Prince Kingsley Okechi Mgbeahuru, Commissioner for Works, Abia State has the onerous task of ensuring the dilapidated road networks in Aba, the commercial city of Abia State are rebuilt under Governor Theodore Orji's administration. With the commissioning of 16 road networks last December, Mgbeahuru speaks on how he is going about the rebuilding process.
Can you give an update on the current state of Aba roads with the flag off of the reconstruction of 16 roads by Governor Orji last December?.
I had earlier intimated the media that Aba was chosen for the flag-off of the road reconstruction immediately after the rainy season because of the importance the governor attached to the city with no fewer than 10 roads that have been reconstructed till date. I reminded everyone that since Abia was God's own country, that every nook and cranny of this state would have adequate road infrastructure. Now all this is being played out using Aba as the anchor in the last few weeks.
Many Abians who returned home for the Xmas were impressed with the pace of work on-going in the 16 roads His Excellency Governor Theodore Orji flagged off. He made do his promise because the contractors were mobilised to site and you could see the roads in question looking like one huge construction site. But for the state's lean resources, the governor could have transformed the Enyimba City landscape long before now and brought it closer to the ultimate dream of the Japan of the continent. Just as he confessed on the day of the flag off, his joy is to make Aba residents happy through infrastructure provision and renewal.
These 16 roads which include Azikiwe and Jubillee roads; Cemetery and Milverton Avenue, Eziukwu/Okigwe Roundabout; Ama Ogbonna; Nwala by Faulks Road to Brass Junction at Aba -Owerri Road, Ngwa Road; Ohanku and Emelogu roads are on course. With Geometric Power Limited set to deliver adequate and uninterrupted power supply, commercial activities will gain value in the city especially with the planned reconstruction of the Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road by Governor Orji and his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Godswill Akpabio.
Yet what Aba needs now is the Marshall Plan strategy, which must involve the federal government plus a re-alignment of the master plan as was originally put in place by the colonial administration while also bringing it closer to 21st century concepts of town planning. This is His Excellency's game plan for Aba. Hank God the honourable Minister of Information is in abia today impressed with the level of development the Thodore Orji administration is executing at various levels of governance. His first hand experience of the deplorable state of federal roads here will go a long in convincing the federal government that Abia and South East roads in general need a Marshall Plan if a meaningful transformation must be achieved here..rated. Please keep
What problems were on ground when you assumed duty as Hon. Commissioner for Works?
The ministry has been in a shambolic state since 1999 when the state became largely marginalised in terms of functionality arising from bad leadership and governance. First, I took an inventory of all the projects on ground and then prepared a comprehensive document to this effect. I then moved round to see things myself and when His Excellency Governor Theodore Orji asked for proposals, I submitted one to him. I noted that the roads lacked maintenance and had inadequate supervision.
Except for the proactive policies of my predecessor, the then Honorable Commissioner of Works, Engineer Emma Nwabuko', nothing else was on ground. Today we have conveniently gone beyond that mileage. I have also successfully closed all potholes through direct labour engagement in Aba and Umuahia. Before now, Brass Street Junction had very deep pot holes now repaired just like Town Hall by Howell Crescent; most of the job was done at night to avoid disturbing the smooth flow of traffic. All unserviceable equipment were also repaired. The bad roads between Orpet and Jobbers Junction were immediately fixed, so also was the Ikot Ekpene BCA Road right down to School Road where 13 Pot Holes were fixed.
The immediate impact was that it gave Aba a facelift and we saw the roads coming back to life. It was common to see the residents applaud the efforts each time they drove past them, realizing where they were coming from. The same effect is currently being felt with the reconstruction work in progress of these 16 roads earlier mentioned. When people drive through St. Finbarr's Road by the Ministry of Land as well as the East Road by Agbor Hill, we received applause.
The poorly maintained road by Abia Polytechnic was the scene of heavy traffic jam in the past but all that is history; construction work for a pedestrian bridge has long been commissioned, easing traffic flow and reducing the risk of accidents by those crossing the roads. These projects were executed under the slogan: Operation Close All Pot Holes. These are major roads and do not forget that the most important roads are those that touch the lives of the people. If you can give the people roads through which their customers pass to do business with them, from say Port Harcourt or Uyo/Ikot Ekpene, you would have made their day. With this in mind, we focused on the Aba/Owerri Road all the way to Osisioma Junction to Motor Park down to Asa Road - Port Harcourt Road, terminating at the Ala -Oji Express Road.
We have also worked on the Bata Opobo Junction from the Bata - Ikot Epkene Road Junction and now to Ukwu Mango. We believe if we can get these roads right, we have gotten the Aba man somewhere. My observation is that what the streets and roads need mostly is maintenance. In this context, Osusu Road is now repaired as well as the Okigwe Road by Ariaria Market; so also is the dual expressway from Omme Junction - John Udeagara Junction, a 4.6 kilometre stretch along the Port Harcourt - Aba Road, Eziukwu Road under the same slogan was overlayed with asphalt. We also worked on the Agbama Road in Umuahia, Amuzukwu Umuezeagu Road, Amuzukwu - Orieugba Road, as well as the Timber Road in Umuahia, Obikabia Road in Aba, Umuahia - Ohafia Road, Ohafia Arochukwu Road, Nunya - Eluama Road. There was the scoping of main drainage in Aba and the construction of Osisioma Modern Motor Park with asphalt overlay of major roads in Aba.
What is the policy of the Orji Administration in the area of road construction?
The policy of the Theodore Orji administration is to construct at least a 10 kilometre road in every local government area. The Umukabia, Ohuhu 26 kilometre road falls in this category and has long been commissioned with great jubiliation from the people.
Work is currently moving on top speed in virtually all the LGAs of the state such that if you are in your local government area next time, you will see work in progress driven by this policy. In Amaokwe-Eluama in Isuikwuato, a three kilometer road has been constructed and the vision of stretching it to a 15 kilometers road was because of the proactive nature of this government which always aims at balancing development equitably in every part of the state. You will see the imprint of positive change of the Theodore Orji administration if you move into the Nunya- Isuikwuato Road or the Obohia and Ohanku link roads from Ngwa Road to Ukwa East Local Government Area. Again the policy of this present administration is that no contract should exceed one year. Any contractor who cannot deliver his project in one year will have his contract revoked.
Why so much emphasis on plant and machinery assessment?
The idea of putting a tab on the plant and machinery of the contractors is aimed at leaving minimum room for non- delivery of projects having realised that in the past, part of the reason contractors got away with their antics was because there was no constant check on their performance. Some contractors come with rented equipment and machinery and oftentimes expose their lack of capacity and capability to deliver. A team that monitors ability of equipment on ground to deliver has been set up to this effect. This constant check and appraisal policy is yielding the right results. There was the case of a contractor who was executing his contract of one billion Naira with a grader, a pay loader, and one caterpillar. He could not bulldoze a road when one bulldozer broke down. He had pasted his name on a borrowed equipment later discovered to belong to a popular contractor operating in the east, when inspection was carried out. So only constant inspection can expose these antics and fraudulence.
Briefly what has been the achievements of the South-East Commissioners for Works Forum which you have chaired?
In my capacity as the Chairman of the South East Commissioners for Works Forum, I once summoned a meeting of all works commissioners in the South East, to discuss the deplorable condition of our federal roads. We were also able to hold audience with the Minister of Works and chairman of FERMA where the deplorable road conditions in the South East were brought to the fore. I believe we have covered an appreciable mileage till date.
What legacy are you building for your tenure?
While here, I want to turn around the perception of this ministry as dormant, an opinion formed under the non-performance of the 1999 Administration. I am from Aba; I want people to say, this is what he did under Governor T.A Orji's Administration. I am not an engineer but what is important is commitment and patriotism what with a willing leader like Governot Orji who recognises hard work.