Lokoja: Agonising tales from 46-Year-Old Kabba -Ilorin road

Kabba -Ilorin Road

On Thursday, November 15, 2018, the Okun people in Kogi State and the Ekiti/Igbomina in Kwara State woke up to the latest version of the decades-long promises, which they have heard severally- the award of contract for the rehabilitation of the Lokoja-Kabba-Egbe-Ilorin Road.

This time around, the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government approved a total of N57.56b for the completion of the road project, which links many towns and villages across three states, including Kogi and Kwara.

The approval for the contract award was given a day earlier by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), at a meeting presided over by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

Speaking after the meeting, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, said he presented two memoranda for a cost revision of the Ilorin-Omuaran-Kabba Road, which links Kwara and Kogi states, which was previously awarded in the sum of N13. 541b, in 2013.

Fashola said: “So we now have a cost revision from the previous award in 2013 because of the exchange rate and price fluctuations. The contract has now gone from N29.951b to N43.492b. That means a variation of N13.541b.”

This development came eight months after Fashola, on February 8, 2017, after a FEC meeting, announced the approval of N21b for Section 1 of the same Kabba-Egbe-Ilorin Road. Till date, not a single construction equipment has been mobilised to site by the contractor.

While many doubt the Federal Government’s sincerity about moving away from the perennial contract talks to actual commencement of work on the project, residents of affected communities, as well as, other road users are nonplused considering their past experiences.

In April 2014, the then Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, while flagging off the rehabilitation of the Phase II of the project, which was estimated to gulp N8. 22b, at Kabba, explained that the 80km stretch, which contract was awarded to Messrs CGC Nigeria Limited, would be completed in three years.

As expected, work commenced from the starting point at Kabba. Not long after, a distance of 10 kilometres was covered between Kabba and Ayetoro-Gbedde.

But only a few days to the February 2015 presidential and National Assembly polls, (that is about one year after the job was flagged off and six months after commencement of construction work, the Chinese contracting firm moved its equipment away from site and is yet to return three years after.

During Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term in office, Dangote Group, owners of Obajana Cement Factory, which is touted as the world’s third largest cement plant, yielded to agitation by the locals to, as part of its corporate social responsibility, consider the dualisation of the road, which approximately 500 trailers ply daily.

However, Dangote Group constructed only the 20 kilometres stretch from Lokoja to Obajana, but sustained outcry by the locals that the company should do more since business activities around the factory contributed largely to the dilapidation of the road, led to the 2014 proposal by AG Dangote Construction Company (a subsidiary of Dangote Group) to construct a cement road on the 44-kilometre Obajana to Kabba section.

The proposal for this project was approved in 2016 by the FEC, and the second and longest concrete road being constructed in the country is expected to cost the Dangote Group N11.5b. But the job was awarded to the group on a tax concession basis for N5.24b.

Be that as it may, the remaining part of the road from Kabba to Ilorin has been worsened by a combined assault posed by the massive daily flow of heavy-duty trailers, erosion, and lack of maintenance.

Over the last 46 years, the road originally constructed in 1972, was only rehabilitated by the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) in 1991.

Thereafter, more lip service have been paid addressing the plight of the road users. In fact, there have been more talks about contract awards than actual job execution.

Commenting on the latest contract award for the rehabilitation of the road, Prof R. A. Ipinyomi of the University of Ilorin expressed doubts about government’s sincerity of purpose, especially now that another round of election is by the corner.

He noted that, “in this era of change, gambling, magic and other surprises are being used by desperate politicians to curry votes. Outright deception and intrigues are now on the increase, and politicians are hell-bent on destroying all of our common sense.

“Our focus is on the Lokoja-Obajana–Kabba–Egbe Road all the way to Ilorin. This is a big federal road, as well as, an interstate road. Until Dangote Cement factory came on board during the first tenure of the late Prince Abubakar Audu, this road was probably one of the worst federal roads in the country. The road is only a fair representation of Nigerian government’s attitude to officialdom.”

Good Samaritans To The Rescue

AS a result of the deplorable state of the road, kind-hearted Nigerians have deployed their personal resources to fix bad portions of the road, all in a bid to make it passable.

Also, as the 2019 general elections draws near, some politicians have been falling over themselves in their bid to bring to national consciousness, the worsening condition of the road.

Only recently, a prominent indigene of the area, who is a major player in the telecoms industry, paid for the fixing of part of the road from Osi, in Kwara State, to Isanlu, in Kogi State.

This, the multi-billionaire did discreetly, even though he was supported by a member of the House of Representatives representing Yagba Federal Constituency, Sunday Karimi, and the proprietor of Heritage College, Egbe, His Royal Highness, Oba Adedoyin Bolaji.

With the trio’s gesture, the people are calling on more of their kith and kin, as well as public-spirited individuals to emulate the kind gesture.

Earlier in 2017, three members of the House of Representatives Tajudeen Yusuf, James Faleke, and Karimi, as well as, Godwin Abayomi, Chairman, GODAB Construction Limited, separately bankrolled the scrapping, grading and compacting of sections of the road from Obbo-Ille, Kwara State to Obajana, in Kogi State.

During the Yuletide, fresh palliative works were ongoing on the road from Isanlu to Aiyetoro-Gbedde.

Apparently challenged by the efforts of the anonymous individual, who graded the road from Osi, in Kwara State to Isanlu, in Kogi State, the Kogi State Commissioner for Finance, Asiwaju Idris Ashiru, initiated a plan that got the state’s Ministry of Works to extend the palliative works to Ilu-Hagba, near Ayetoro-Gbedde.

According to the traditional ruler of the area, Chief Doyin Bolaji, who supervised the grading of the road, the temporary measures were not expected to last for more than a few months when the rains are expected to be back.

He insisted that between January and May remains the best time for real construction works to begin, “if we are truly serious about rehabilitating the road,” even as he expressed hopes that this time, the assurance by the works minister to mobilise contractors back to site is no fluke.

What Stakeholders Are Saying

DIRECTOR, AMA Health Consult, Abuja, Dr. Thomas Bode Adeoye, decried that in the last 46 years, only the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) carried out serious palliative works on the road, while FERMA has only focused on patching of bad spots sometimes.

He continued: “It was gruelling and a very big shame for me and my friends when we came home by road for my chieftaincy conferment in Egbe, Kogi State, on Saturday October 13th, 2018.

For former Nigerian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Ambassador Rotimi Akenson, “Only those of us who travel home regularly through Kabba axis of the state can tell first hand, the harrowing and traumatic experience that such trip has become over the years.

“If you are going to Omuaran or Ilorin from Abuja, or Lokoja, you can make a detour and pass through Ekiti, but those travelling to Egbe have no luxury of such bypass or alternatives. I served Nigeria in eight different countries, but I never came across any country where highways are built, fixed or maintained by individuals.

“Economic activities along this vital transport corridor have been paralysed. Talking about the quality of people that represent us, and who should propel development is a no go area, Akenson said.

The Chief Maintenance Engineer, Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) in Kogi State, Kuti Adedamola, while speaking on the state of federal roads in the state declared that most of the roads have failed
beyond maintenance.

According to him, “The roads have got to a level that what we need is total rehabilitation, and road rehabilitation is not FERMA’s job, but that of the Federal Ministry of Works.”

“But as long as there is breathe in our leaders, they can still be at their best politically. There is no discouragement or retirement until we succeed in putting our voice together so that the Federal Government can come to our aid and fix these federal roads.

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