterside.

Thethen commissioner had said that to achieve this, the services of five reputablecontractors were engaged to handle the zero pothole job, but this has beendeconstructed as a project that did not meet the eyes by many people andorganizations in the state. It was learnt that to achieve this tall dream, PortHarcourt was divided into five zones with each contractor handling a zone. Thephase II of the programme cost the government N1 billion.

RiversState, as at today, government said needed N250 billion Bond currently beingsought from the capital market before October, 2011. The governor raised hopein the unsuspecting residents, saying that 'Rivers State is buoyant enough tohandle projects that would impact positively on its people….The proposed sizeof the first tranche of the bond will be about 100 billion naira with fiveyears tenures, whereas the total bond programme of 250 billion naira isenvisaged over the next several months.' This statement was contained in apress briefing from the desk of the governor's Chief Press Secretary, DavidIyofor, on 31 st July, 2011.

Peopleare asking the need for this money which has been said would be coupled tosupporting definite developmental projects in the state, which has been thesame aged-long developmental projects the government has been priding aboutworks on that included the Greater Port Harcourt City, the Port HarcourtMonorail project, the new Rivers State University of Science and TechnologyPhase 1, [email protected] (an entertainment complex), the Port Harcourt Ring Roadthat would connect the old city and Greater Port Harcourt city, and a new M-10Highway; a beltway that would link the Port Harcourt International Airport tothe Onne Sea port.

Againstthose surroundings, some people still cannot hide their love for the governor,saying that if there was another term allowed by the constitution for electiveoffice holders after serving two term of four years each, Amaechi is qualifiedmany time to go back. 'Oh, my God! This guy is driving me crazy with hispolicies and visions...' a Rivers man said.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes InRivers State (CONIRIV). Email: