By Guy Otobo (Engr)
Being a reaction by Engr. Guy E. Otobo, retired Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Works and Coordinating Consultant of the East-West Road to the allegation that the East-West Road was awarded without design.
OUR attention has been drawn to the publication in the Vanguard Newspaper of March 25, where it was alleged that the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs revealed that the East- West road was awarded without design, due process and financial plan. This certainly is not true.
The East-West Road is a link in the Federal Road Network and the contracts for the construction were properly awarded by the Obasanjo Administration. This is one of the actions taken at the time to stem the rising militancy of the youths of the Niger Delta. President Obasanjo had announced at a stakeholders meeting at the Presidency that the East-West Road would be awarded within four weeks.
He was well aware that the demand for the reconstruction of the East-West Road to a dual carriageway was one of the major grievances of the Niger Delta youths. He, therefore, commissioned Messrs. Guy Otobo & Partners as Co-ordinating Consultants to produce tender documents to be used for the award of the contracts for the construction of the Warri – Patani – Kaiama – Port Harcourt – Onne Trunk Road F103 otherwise known as the East-West Road.
The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing had earlier commissioned four engineering design consultants to produce designs for the reconstruction of the East-West Road. Though the designs were not completed, there was enough information to enable us produce Tender Documents for meaningful tenders to be submitted.
Having worked as Supervising Consultants on the Warri – Port Harcourt Road Dualisation Project under General Muhammadu Buhari-led Petroleum SpecIal Trust Fund (PTF) from 1996 to 1999, we knew the terrain of the East-West Road very well.
The President, therefore, commissioned us, Messrs. Guy Otobo & Partners to produce the Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation (BEME) for the necessary tenders to be submitted for the four sections of the East-West Road Dualisation Project.
Balancing major road constructions
President Obasanjo thought it right to balance a major road construction in the South with a major road construction in the North and we were, therefore, also commissioned at the same time to be the Co-ordinating Consultants for the Kano – Maiduguri Road Dualisation Project. We were able to harmonise the existing designs of the road to produce a BEME that was used for the tendering process and subsequent award of the five contracts for the Kano – Maiduguri Trans-Saharan Road Project.
Messrs. Guy Otobo & Partners analysed and produced the Draft Engineers’ Reports on tenders for the two projects and on the instruction of the then Minister of Works & Housing renegotiated with the prospective contractors to harmonise their prices.
Our Chairman, Engr. Guy Otobo personally defended these two projects namely: the East-West Road Reconstruction Project and the Kano – Maiduguri Trans-Saharan Road Project at the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit (BMPIU) of the Presidency otherwise known as the Due Process Office under the then head of the unit, Professor Kunle Ade Wahab.
At the time we produced the BEME for the tenders of the construction of the East-West Road, we fully recognised that the final engineering design work still had to be done and this was planned to be done during the execution of the project. This is not unusual in the execution of Civil Engineering Projects when there is an absolute need to do so. Therefore, we had earmarked the sum of N5 Billion to:
Allow for project administration.
Allow for compensation in accordance with clause 92 of the Condition of Contract, relocation of existing utilities, properties and community relations.
Allow for cost of supervision.
Allow for detailed design and deep sub-soil investigations (about N2 Billion).
Adequate provision was made for possible escalation of quantities of work items by providing a generous contingency allowance.
Sometime ago, we had read from press reports that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs alleged that one of the problems it had in respect of the execution of the East-West Road Project was that the existing design of the East-West Road Project was substandard in respect of width of the shoulders and the height of the embankment fill.
This allegation again is not true. As stakeholders from the Niger Delta, it certainly was in our interest to ensure that the Warri-Port Harcourt-Eket-Oron Road was well constructed. The scope of works we produced for tender purposes is reproduced as follows:
“The stretch of road from Warri to Port Harcourt to Eket to Oron traverses the worst possible terrain in the country due to the presence of poor underlying soils, very high water table and the numerous rivers and creeks to be traversed. The construction period is also very short due to long rainy seasons. As the road was originally constructed as a state road, it is below Federal Highways Department standards.
The road has failed regularly and has been rehabilitated several times over the years. Therefore, the present scope of works is aimed at providing a more permanent solution. The scope of works for the rehabilitation/reconstruction is to remove the existing unsuitable material up to 1m to 2m depth and replace with suitable material mostly dredged sand which will be stabilized whenever necessary to achieve full sub-grade strength.
On top of the fill will be 250mm of the crushed stone base course. The road surface will have a 60mm asphaltic concrete binder course and 40mm asphaltic concrete wearing course. In areas where the existing road pavement is of adequate strength all that will be needed will be the construction of a new crushed stone base course and asphaltic concrete road surfacing.
The scope of works necessary to achieve dualisation is to build a new road as close to the old alignment as possible. The scope of works herein will consist of bush clearing of trees and shrubs of the mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta, carting away of cleared rubbish to spoil, removal of top soil, importation of new fill material which will be stabilized with dredged sand to produce a high embankment in order to raise the new road well above the usual high water table in the region. The sand is to be stabilised with quarry dust or cement when found necessary so as to create a stable foundation for the new road.
Thereafter suitable imported 250mm sub-base material and 250mm crushed stone base material will be constructed which will be overlaid with 60mm asphaltic concrete binder course and 40mm asphaltic concrete wearing course. New bridges, box and pipe culverts will be constructed across various rivers, canals and streams on the road alignment.
In certain areas where the underlying soils are of such poor shear strength that large settlements of the completed road will be a possibility soon after construction, concrete deck-on-piles or geo textile materials will be utilized. The new road will have shoulders of 2.75m width which will receive two coats of surface dressing. The side slopes will be grassed. The new road will be constructed to the Federal Ministry of Works standards and specification.”
As for the Minister’s allegation that there was no financial plan, it is surely the responsibility of his ministry to provide a financial plan to the Federal Executive Council for approval having regard to the total contract sums for the contracts and the duration of time programmed for the execution of the project. The Minister, therefore, has only himself to blame if he is unable to get the Presidency to approve a financial plan for what is easily the most important project under the supervision of his ministry.
Finally, perhaps Mr. President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, should consider relocating the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to any city or town in the Niger Delta so that the officials of that ministry will live daily with the pains that we in the Niger Delta continue to battle with. Abuja that lacks no infrastructure is not the best place to locate the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs that seeks to “develop” the Niger Delta.