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Pupils drop out of school as bad road cuts off A’Ibom communities

By Chioma Onuegbu

OFFI UDA—RESIDENTS of Offi Uda, Akprang-Kprang Uda and other communities in Mbo Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, fragmented from other parts of the state because of run-down motorway, have again complained to Governor Udom Emmanuel about the unacceptable condition of the N11.8 billion Enwang Etebi-Road/Offi-Ukontigha Bridge project supposedly abandoned by the last administration.

It was gathered that some children in the affected communities dropped out of school because they could not access the other side where the schools is located, while many communities in Mbo were unable to participate in the skills acquisition programme established at the council headquarters because they have been severed from the location. The 19-kilometre road and 1,150 metres bridge with 51 spans were initially awarded at N6.4 billion, but later reviewed to N11.8 billion when it was found out that the length of the bridge (500m) was grossly inadequate due to swamps on both sides of the river.

Initiated, abandoned by Akpabio’s govt

Sineong Construction Company secured the contract sub-contracted to Bulletin Company, which finally subcontracted to AMITEC Construction Company in November 2011. AMITEC started work on the project in January 2012, but abandoned it in 2014 due to the inability of government to make funds available to complete the job, which had reached 65-70 percent completion, a development that had pitched the people of the area against former Governor Godswill Akpabio.

When NDV visited the area, there was speculation that the Udom administration has re-awarded the project to AMITEC for completion. A public servant, who simply identified himself as Mr. Etim, bemoaned: “We have suffered so much due to the state of that road. In fact, I have been very happy since I heard that the road has been re-awarded at N12 billion to enable the contractor complete the project. That road was first awarded in the second year of Akpabio’s first tenure, but it was abandoned half way.

Split from other parts of the state

“I am telling you that we have been completely cut off from our neighbouring towns and communities. I cannot get to my village unless I pass through Eket-Esit-Eket. I do not know what is delaying them from resuming work on the project yet and we are appealing to AMITEC to resume work at the site since government still found it competent to continue the work.”

Also, a youth from Akprang-kprang Uda village, Anietie Esin, lamented: “I have not travelled to my village for two years now. I am a grassroots man, I do not stay a month without travelling home to see my people, but it is unfortunate that the abandoned road/bridge affected most of our communities.”

Uncertainties

Similarly, the Community Liaison Officer, Mr. Mfon Moses, who disclosed that state government officials came to the area in February 2016 and assured that the project would be completed this December, expressed misgivings that nothing has been done yet to show that work would resume on the project. He asserted: “It was even announced on radio and television and many people were calling me because they were happy over it. But since then, nothing has been done.

“I have even met with AMITEC contractor, who admitted that the job had been given to him although government was yet to mobilise them to site. And I have been going to the Ministry of Works, Uyo, since then, but they would ask you to come back the next month. I hope that they did not give us the good news only to make us happy. But we are hoping that this government will do something towards the completion of that project.”

It’s blackmail—Commissioner

Contacted, Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-eyen, who disproved the claim that the project was re-awarded at the cost of N12 billion, explained: “People just created the stories to blackmail government. What we did was to ask the man technically doing the job to take responsibility for the work. It was not re-awarded and the issue was not even discussed.

“But it will be done, no doubt. It is on our priority list. This government will not abandon such a wonderful project. It is just that the fund is not available now. There is no money now to mobilise the contractor to site. People do not have to appeal to government by blackmail. When you tell lies that a contract that was not re-awarded has been re-awarded for N12 billion, it is not the right approach to government.

“Community leaders can officially write to the governor, not to blackmail. It is the opposition that is sponsoring them to tell lies against the government not minding the serious efforts of government.”

We’ll complete job in 18 months if…— Contractor

Managing Director of AMITEC company, Mr. Aiman Saimua, corroborated the commissioner’s statement that the contract was neither re-awarded nor reviewed. He said the governor only agreed to pay the money owed the firm in parts in order to mobilise it to site.

Saimua, who said the state government still owes him a lot of money, added: “The last payment I received was in 2013. That was why the job was abandoned in 2014. So as soon as we get paid, we will resume work and will finish the job within 18 months from the resumption date if funding comes in accordingly. Our machines are at the project site.”

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