By Chidi Nkwopara, OWERRI
There is in the Owerri master plan, the outer and inner ring-roads. The calculation the original planners of the capital city of Owerri intended, was to check undue influx of vehicles into the municipality. This was how the two flyovers at Amakohia and Ugwu Orji, were conceptualized.
In his determination to respect the master plan, the Ikedi Ohakim administration awarded the contract to a reputable firm and work commenced on the two flyovers.
Before the end of his first and only term in office ended, a solid concrete bridge across Nworie River, had been concluded, while election of some pillars had commenced on the flyover sites.
This was the situation when the Rochas Okorocha administration came on board and started rewriting, re-configuring and de-constructing the projects. Okorocha believed at the time that “the contract sum was over padded” by his predecessor.
The contractor was changed but nobody got to know the name of the Okorocha administration’s preferred contracting firm or whether it was carried out through direct labour. Since government ought to be a continuum, Imo people were happy that Okorocha continued work on the flyovers. Okorocha commissioned the flyovers for use by motorists.
However, somewhere along the line, the leadership of the Imo State Chapter of Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, raised the alarm that work on the flyovers failed all the engineering tests! This alarm was largely ignored and work continued.
With the election and inauguration of Governor Emeka Ihedioha this year, the NSE raised the alarm again, which forced the Governor to undertake an inspection tour of the flyovers.
The result of the of the inspection was, to say the least, startling. There were failed portions and multiple cracks on the newly commissioned flyovers. The Governor had no other option than to close the flyovers to traffic and ordered the leadership of the NSE to “do a thorough check on the project and come up with their findings and recommendations on what should be done to make it safe for use”.
As expected, loyalists of the last administration, went to town with all manner of propaganda. Top on the list was that the Governor wanted to obliterate what his predecessor did.
Reacting to the insinuations, the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, CPS, Mr. Chibuike Onyeukwu, wondered “why people choose to play politics with virtually everything under the sun, including human life”.
According to the CPS, “only those who are myopic or lack the capacity to understand that the two flyovers are time bombs waiting to explode, will play politics with such a palpable danger to human life?”.
The engineers went to work and came up with specific technical findings, made their recommendations and handed them over to Governor Ihedioha.
Presenting the comprehensive document to Governor Ihedioha, the Chairman of NSE’s Integrity Test Committee, Engr. Kingsley Onwubiko, outlined their specific findings and recommendations. He discussed the flyovers one after the other.
They found out heavy technical and material defaults and made recommendations that would make the flyovers worthy of use when completed.