Ondo: Respite for Southern Senatorial District
Respite finally came for coastal communities in the Southern Senatorial District of Ondo State, which includes Okitipupa, Irele, Ese-Odo and Ilaje council areas. These communities anxiously waited for 91 months for Governor Olusegun Mimiko, to approve a N1.2b contract for the completion of Irele/Araromi-Ayeka Road project.
Contract for the construction of the road was awarded by the late Olusegun Agagu in 2008. It was abandoned in 2009 after Mimiko was sworn into office.
Since the creation of the state on February 3, 1976, and the establishment of the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC), coastal communities in the state, especially in Ilaje and Ese-Odo local councils, have had to contain with the problem of poor road network because of the difficult terrain they have found themselves.
It was in that state of bewilderment that the state Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade, disclosed recently that the State Executive Council (SEC), had approved the sum of N1.2b for the completion of the 9.7km road.
Akinmade pointed out that the approval also covered the 1.4km swampy, failed portion and road pavement, all of which are to be completed within six months.
The commissioner explained that the lengthy delay was as a result of the haphazard work done by contractors that handled the project from inception, whom he said, did not take into consideration, the difficult terrain of the road, which has gulped a lot of money, but nothing to show for.
The approval of money for the completion of the project, was consequent upon another promise made by Mimiko, when he commissioned the 27km Ajagba-Iyansan Road, in the first quarter of the year.
On that occasion, he pointed out that the step was a fulfillment of one of his electoral promises, that is, the pledge to the people of the area that he would soon complete the abandoned Irele/Araromi-Ayeka Road.
According to Mimiko on that occasion: “During the last electioneering campaigns, we were here to seek your vote of confidence for our party, which you overwhelmingly did. We made promises then about the completion of this very strategic road and today, we are back celebrating the actualisation of this promise.”
Chief Press Secretary to the governor, who is also an indigene of area, Eni Akinsola, lent his voice to the alleged non-professional job earlier done by the contractor without a thorough and painstaking examination of the soil type.
Akinsola, explained that the new contractor took serious steps towards sorting out the observed problem, including bailing out a large body of water from the abandoned stretch of the road, and applying appropriate chemicals to further solidify the ground base.
The CPS, who noted that the rainy season has slowed down the pace of work on the road, stressed that come what may, the project would be delivered within the agreed period for the benefit of the coastal communities.
At the mouth of the 500metre Irele/Araromi-Ayeka Bridge, a commuter, Mr. Idowu Kosemani, said residents of the area are usually subjected to immense pains and agony whenever there is heavy downpour in the area.
Kosemani, a civil servant who works in Okitipupa town, stressed that many of his colleagues ply the road daily to their work place because it is shorter and less expensive, when compared to going through Ode-Aye/Ore Express Road.
“You needed to be here last Saturday and Sunday. Because of the heavy downpour, the road was heavily flooded causing untold hardship to its users.
A trader, Mrs. Sabeana Inikorogha, who plies the road regularly, was heading back to Agadagba from Igbokoda when her vehicle got stuck in the soggy, sandy portion of the road forcing her to lament: “This is what we have been passing through on this road from January to December, since the project was abandoned.
“Whenever there is a heavy downpour, commuters usually get stranded, and at such times, the only option they are usually left with is to be ferried in canoes to the other side. During the dry season also, commuters also get stuck in the massive sand heaps as their vehicles flounder through the road,” Inikorogha said.
“Now that the state government has approved a huge amount for this project despite the financial constraints hitting the federation, the intervention has come at the right time because it is happening when the rivers seemed to be on rampage,” a commuter ferried by canoe who identified himself as Igbekele, told The Guardian.
A visit to the road last week, showcased the sufferings of the people as 1.4km stretch of the road was under water, that is from the tail end of Irele, to the mouth of Ayeka/Araromi Bridge, where commuters board canoes to move to either end of the road, where fleets of canoes were berthing at regular intervals
One of the canoe owners, Ezekiel Obadiah, disclosed that canoe owners and drivers charge between N100 and N150 for their services. This, he said, however, depends on the flow of the tide as well as period of the day.
“During the rush hours, that is when workers are going and returning from work, we make cool money. Same thing applies in the night when our customers have no option, since they don’t have canoes, and cannot swim in the dirty water,” he said with glee.
“But I know that this will soon come to an end, especially now that the state government has given approval for the money to be released for the project,” said a canoe passenger, Mrs. Adewale Julianah.
Expressing satisfaction with the contract for the completion of the project, Adewale who lives in Omi, Irele Local Council, but trades at Igbokoda, is optimistic that this time around, the project would be completed.
“We were very happy when we heard the news that the project will soon be completed, and we have also seen that the contractor has mobilised to site,” he stated.
However, an indigene of Kiribo, a town in Ese-Odo Local Council, Allen Sowore, is worried that the last time the contractor worked on site was about two weeks ago when an earth-moving equipment was brought to clear sections of the road.
“It is not all about bringing caterpillars and big machines to display. That is the easiest thing anybody can do. We want serious work to begin, and not empty promises like we got in 2012. Governor Mimiko should please ensure the contractors deliver as promised, even if that is the only thing he can do for us before his tenure expires,” Sowore said.
Similarly, the Olu of Igbokoda, Oba Afolabi Odidiomo, said, “We are only hearing all these as rumours because we have not seen any work going on there yet. However, this is a road that we all desire, and want it done. If it is done, we will all appreciate it.
“But honestly, people are asking: ‘Is there the possibility that government will complete that road before the February handing-over date especially now that the rains are disturbing a lot of things? It is obvious that nothing can be done on that road till around November.”
Odidiomo, who stressed that it would be great if the current administration completes the project before handing over, added that people are generally of the opinion that it might be another political campaign strategy.
The Jegun of Idepe-Okitipupa, Oba Adetoye Obatuga, described as thoughtful, the move by the state government to finish the stretch of road in order to facilitate easy movement of people in the area, and bring about sustainable development.
“I thank Governor Olusegun Mimiko for still being able to source for thus huge amount of money to complete the project despite the hard times and current economic recession hitting the nation. We are indeed very grateful to the Caring Heart Governor,” Obatuga said.
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