Vehicle owners and commuters in Imo State are groaning, following the dilapidated roads across the state, thereby frustrating all aspects of economic activities.
In the state capital, drivers have resorted to climbing of road verges, flowers and expensive grasses meant to beautify the affected areas in search of better access to their respective destinations.
Within the state capital, roads leading to Port Harcourt and World Bank from Control Post/Assumpta Roundabout are death traps.
Roads to MCC/Uratta, Federal Polytechnic-Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Hardel Junction to Akwakuma Orlu Roads, Amakohia-Egbeada-Onitsha roads, Owerri-Akabo-Atta and Egbu-Emekuku-Mbaise roads are in bad shape.
In most communities across the three geo-political zones of the state, bad roads have snowballed into gully erosion and bridges are collapsing.
The people are stuck and have continued to groan since they are compelled to spend more time and more money to convey their goods and services, using bad roads ever experienced apparently since after the creation of the state more than 40 years ago.
However, they called on the Governor RT Hon Emeka Ihedioha to quickly rescue them from the sorry state of these roads across the state irrespective of the widely acknowledged mismanagement of state matters and substandard roads constructed in the last eight years by his predecessor Governor Rochas Okorocha.
These failed roads and bridges across the state were estimated to have been constructed at the cost of a hundred billion Naira or more by the immediate past Governor of Imo State Rochas Okorocha.
The road to Federal Polytechnic Nekede and the Federal University of Technology, Owerri was awarded to contractors twice in less than six years.
The contract papers were handwritten and it was awarded at the cost of two hundred and fifty million Naira (N250) each.
But the former governor in recent times claimed that the roads and other infrastructural development under his watch were the best and highest against previous administrations before his emergence as governor in 2011.
This claim has been disputed by project evaluators in the state, who with a red tape marked all Okorochas projects including roads as substandard.
His projects according to project evaluators were not executed with due process and proper assessment of the contractors was not carried out.
On September 6, 2019, the state Governor RT Hon Ihedioha during his 100 days in office enumerated roads that have been awarded and flagged off by his administration. He also promised to alleviate the people’s sufferings particularly in the areas of ensuring the construction of good roads.
“However, we are happy to inform you that the expanded State Executive Council has approved the award of contracts for the reconstruction of 14 critical roads across the State to relieve the sufferings of our people.
These includes, Naze-Federal Polytechnic Road-Ihiagwa-Obinze road; Ahiara Junction-Okpala Road; Aba Branch-Ahiara Junction road and the Imo Stare Teaching Hospital Road. Others include the Umuowa-Old Orlu Road; MCC-Toronto Road; Mgbidi–Oguta road; Ogwoghoranya-Avutu with spur at Avutu Poultry FarmRoad andthe Douglas–Emmanuel College-NazeJunction road.
“Also captured in under this phase of reconstruction are: the Assumpta-PortHarcourt Road; OkigweOkpara Road-Police Station Road; Control Post-World Bank–Umuguma Road; Okigwe Road-IMSU-Bishop Court Roundabout Road and the Concorde Boulevard Ring Road-Zuma–PH Road. To show that we mean business as usual, yesterday, we embarked on an aggressive flag-off of seven of these projects.
“Just last week, at Onuimo, Isu and Mbaitoli Local Government Areas, we flagged off one of the most ambitious rural road construction projects in the country. Valued at N13.5 billion the World Bank assisted Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP), which involves over 70 rural road networks with a cumulative distance of 381 kilometers across most of the 27 Local Government Areas of the state. We met the project just on the drawing board, we immediately harnessed the necessary resources to pay the counterpart funding”.
On the lips of Imo people, the question is, when will the sufferings of Imo people be alleviated particularly on the issue of bad roads across the state? The situation appears to be taking longer than necessary.
The Ministry of Works Commissioner Engr Benjamin Ekwueme, seems to partly have an answer to the question on why Imo people are groaning longer than they deserve and he said: “the companies that got our contracts are known and one is free to investigate if they are well equipped to do the job they were contracted to carry out. Contracts have been awarded for these roads.
“I honestly pity our people using these roads and I share in their grief. I understand how they feel. Not only them, but the people who can’t even come to work, those living in federal housing Egbu, their own situation is that they cannot even stay in their houses, resulting from bad roads and floods.
“These are the effects of bad practices in the last eight years. The previous administration neglected the due process. This administration is barely four months. We have designed the roads for construction, awarded them to reputable contractors. We will soon mobilize them to site.
“They cannot even start road construction now until the rainy season is over. But the contractors can only work on the drains and set up their baskets, setting up their forms and their equipment on-site in readiness to full-time construction work. They cannot just put their earth moving equipment on the road for road construction for now. It will attract more problems even to the road users.
“No meaningful road project can go on now. We have spent so much money, trying to maintain roads that would eventually be constructed and these are wasted funds because, with more rains, they get submerged again and wash away. We can’t continue with palliative measures that cannot last more than a week and wash away.
“What we are suffering today is what we collectively allowed to be in place in the last 8 yrs.
“Okorocha constructed bad tunnels; they did not practice good engineering. It would have been better if they had left the roads the way they were before they came into office and things could not have been this bad.
“Rebuilding Imo means starting from scratch because allot of thing went wrong. The tunnels have already been condemned by the Nigerian society of engineers and it will definitely go down. Flyover, we have to go back to it again, dismantle it and start all over again. The Imo people will have to wait a little longer.
Perhaps, the Governor and his commissioner for works tried to avert painting a gloomy picture of the real state of affairs in the state. Top government officials told newsmen in Owerri that the financial status of the state cannot sustain projects in the state and the governor would not like to paint a picture of hopelessness.
According to sources, the state receives the sum of N4.5bn as a state allocation and internally generated revenue amounted to N700m.
“The wage bill of the state amounts to N2bn, refunds of bailout fund N1bn, funds set aside for pension N1bn, payment of judgment debts of N30bn and repayment of N18.5bn debt from Nigerian Stock. These are payments that must take place monthly and you can agree with me that Imo people need to wait a little longer”.
Governor Ihedioha in one of his recent speeches painted a similarly gloomy picture and he said: “it is important to recall that we took over the reins of government without even a single handover note. Handover notes are traditional, the least responsibility an outgoing administration owes an incoming one. Usually, it presents a clear picture of the status of government funds, assets, liabilities, pending judicial matters and even policies to enhance continuity. But unfortunately, this was not done.
“We discovered upon inception that the inability to provide the necessary documentation was due to a total abuse and neglect of laid down procedures of good governance. Most shocking was the litany of “garnishee absolute orders” amounting to over N30billion in addition to six years of unpaid pension as well as salary arrears. Projects were poorly conceived, shabbily executed or hastily abandoned. We have even found some of them very hazardous to human safety.
“It is worthy of note that with our wage bill at an average of N2.5b per month, almost N1b monthly pension bill and in an atmosphere of very low IGR, leaves very little for development. This is compounded by the almost N1b statutory deduction on our FAAC, majorly for the repayment of the N26.8b bailout funds, given to the last administration by the FG. But we shall not despair’, the optimistic Governor stated.