By Emma Ujah
For those who have not been to Kaduna, capital of former Northern Region, in the last one year, a visit would leave them surprised at the new look of the town, due to the on-going Kaduna Urban Renewal programme of Governor Nasir El-Rufai.
With the rehabilitation, expansion and building of over 20 roads in the metropolis, the administration has brought about what can arguably be described as one of the most ambitious urban renewal programmes in the country in recent times.
Mr. Tian Kelvin, the General Manager of CCECC, the Chinese contractors handling 21 road projects, Kaduna Office, who conducted journalists round some of them, last week, said that the rate of work on their sites did not diminish, even at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Some of the most significant road projects include the dualisation of Rabah Road by Arewa House to Nnamdi Azikiwe Express Bypass; completion of dualised Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Way to Eastern Bypass; construction of Urban Shelter Road to Patrick Yakowa Way; ER 12- dualisation of existing Tafawa Balewa Way; rehabilitation and expansion of Kinshasha Road in Ungwan Rimi, and dualisation of Aliyu Makama Road to Nuhu Aliya Crescent.
Engr. Mohammed Lawal Magaji, MD, Kaduna State Road Agency (KADRA), said the Urban Renewal Programme was launched last year.
According to him, 18 different roads were initially awarded to CCECC before it was later increased to 21.
He said, “Four of the roads have been completed by CCECC. We have other roads that have reached advanced level of completion.
“Anytime from now, some of the roads will be completed. Apart from the roads under construction by CCECC, we have five more roads to be constructed within the metropolis (in four local government areas). Work will soon commence on them.
“Underpass and flyover bridges are also being constructed. We also have urban renewal projects in Zaria and Kafachan that will soon take off.”
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Asked how the state government is able to fund such large number of projects during COVID-19 which has negatively affected global and national economies, the MD said, “KADRA is to implement road construction while financing comes from the Ministry of Finance. So far financing has not been a problem.
“For instance, CCECC has not yet even exhausted the mobilization fee paid to it by the state government.”
On economic benefits of the roads, he said, “The essence of this urban renewal project is to open up areas to connect communities and link major roads.
“Once you have all these incorporated, security challenges will be tackled, investors will come in to invest, our local business people will thrive.
“Even during the construction of the roads – there are economic activities already. These massive projects will create job opportunities for our youths.
“Travel time will be reduced because the roads will minimize traffic gridlock. So, social-economic activities in the state will improve and Kaduna will be great again.
“Because of the development that is usually associated with road construction, we expect that Kaduna will soon experience a higher GDP.”
Magaji explained that other road projects are on-going in parts of the state with a view to opening up the rural areas for better economic activities.
One-road one month
The CCECC General Manager, Kaduna Office, Kelvin, explained that his company achieved unprecedented one-road one month target because of its commitment to deliver projects that would impress the governor and his team, as well as, residents.
According to him, the company did not stop work even at the peak of COVID-19 when many parts of the country and the world were under lock-down.
He said, “CCECC never stopped work for one day even during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. That is where we are different.
“Other companies closed and sent their workers away but we did not close. It showed our commitment to delivering quality work within agreed timeframe.
“What we did was to ensure the strictest adherence to the COVID-19 protocols. We made sure that all our workers adhere to the COVID-19 protocols of social distancing. “We provided our workers face masks, one per day. We provided both liquid soap and running water in all our facilities and sites. Good enough, we are happy that none of our workers contracted the virus.”
The GM said that CCECC Kaduna Office has a labor-friend policy and did everything necessary to protect its 1, 700 workers who are mostly Nigerians.
According to him, the company has 54 Chinese nationals while the rest are Nigerians who receive incentives including bonuses for outstanding performances.
On the impact of the projects on residents, Kelvin said, “We have gained the trust of residents. When we started, the people were not sure of what we could do but we have gained their trust.
“When we started with the one-road one month initiative, the people were amazed at the speed and the quality of our work. The initial roads were not very long but the quality was very high. We delivered good quality roads so the people became very happy with us.”
On the challenges facing the projects, the GM said that the most crucial is the issue of compensation which, he said, has slowed down work on some of the roads.
“Some of the residents thought that CCECC was the one to pay compensation for properties to be affected by roads expansion or the construction of new ones.
“But we have to explain to them that the issue of compensation is the responsibility of the state government.
“Compensation is not part of the contract. As such, that issue has to be settled by government.
“Settling this issue sometimes slows us down because of the reluctance of those affected to move. We want compensation to be faster. This will certainly help us to move much faster in our work.
In addition to the road projects, Kaduna State government is constructing the Kaduna Galaxy Mall.
Sitting on 11, 000 square meters, the mall is designed to accommodate two anchor tenants: Shoprite and SPAR, as well as 48 line shops.
The Managing Director of the Kaduna Market Development and Management Company, Mr. Mohammed Bayero, said the mall, being developed under a Public Private Partnership (PPP), would cost about N4 billion, with the state government contributing the land and about N1 billion , while the joint venture partner, Amsalco Industries Limited, is contributing the balance.
Bayero described the mall as a major component of the urban renewal programme of the state government.
He said the project, already 50 per cent completed, is expected to be delivered on schedule.
The mall is also being constructed by CCECC.