The deplorable state of Port Harcourt/Aba expressway has become a source of worry to hundreds of motorists that ply the ever busy road on a daily basis. The road, which has existed for more than three decades, has become a death trap to hundreds of motorists. The deplorable state of the road has become a very big embarrassment to both the Federal Government and the Rivers State Government.
On a daily basis, heavy duty trucks fall on the road and cause traffic gridlock, subjecting motorists to hours of suffering. Recently, a utility truck crushed a yet-to-be-identified policeman at the popular Timber Junction part of the road.
For many years, the Port Harcourt/Aba road has become a conduit pipe where previous government functionaries lined their pockets. In 2003, former President Olusegun Obasanjo awarded a contract for the dualisation of the road to the stretch of Aba to Enugu, but the project was abandoned halfway. When the Jonathan administration came on board, he deployed the services of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to maintain and rehabilitate some collapsed sections of the road, but shoddy works carried out on it rather put it in a terrible shape.
Motorists heaved a sigh of relief when the Federal Ministry of Works awarded a contract for the dualisation of the road, but the slow pace of work and failure of the contractor to provide an alternative route worsened the traffic situation. The contract to dualise the road into eight lanes was awarded early this year. It stretches from the popular Eleme junction in Port Harcourt to Aba in Abia State.
The Aba/Port Harcourt road is very strategic to the nation’s economy as it links Aba and other industrial heartlands of the East with Port Harcourt. It was constructed in the late 1970s by the then famous Dumex Construction Company. But a larger section of the road that stretches from Port Harcourt to Enugu has collapsed, thereby putting the lives of hundreds of motorists in danger.
The Federal Ministry of Works awarded the contract at N40billion to a company with a marching order to do a top quality job. The project was also expected to have a 50-year lifespan upon completion. But the pace at which the job is being done has become a source of worry to those who ply the road on a daily basis.
When our correspondent went to the road for an on-the-spot assessment, the contactors were still sand-filling some portions. The areas covered so far are from Oyigbo junction to the popular Port Harcourt police checkpoint.
John Okwe, a motorist plying the road, said he could not understand the slow pace of work on it. “I am at a lost about what the contractor is doing on this road. Since February when the project started, I am yet to see any meaningful thing the contractor has done. All they are doing is sand-filling, which has not gone anywhere. I was made to understand that this road would stretch from Eleme junction to Aba, but from what I am seeing so far, the contractor has not actually done any meaningful thing on the road. Some of the sand-filled areas have been taken over by rampaging flood,’’ he said.
Also expressing his frustration about the road, another motorist, Chika Nmadu said, “The present state of the road exposes motorists to danger. The excavation on the road exposes motorists to a whole lot of danger. It is so deep that any vehicle that falls into it will find it very difficult to come out. The entire road is in a dilapidated state. One expected them to speedy up work on the road, but looking at the way they are going, I doubt if this project would be delivered on target time,’’ he said. He called on the contractor to expedite action on the road, saying that the earlier it is completed, the better for road users.
Our correspondent gathered that the contractor handling the project had assured the minister of works that the project would be completed in 2020. During a recent inspection tour in Port Harcourt, the project supervisor, Mr Idongesit Ebotakpan, told reporters that according to specification, the quality of the road would not be compromised.
Our correspondent learnt that the first contract was awarded at N30billion, but it did not include drainage, a situation that called for the re-design of the project. According to a source, it was the new design that raised the contract sum to N40billion. The additional amount is expected to take care of drainage.
“We have changed the design of the road. The present design has four lanes on both sides. So the rehabilitation work will be from Imo bridge to Aba. What we are doing will also be replicated at the Aba axis with four lanes, making it eight at the end,’’ a source in the ministry was quoted as saying.
Our correspondent could not get the contractor to speak on the slow pace of work on the road. But a source who pleaded anonymity because he did not have the authority to speak on the matter said the company was executing the project based on millage, as well as funds made available by the Federal Government. He said the delivery date for the project was well spelt out and the company had the capacity to deliver on time.
The terrible state of the road has forced motorists to look for an alternative route to their destinations.