Recently, the DFIs signed an MoU with Nigeria SEZ Investment Company Limited (NZESCO) and the Ministry of Finance Incorporated to raise $500 million in equity over the first five years to develop special economy.
Akparawa Ephraim Inyangeyen is the Commissioner for Works in Akwa Ibom State. He has a very strong personality, sometimes misunderstood and practically thorough. An ex-Customs Officer turned politician, the Chemistry graduate, granted an exclusive interview with Aniekan Udofia, a broadcast journalist in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. Christened four questions for four years, the interview is revealing.
Over three years creating, developing and maintaining infrastructure in Akwa Ibom State, how has it been, the challenges, the victories?
I’ll start with the victories. We added a lot of value to our community . When we came on board, we discovered there were key roads in the state that were done by the previous administration with a key lacking indices. There were no drainages, and so every time it rained, there was flood everywhere , we had to clean this up and then the internal roads within the metropolis that makes a village turn to town, a town turn to a city, were lacking and government designed a direct labour process. If you go around Uyo metropolis today, you will come back and agree with me that that intervention has worked.
In terms of street lighting, there was a conscious effort to get it done, but the solar light that we inherited was constantly vandalised. Like Udo Udoma Lane to the Airport, the entire stretch was vandalized. Government had to come back, remove the solar light lying in the premises of the ministry and bring in normal light with generating sets. Nine power generating sets of 30kva each are lighting up the Airport road and it stays. If you go around the old stadium, every time we go back to restore it, they are vandalized.
If you go to Jonathan Boulevard, you will discover the entire stretch has been vandalized. If you go to Ikot Oku Ikono/Abak road, that new stretch that was done before the hanging bridge has been completely vandalized. In the process of cleaning up some of those things and restoring them, those are the challenges. But in terms of adding value, I can sit here and tell you authoritatively that, we have impacted our communities. I can list the communities that have already benefited from roads from this government.
At Ikot Abasi, we’ve just started. Mkpat Enin has had about two roads completed. Onna has had some completed. Esit Eket, about 18km is almost completed. Eket is a massive turnaround. Eket remodeling if not for one Barrister Etukudo numbers 1,2, and 3 Hospital Road, that first street would’ve been completed and we have done several internal roads in Eket, Edem Udo Street, Edem Udo Close. Name them, several of them have been overhauled and if you come to Etinan, it is almost the center of the state. All the key trunk roads, all the key dualized roads terminate. If you go to Etinan roundabout today, it is at the center doing traffic distribution across the state and then, come to Uyo, out of 99 internal roads of direct intervention, 59 are in Uyo, and they are physically there, even the Atlantic FM Road that you could not even enter when it rains before, today, they have a beautiful road. That is to show you the extent of what this government has done. Maybe I have not mentioned to you that to link Udo Udoma Road to Aka Road, there is a 3.5km dualised road done by Quemec(construction company), Ring Road 2 is almost completed. What is left is asphalting and HensekIntergated Services Limited is already bulldozing the abandoned Jonathan Boulevard that was supposed to get to Nwaniba.
The challenge has been principally funding. This government has not really enjoyed a lot of funding from the centre. I remember the last time I did an interview at Inspiration FM, Senator Ita Enang said there was Ecological Funding. Not one kobo ecological fund has been paid to Akwa Ibom State. Akwa Ibom was listed as one of them. Other states including Cross River were paid, but Akwa Ibom was not paid.
Looking at the negative and the positive sides, I think it’s been a good story. Can you describe the function[s] you are saddled with, as a member of the AKSG EXCO?
Every member of the EXCO has a schedule. I’m given Commissioner for Works. I’m not just an EXCO member.
What are the duties for Ministry of Works?
Principally we are responsible for road construction, road maintenance, bridges and maintenance of the street lightings across the state and that puts me on the road. So centrally, road construction, road maintenance, bridges and infrastructure in terms of street lighting, how you get the generators to work, switch on the lights, put it together is my responsibility.
The quality of the infrastructure you are helping to create, would you say they have met the globally acceptable standards?
Well, the roads are there, that’s why we could have the audacity to tell Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, not to do low quality jobs in our state. We’re doing global standard roads and I’ve asked people to come and assess it. Privately,people call me to tell me that our roads are good. They are still open for people to assess. There’s not one single road including the direct labour we have done in Akwa Ibom state without side drain on both sides. The reason is that we receive probably one of the highest volume of rainfalls per year, and if we do these roads without side drains, water will always find a way and if there’s any low point on the road, it will always settle on the road.
So we do this drains and take the water out and this government is very consciously working very hard not just do side drains, but to do outfall drains to take the water out from the road. And I think we have maintained a global standard. Too, if you interface with the contractors, they will tell you how we breathe down their necks and I will say this to you, at the very beginning, people were questioned we gave jobs to local contractors. And I gave them two simple reasons. Local contractors use the same equipment, the same manpower, the only difference is that if in the past they were given jobs and they were not given the resources that were given to the foreign contractors, that could have been responsible for their non performance and we went ahead, and that today, you can agree with me that the road projects we’ve done completely are done by our local contractors or what you will call indigenous contractors. Seyang(construction company) has built about one of the most beautiful bridges in Akwa Ibom and Obot Akara linking up Ntoedino Ekereazu road. Those twin bridges are beautiful. Benest (construction company), has done a beautiful road in Mkpat Enin, Ikot Usop, Ikot Edeghe and Hensek has completed the 4.6km. road in Nnung Ukim in Ikono. These are global standard roads.
Can you describe the technical details of construction works carried out by your ministry? The roads and other physical works done?
During construction the bulk of what we do is in three phases: pre- award where they bid for these contracts and we go as far as traveling to where the contractor has its headquarters, his base to see their equipment and the quality of their manpower, they must turn those things in and their financial status. That’s why we don’t have a lot of abandoned projects, even if government will give you money, if you don’t have a bouyant financial status of certain level, we won’t give you contract in the state. The few that we gave that didn’t meet up, we quickly cancelled them, you cannot take contract in Akwa Ibom to go and buy equipment that will delay our job.
If I’m able as a Commissioner to convince FGPC that have bulk of the Commissioners and chaired by the Governor himself and the contract is awarded, our next phase now is we supervise the contractor, that’s why you see me on the road 24/7, I don’t give any contractor notice that I’m coming, I simply appear on the site, and see what you are doing, once you are not meeting up with what was designed, we break it, and if while you are working we discover that what we designed there was an error, we will give you additional work.
On Ring Road 3, I went to take down some structures along it, across Oron road, and we discovered that we needed to have an underground drain, to take out some water on the bottom of that road, it was not on the original design, I simply told the contractor it has to be constructed, I’ll go back to FGPC and tell them when we did design, we didn’t take cognizance of this and it’s there, and anybody in FGPC is free, at liberty to go and confirm, we must introduce that in, that is the part of our supervision, if we tell you to do V or we tell you to do straight drainage , the dimension, if you do it lower, that was what caused the cancellation of the contract of Aquatic (construction company) , the size of the drain, on Airport/Okopodi road, was not the size of the drain of dualised road, that drain will not take out water, and the thickness of asphalt and the earthwork was not what was specified and we cancelled the contract. That is the supervision part.
Last year we sent three engineers to China to participate in some global perspective, and civil construction, so we do that, and that is quite a lot of job, and I think I’m probably the first Commissioner who does not sit in the office to receive reports, and everything I have to assert and do is after I have physically seen it. I don’t accept any report, that is why it is not possible for you to write a report and deceive me, that is why I’m advantaged that if I give a report or information on any road construction it cannot be contradicted because it was what I saw, it’s not what someone told me. I remember when I came, when I was appointed, someone said that this commissioner is always running around project, but the former people didn’t go to projects but they did more, I said, it’s out of ignorance, most of the things they did are almost collapsing. A decently done road, by global standard maintenance is supposed to last a minimum of 15 years, if properly maintained, 20, 25 years. So if you do a road like the one NDDC did off Abak road, they did it in 2016 August, by 2017 July when the rain came one year after, the thing was submerged and the road went off, I saw Honda Accord floating in the water, that’s not the kind of road we want.