Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Yola-Gombe road and the 10-day ultimatum, by Modibbo Halliru Ahmadu

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I was actually appalled when I read in the social media a group had given the federal government a 10-day ultimatum to fix the federal road from Gombe to Yola, a stretch of 245 kilometers, else they would occupy Yola airports and other essential public facilities. The road is a drive of about a maximum of three hours when driving to Yola.

The citizens’ concern on the state of the road is indeed genuine particularly bearing in mind the slow pace of the rehabilitation project. Apparently, the group didn’t have the requisite information about the project hence its hasty decision to issue an ultimatum. It is an open secret that Nigerian government agencies are slow with dissemination of information.

The road has a very high economic value as a major artery linking people to Adamawa and Taraba states. Despite its economic importance, however, the road has been in complete bad shape for more than 30 years that I know and used it. Successive administrations have abandoned the road to its fate.

A short sigh of relief came to the road in 2011 when a contract was awarded by the federal government for its rehabilitation. The fortune of the Gombe-Numan-Yola road didn’t change after the contract was awarded because there was no mobilization for contractors to commence work.

It was in 2016 that the Gombe – Numan federal road rehabilitation project was awarded afresh by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Unlike the contract award of 2011, this time around the contact was fully funded and contractors began work in earnest.

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The Federal Government awarded the contract for the completion of the rehabilitation of the Gombe-Numan-Yola road to Triacta Nigerian Limited and Chinese Geo-engineering Company, CGC.

It is therefore delighting when I read on Thursday a statement by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing under the leadership of Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, providing insight into the actual reasons why the pace of the rehabilitation works slowed and I really appreciate it.

The ministry said Mr Fashola is aware of the condition of the road and committed to repairs of the damaged portion, and also assured the completion of all the ongoing federal road projects across the federation.

The statement also quoted the Minister of State for Works and Housing, Engineer Abubakar D. Aliyu, as saying that the problematic portion had been adequately assessed, redesigned and procurement process completed as an additional work to the subsisting contract for the rehabilitation of the road and FEC has approved.

“The bad portion which is about 11km sits on clay soil called black cotton soil which cannot support traffic. The removal and replacement of this black cotton soil was not part of the original contract, but approval has been given by FEC to augment the contract to include the removal of the black cotton soil and replacement with stones and laterite.

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“However, the contractor cannot embark on the removal of this clay until after the raining season. In the interim, the contractor is carrying out palliative works to keep the road motorable. The contractor is on site working even now.

“The contract awarded involves massive excavation of the soil and replacement with stones to make the road last long. We therefore appeal for patience and understanding of the citizens and other road users. Full reconstruction of the bad section on the road will commence as soon as the rains subsides.

“It needs no restating that President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to alleviating the pains of Nigerians wherever they reside.”

The minister’s statement was earlier confirmed by Mr Auwal Suleiman, Triacta Nigeria Limited’s quality control manager for the Gombe-Yola project, recently in an interview with Tribune newspapers.

The manager said “This (Buhari) government is really trying because they have not been defaulting in terms of payment. Each time we raise certificate for part completion, they pay promptly. That is why you see us working on the road.”

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Earlier in February, the Minister of State Engineer Aliyu personally paid an inspection visit to the project site to see for himself the level of work being executed.

My understanding is that if the Federal Government wanted to play politics with the project, it would have rushed to complete it even though it will later collapse. But President Buhari is not known for executing shoddy jobs, that is why he insisted in delivering qualitative jobs that would stand the test of time for all of us.

It is clear that the Buhari administration is genuinely committed to not only the completion of the road but ensuring that quality job is done to fix the road once and for all.

While we appreciate the Federal Government effort, it is not out of place to also advocate for timely release of critical information to the public so as to not leave them with fake news, conjectures and guess work. Without genuine information flow, the citizens won’t be able to gauge the pulse of government no matter its honesty, commitment and hard work.

We hope and pray that after the rain recedes, work would resume at the site as the minister said.

Ahmadu wrote in from Jimeta, Adamawa State.

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