GUEST Column by MUSA ILALLAH
The Abuja-Kaduna-Kano express road is without mincing words a link to all parts of the North West, North East and some parts of the North Central. Its political, economic and social importance cannot by any imagination be downplayed by any government in power. The 375 kilometre highway was last constructed in the eighties by the military regime of President Ibrahim Babangida.
In consideration of its multi faceted importance, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari thought it wise to award a fresh contract for its re-construction and expansion. Though the contract was awarded to the famous construction giant, Julius Berger by the Federal Executive Council in December 2017, work did not commence until July 2018. The contract was in the sum of N155 billion with a completion period of 36 months.
Road users plying the road felt relieved as soon as work commenced hoping that soon their travails of falling into pot holes will be over. Regrettably, the slow pace of work has since waned and motorists and commuters are presently confronted with having to unavoidably fall into more pot holes, gridlocks, delays and accidents on a daily basis. Julius Berger has already dashed their hope of seeing a brand new 6 lanes road along the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road.
Concerned by the snail speed of work, the House of Representatives Committee on Works led by its Chairman Hon. Abubakar Kabir Abubakar, tongue-lashed the Contractor for subjecting millions of Nigerians into tortures, journey hardships while plying the road and threatened to split the contract and bring other contractors on board to hasten its completion.
The committee felt disappointed with Julius Berger after collecting 32% of the contract sum which is over N50 billion from the Government. Progress of work is by far lower than amount collected. Only 26.7% success has been achieved in more than 18 months since it take-off. The life span of the project left is 18 months while balance of work stands at 73.3%.
A detailed report undertaken by The Daily Trust Newspaper which appeared in its edition of Monday December 6, 2019 showed that there are more than 3, 000 pot holes along the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road which cause serious accidents leading to loss of lives and destruction of properties and vehicles worth billions of Naira. This is in addition to gridlocks, loss in valuable time that would have been devoted to other ventures of life.
The lives of motorists and commuters are daily agonised on this road. Some motorists describe the road as a real death trap to innocent lives due to the refusal of Julius Berger to give the job the urgency and seriousness it deserves.
The general feeling is that either the contractor is overloaded with several contracts it is executing across the country or government officials have compromised and look the other way while lives and properties are killed and destroyed daily in hundreds. The supervisory ministry of Works is already guilty of effectively supervising the job due to negligence or compromise. President Muhammadu Buhari needs to call the contractor to order in order to expedite work and avert further loss of lives.
The option of engaging other contractors as put forward by the House of Representatives Committee on Works sent to the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola is a right step in the right direction since Julius Berger has shown lack of capacity to complete it.
My greatest surprise is the fact that our so-called activists have remained mute over the loss of lives. Instead of them engaging the Minister of Works and the contractor, they are either attacking government on rising cases of debt in the country or supporting proponents of illegal take-over of government through the infamous and undemocratic ‘revolution now’ led by Sowore. What a shame.
The Governors, traditional rulers, politicians and others elites have also sealed their lips while lives were lost. They need to speak up if at all they have the interest of the citizens at heart who travel by road from various parts into and out of Abuja.
Unless and until this matter is brought to the front burner, President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort to reconstruct the road may not see the light of the day.
May this never happen to our North.
Ilallah is wrote in via [email protected], From Emeka Anyaoku Street, Abuja