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Concern grows over the FG’s failure to complete the Calabar Itu road by 2023

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Despite the government’s steadfast promise to commission the project before 2023, there are worries that the Calabar-Itu road may not be finished eight months before President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration leaves office.

The federal executive council awarded the Calabar Itu road project to the federal government on May 3, 2017, in order to dualize the Odukpani Calabar Itu highway with a spur at Ididep.

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The project had unjustified delays and setbacks as a result of a lack of funding, according to Senator Ita Enang, the former Special Assistant to President Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs.

He had promised that, with sufficient funding, the project will be finished by April 2023 with dualized carriage.

However, other federal roads that cross the Niger Delta have experienced the same fate as the Calabar/Itu road. Some of them, like Umuahia/Ikot Ekpene, have nearly become impassable, causing social and economic catastrophe for the locals.

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Over 18,320 people and 4,059 vehicles were involved in road accidents in the first two quarters of the fiscal year 2018, ranking Nigeria’s roads among the most hazardous in the world.

The completion of the Calabar/Itu road project before 2023 is a pipe dream because despite being included in the budget each fiscal year, little has been accomplished.

Three distinct construction companies in the State have each received N185 billion to date in order to complete the project.

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Apparently, Julius Berger received N54 billion, CCECC received N52 billion, and SEMATECH engineering services received the final N79 billion.

According to Buhari’s former SSA, who provided information about the project, “We have been having problems getting funding for the road, but Mr. President has asked me to assure you that we raised money from the tax credit window from the Federal Inland Revenue Service to the NNPC to fund critical infrastructure, particularly road infrastructure.

“A significant portion, or N185 billion, of the approximately N600 billion obtained from the NNPC as tax credits, has been allocated to this route. Three payments for the road were made. Julius Berger received the first N54 billion of the available funds, followed by CCECC for N52 billion and SEMATECH engineering for N79 billion.

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“This road was intended to be dualized in 1972, but only one of the four lanes was built because it was thought that more would be added later. Thank God, President Mohammadu Buhari has begun building more lanes with four bridges, and he has pledged to finish it by the deadline.

However, access to the road has been extremely difficult for drivers and passengers, particularly during the rainy season, since trips that should take two hours may end up taking six, and in some cases, a whole day.

The poor condition of the road, according to traders, especially market women who travel to the Cross River State’s hinterlands to sell their items, has driven up the price of goods and transportation.

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The Federal Government has mobilized contractors back to the site, and construction has begun in earnest, giving road users reason for hope. However, it appears that the optimism may be misplaced because the FG neglected to provide Sematech, the contractors in charge of several road segments, with a compensation package. However, the impacted communities have threatened to halt the project if their roads and sources of income that were forcibly stolen from them are not fairly compensated.

It may be noted that the Federal Government will not provide compensation to impacted communities in the State on some portions of the road, as was highlighted in a letter recently issued to the governor of Akwa Ibom by the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola.

The Federal Executive Council decided, according to Fashola, that the FG would only carry out projects in areas where the State government had donated the necessary land at no cost to the Federal Government.

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“It is pertinent to inform Your Excellency that the prompt resolution of the pending compensation claims on the dualization of Oku-Iboku-Power Plant section of the Odukpani junction-Itu-Ikot Ekpene road in Akwa Ibom State will facilitate early completion and delivery of the project with the associated diverse socioeconomic multiplier effects and benefits, which would certainly place your state in good stead to attract more Federal Government funding,” the letter said in part.

However, the FEC decision was opposed by the Clan Head of the Okpokom Bridge to Itu Bridge, Etubom Nya Asuquo, and the Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Research and Documentation, Mr. Essien Ndueso, in both Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.

The Clan Head, a former member of the Federal House of Representatives, questioned the FG’s decision to pay compensation in the area of the road that was given to Julius Berger and refused to do so in the area that was given to other contractors.

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Asuquo questioned the lack of interest in the payment, citing a comparable case of compensation payment on the Zunguru hydroelectric power project in the country’s north, saying that their calm character should not be interpreted as a weakness.

The clan leader threatened legal action against the FG, claiming that the failure to pay compensation was preventing the construction of the road from moving further.

The contractor, Sematech Construction, moved to the site and began clearing without paying, leaving the residents of Mbiabo Ikot Offiong and other communities where the project passes homeless and destroying their means of subsistence.

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“We demand that the impacted communities, especially those along the Mbiabo Ikot Offiong axis from the Okpokom River to Itu Bridge, receive the compensation that is owed to them. Records on the number of destroyed sources of income and the number of persons wandering around aimlessly are available here, Asuquo remarked.

The contract was supposed to be funded by petroleum profit tax, according to Gov. Emmanuel’s aide, who also emphasized that Akwa Ibom State was losing money as a result. He questioned where the FG expected the State government to get the money from to pay compensation on the FG’s behalf.

The Governors of Kano, Kaduna, Borno, and Katsina States, he claimed, “had never been heard of being requested to part with a cent for compensation or counterpart funding of the projects. The FG is currently in Phase 3 of the Housing Scheme in Kano State.”

However, due to the back and forth building strategy, it is likely that the road will be finished before May 2023.

 

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