By Paulinus Nsirim
WHEN Governor Nyesom Wike declared on on Saturday, January 30, 2021, that discussions have been concluded to commence the construction of the Trans-Kalabari Road, which will ease transportation difficulties experienced by the people of Kalabari Ethnic Nationality, the announcement was greeted with mixed feelings. The diverse feelings of hope, skepticism, disbelief, déjâ vú and forlon nostalgia were understandable for the simple reason that the Trans-Kalabari Road project has been one of the major talking points in the Rivers political calibration since 1999.
The nostalgia was even more poignant, as many Rivers people, especially the people of Kalabari will recall that in December 2012, the administration of the day had assured the people that the road would be completed before the exit of that regime from office in 2015. The so-called assurance that the road remains top priority of that administration had been made with boastful audacity at a town hall meeting in Buguma, headquarters of Asari-Toru Local Government Area. In their words: “The Trans-Kalabari road is coming and we have awarded the contract to Lubriks for the sum of N21 billion. We have agreed to take it to Buguma so by January we will mobilise the contractor to site”.
Alas, just like the Karibi Whyte Memorial Hospital and the grotesque, daylight robbery monorail project that assaults the sensibilities, the Trans-Kalabari road joined other white elephant projects of that administration, which its spin doctors have been trying with frenzied misleading propaganda to re-present. So, when Governor Wike declared, during the reception organised for the conferment of the special chieftaincy title, Eze Gbuwara Uzo1 of Ikwerre on Sir Celestine Omehia, former Governor of Rivers State, at Isiokpo Town in Ikwerre Local Government Area, on Saturday, January 30, 2021, the expectations also carried a tinge of real hope.
The reason was not far-fetched. It was not only that the announcement had come on the heels of a marathon inauguration of quality projects across the state, but the faith and belief that Governor Wike had already pledged to complete legacy projects he started in every local government area in the state during his tenure. Affirming the seriousness of the Rivers State Government to commence the Trans-Kalabari Road project, Governor Wike said: “I and the deputy governor, together with the chairman of the Rivers State Elders Council, have agreed on how the Trans-Kalabari Road will follow. Those who said we don’t want to do anything in the Kalabari area, today they are sending me text messages to thank me.”
To add the icing on the cake, the governor said that with several projects inaugurated in the various local governments of the State, most critics who accused him of being sectional with his development programme are now ashamed and silenced. “So many people have said that I am discriminating in terms of projects. Now, when they saw us go to the various local governments to commission projects, they don’t say anything again,” he stated. Two months later, on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, the Rivers State Executive Council approved the construction of the Trans-Kalabari and Saakpenwa-Bori-Kono Road projects at the cost of N27.6 billion. It will also be recalled that Governor Wike had, during the January 30 reception for Sir Celestine Omehia equally declared that: “When we were constructing Sakpeenwa-Bori Road, some politicians in our party were carrying propaganda. They were saying that we are not going to complete it. But, they now have one of the best roads in the state. Some of them were even ashamed to watch it on television. We have also agreed that from Sakpeenwa to Bori, we are awarding fresh contract to take it to Kono town.”
Little wonder, therefore, that an avalanche of encomiums, ranging from lyrical to poetic and the unrestrained outpouring of joy by top politicians, media gurus, statesmen and an appreciative community witnessing an infrastructure miracle they had only dared to dream about, greeted the commissioning of the first phase, 16.06 kilometres, dual carriage Saakpenwa-Bori Highway by the Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Ifeanyichukwu Lawrence Ugwuanyi on Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Now, with the approval for the construction of phase two and indeed the award of the Trans-Kalabari road, Rivers people have already concurred that these are two more promises made and kept by the promise keeping governor who is building legacy projects all over Rivers State. Elloka Tasie-Amadi, speaking at a press briefing on the approval for the construction of the Saakpenwa-Bori-Kono Phase 2 Road project said the project, which starts from Bori to Kono, “is a 17-kilometre road and the cost of the project is N14 billion.
Construction time is 14 months. Payment will also be secured by an irrevocable payment standing order of N1 billion monthly drawn against the State Internal Revenue.”
The Works Commissioner further stated that the Saakpenwa-Bori-Kono contract will be executed by the same company that executed the phase one of the road, Chinese Civil and Engineering Construction Corporation, adding, for emphasis, that the reason the cost of the Trans-Kalabari road which is 13 kilometres long and 9.3 metres wide is almost the same as that of Bori- Kono 17.1 kilometres and 24 metres wide road with street light, is because the terrains are different.
Building in the riverine area “You see the cost of building in the riverine area is nothing less than twice the cost of building on solid soil. So the government is going through huge trouble to see that these roads are built. People will wonder why the cost are like that; the terrain determines the cost. So, the Trans-Kalabari Road is far more expensive to build.”
Shedding more light on the Trans-Kalabari Road, Tasie-Amadi explained that the road will connect several communities among them Krakama, Omekwe-ama, Angula-ama, Mina-ama and some other communities in the Kalabari area of the State. “The project will cost N13.6 billion and will have 14 months duration, financed by an irrevocable standing payment order drawn against the State Internal Revenue, meaning that every month the contractor will be paid N1 billon and there will be no delays.
“This will guarantee the project is not stalled and completed within the time frame stipulated and agreed with the state government. This, I believe, will be useful to the people and open the area for economic activities,” he added. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the award of the Trans-Kalabari Road by the Governor Wike’s administration is historic. Many will recall that the previous government awarded the road to indigenes of the area who later abandoned the project for inexplicable reasons.
It had also been the most devious unique selling point in a completely dubious and misleading election propaganda of a political party, which had trumpeted the ethnic mantra that only a Riverine governor would deliver the Trans-Kalabari Road, with their leader even audaciously foisting a business accomplice as the anointed messiah on the hapless followers. Now they will hide their heads in shame.
Finally, for those who have been shouting themselves hoarse with the broken chant that Governor Wike is only developing Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor, these two major road projects; the Trans-Kalabari and the Phase 2 of Saakpenwa-Bori-Kono Roads, are located outside the city centre and this is a further testimony that Governor Wike has remained steadfast in spreading development to all the nooks and crannies of the State.
Most importantly, the two legacy roads projects are expected to be completed within the next fourteen months and with the kind of payment plan already structured for its operations, these projects will not be abandoned, but will definitely be completed and commissioned with ample time to spare, before the administration’s tenure elapses.
This not only consolidates Governor Wike’s promise that no project will be abandoned in his tenure, it further reinforces the undeniable fact that the Wike’s administration is only desirous of delivering projects that will impact positively and ensure the betterment of Rivers State and her people.