By Steve Oko
Total reconstruction of Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road will soon commence as the contractor, HEARTLAND Construction company, has returned to the site.
There has been public outcry over the deplorable condition of the federal road linking South East and Akwa Ibom State following incessant carnage on the road.
The federal government had in 2017, awarded contract for the total rehabilitation of the road but the project was stalled due to paucity of funds until December 2021 when the federal government approved its total reconstruction under the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Road Tax Credit Scheme.
Addressing newsmen Thursday at Oboro Ikwuano Yard of the firm after inspection of some portions of the 50km road, the Managing Director, Mr. Fayez Kuacaf, said they had been paid mobilisation fee by the federal government.
He said that the company had already started mobilising their equipment to site for immediate commencement of the project which he added, was expected to be delivered in two years time other things being equal.
Mr. Kuacaf said that after tackling a 10 kilometer stretch from Umuahia to Oboro Ikwuano to make for the easy passage from the state capital, then attention would be given to other failed portions of the road.
His words: ” We are not here for palliative work; we have come to begin the total reconstruction work.
” We have already started mobilising equipment to site. Now that government has secured the much-needed funds for the project, we will expedite the work.
” We don’t plan sitting and letting the money fester in the bank account. We want to work to get paid.”
Asked when exactly work would begin on the project, the MD said “immediately”, but added that certain arrangements “like security arrangement” has to be put in place.
“We have received payment and we have to start work almost immediately. More equipment is on the way. As we speak, Lowbirds from our Center workshop are on the way. We have made huge investments to increase the number of equipment to bring to site. Now that something has been released we need to begin work”.
Asked what percentage of the N13.4 billion contract sum had been released to the company, Mr. Kuacaf, said ” five per cent”, but expressed optimism that government would not renege in its promises to release more funds as work progressed.
” As long as something continues to come as we have been promised. We have faith in the Government that we will be fully paid as we deliver.”
On the issue of the right of way, the firm said the Ministry of Work was handling the matter and would deal accordingly.
Speaking with newsmen, member representing Ikwuano-Umuahia federal constituency, Hon. Sam Onuigbo, expressed joy over the development, saying the intervention meant that the pressures he had been mounting on the Ministry of Works and the contractor had yielded fruits.
The lawmaker who said he felt very hopeful and expectant, expressed optimism that very soon the road would be delivered to alleviate the plights of his constituents and other road users.
” During my meeting with the Minister of Works and the Contractor last week I told them the urgency of the road and to take advantage of the dry season”, he said.