By Chris Ochayi
ABUJAâ€”The Federal Government yesterday signed the N74 billion contracts for the dualisation of the East-West road in the Niger Delta region awarded to the Messrs Setraco Nigeria Limited.
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Ubong Ufot Ekaette signed the contract on behalf of the Federal Government, even as the contractor expressed fear of high security risk in the execution of the project, insisting that work has to be done under strict military guards and escorts.
Ekaette while reiterating the government interest and commitment to the project, said that the road would not only open up business opportunities in the Niger Delta, but attract core foreign investors to the oil rich region.
He explained that, â€œthis road is a priority to the Federal Government. It believes that its completion would open up the region to international investors. So we were worried when the former contractor had to abandon the project due to harassment from militants. But the project has now been re-awarded. And in fact, the contractor has started workâ€.
The minister while allaying possible fears of insecurity in the course of executing the project, told the contractors that, â€œonce the President released the government policyÂ Â based on the amnesty report submitted to him next week, the militants would reciprocate by coming out to surrender their armsâ€.
Ekaette who pleaded with the people of Niger Delta to give the contractors a chance to do their job in the interest of all, noted that, â€œit is only by so doing that we can develop the Niger Delta and improve the pathetic conditions of our communitiesâ€.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, the Managing Director of Setraco, Engr. Michael Hachenberg, alerted the government that his company would face problems of insecurity in the execution of the project, giving the inability of the Federal Government and MEND to reach a conclusion on the proposed amnesty grant for militants as his major fear.
He said,Â â€œmy feeling is that we would face problems in the execution of the job. This is particularly because government is yet to conclude with MEND on the amnesty issue. MEND has not honoured the grant so farâ€.
According to him, â€œmy fear for the future is that there would be security risk in the execution of the project. Militants and Communities surround us. We have to find a way of handling the issue. We would dialogue with the communities; satisfy them so as to get their protectionsâ€.
â€œOn our part, we have secured the Nigeria staff, expatriates and our equipment. We are surrounded by soldiers, and we must go to site with escorts in order to protect ourselvesâ€.
â€œI am sure we would make it especially with the help of the Ministry. The Communities should be aware that we are here to provide infrastructure for themâ€, he said.
It would be recalled that the road was earlier awarded to Julius Berger Plc in 2006 but the construction giant had abandoned the project as a result of militant attacks, the last of which culminated in the loss of many lives.
Under the new agreement, Messrs Setraco would construct section 11 of the road covering Port Harcourt-Eleme Junction- Ahoada-Kaiama at a completion period of 36 months for subsection 11 and 48 months for subsection 1 of section 11 of the road. The contractor has since moved to site.