opinionBy Fidelis Uche Osammor
There has been much hullabaloo about the East West Road project under the supervision of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Some have in fact very unjustly personalised the issue and indulged in outright libellous write-ups about the Hon Minister, Elder Godsday Orubebe.
The socio-economic importance of the 338Km long national dual carriageway road from Warri to Kaiama to Port Harcourt to Eket to Oron otherwise known as the East-West road traverses the heart of the Niger Delta and serves as the main artery carrying the heavy traffic conveying goods and services used in the exploration of oil and gas in the Niger Delta region. The nine states of the Niger Delta region produce the oil and gas which contribute some 85% of the nation's GDP and is certainly the economic hub of the nation. The East West road also opens up and makes accessible the hitherto isolated and neglected region that lays the golden egg. Aside of its economic importance, the road will certainly serve to quicken the development and upliftment of the lives of the communities in the region. On this note, it is therefore not surprising that much has been written and said about the east west road.
It will be recalled that the East-West Road Dualization contracts were transferred from the Federal Ministry of Works (FMW) to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA) in April 2009 to fast track the completion as part of the Federal Government developmental intervention programmes for the Niger Delta region. The project under FMW was initially awarded in four (4) Sections to four different contractors;
i) Section I Warri - Kaiama (87.4Km) in Delta State to M/S Setraco Nig. Ltd,
ii) Section II Kaiama - Port Harcourt (101Km) in Bayelsa/Rivers States to M/S Julius Berger Nig. Ltd,
iii) Section III Port Harcourt - Eket (99Km) in Rivers/Akwa Ibom States to M/S RCC Nig. Ltd,
iv) Section IV Eket - Oron (51Km) in Akwa Ibom State to M/S Gitto Costruzioni Gen. Nig. Ltd.
However, Julius Berger's contract on Section II had been terminated by FMW after the company withdrew from site due to insecurity before the transfer to MNDA. The MNDA, at transfer, re-awarded the Section II to M/S Setraco Nig. Ltd. in April 2009 in two sub sections namely Section II Sub Section II from Kaiama - Ahoada (54Km) and Section II Sub Section I from Ahoada - Port Harcourt (47Km).
It will also be recalled that the initial contracts' Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation (BEME) for the four sections of the East-West Road were produced with tender drawings prepared using baseline designs due to the exigencies at that time in the Niger Delta region just to fulfil Due Process requirements. It is obvious that the inadequacies of work items quantities inherent in these contracts as a result of the baseline design method used affected all the sections of the East - West Road Project and eventually resulted in the augmentation of the contracts. At completion of the final design and drawings, it produced 42 nos. bridges and 786 nos. culverts of which 36 nos. bridges and 756 culverts have been completed.
At the time of transfer of the East West road project to MNDA in 2009, FMW had only achieved 10% completion of work on the road. In the light of the above, it is noteworthy that at the present time, MNDA had attained over 53% on the road. The breakdown of work already done is as follows: Section 1, the 87.4km long Warri - Kaiama stretch has 65 kilometre asphaltic binder and 98 kilometres earthworks completed. Of 19 bridges required in that stretch, 18 had been completed, as well as 75% of the Patani bridge sub-structure and pre-fabricated box girder segments completed and ready for launching. The extent of work already done on Section II - II i.e. the 54 kilometre Kaiama - Ahoada stretch is the completion of 10 kilometre asphaltic binder and 15 kilometre earthworks as well as 7 bridges of the required 11 already done. This brings us to section II - I, the 47 kilometre long Ahoada - Port Harcourt stretch with 15 kilometre asphaltic binder and 28 kilometre earthworks completed. Whilst, the ongoing work on the Chobba Bridge which is the only bridge on that road, is substantially completed. The most advanced section of the road in terms of completion, section III is the 99 km Port Harcourt - Eket stretch by RCC. It has 124 km asphaltic binder and 149 km earthworks as well as four bridges completed. Section IV, the 51 km Eket to Oron stretch has 24 km asphaltic binder and 35 km earthworks completed while 5 of the 6 bridges are completed.
The East West road dualisation project was initially scheduled for completion by December 2010 but due to inadequate budgetary provisions over the years and other challenges, like insecurity and short dry period in the region, a new completion date has been slated for December 2014. Out of the total contract sum of N349,868,255,942.76 the sum of N170,643,097,795.86 being a combination of Budget Release to MNDA and SURE-P contribution had been paid for work done. The amount required to complete the project now stands at N179,225,158,146.90. Going forward, the combined MNDA/SURE-P budget for 2013 is N71,520,000,000.00. Government has also recently secured a loan from the African Development Bank Group in the sum of N47,000,000,000.00 which would be released before the end of October 2013. Therefore the amount that would be required in 2014 is N60.71 billion. The N11.7 billion proposed by SURE-P for 2014 will be grossly inadequate if the Ministry's Budget for 2013 is adopted for next year. It is therefore expected that this gap would be graciously funded by SURE-P.
Historically, as indicated in the earlier part of this write-up, the execution of the east west road dualisation had been bedevilled by certain challenges, prominent of these are inadequate funding and security, these two challenges had been well documented. However, the issues of security (threats/kidnappings) which led to several stoppages at different times also affected planned progress of work. There was the kidnap of six expatriates working in the area between November and December 2012 with two lives lost and several injured in the process which led to the suspension of site activities in both Sections I & II subsequently. Early January 2013, there was another attempted kidnap of an expatriate staff of Setraco. The most recent, on 30th January 2013, is the kidnap of an expatriate staff in Warri along DSC road, the kidnappers killed the driver and one Mopol with another Mopol badly injured. As a result of the trauma of these incidents and the fact that the company has to engage five military personnel for each expatriate for protection/security, has resulted in a very low moral for the work.
Osammor is the Deputy Director (Press) in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.