By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Over 13 years gone on record, the state of completion of Etebi Enwang Bridge where over N19 billion has been sunk in by the Akwa Ibom State Government appears a tall dream with less than three years to the end of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration in the state.
This is not without the challenges of the current realities occasioned by the novel COVID-19 pandemic globally.
The bridge located along the 24km Etebi Enwang road in Mbo Local Government Area of the state, was one of the flagship projects of former Governor Godswill Akpabio awarded at the beginning of his administration.
Heralded with much fanfare, the Bridge glamour then by Akpabio as the longest Bridge in Nigeria was meant to connect oil rich riverine communities of Mbo with their Esit Eket neighbours and opening up the area to the vast potentials of the proposed Ibom Deep Seaport and Industrial City.
When a group of Correspondents of the National Media Organisations in Uyo, the state capital, visited the project on a spot assessment tour, last weekend, it was gathered that 13 years after the project was awarded, construction work is stagnated with about 10 of the pillars meant to carry the overlay yet to be done.
It was also gathered that over N19.4B was paid for construction of this road and Bridges by the Akpabio administration after several variations from the original cost of N5.4billion at a time the US Dollar was about N200 but less than 40 percent completion rate was achieved before it was handed over to the present administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Governor Emmanuel in turn promised to ensure its completion before the end of his administration but nothing suggests that the bridge would be completed before May 2023.
Although there was renewed optimism when work recommenced on the project by Governor Emmanuel but with few unserviceable looking Cranes and Caterpillars on site hope have given way to despair that the project would be completed before the end of Emmanuel’s administration.
A construction worker at the sight who pleaded anonymity told Correspondents on tour of the project that work has stagnated in recent times due to lack of funds, explaining that concrete overlay was less than 50 percent done.
“All I can say is that it seems fund is what is delaying work on the Bridge. Work is going on but at a ‘snail speed’ compared with what we used to see before. This project used to engage about 500 workers but you can see that nobody is even on site today although work takes place once in a while”, he explained.
It would be recalled that a traditional ruler and family head of Uko Nteghe, Afi Uda, Chief Effiong Asuquo Efai had in 2014 told journalists who toured the project that their communities have continued to pass through untold suffering and are only able to move about in the dry season as the road is almost impassable even on foot during the rainy season.
“They keep engaging contractors who would end up abandoning the project. Between 2007 and now, three different contractors have been engaged and they all end up abandoning it without any tangible impact. The first was Sineong Nigeria Ltd, where I worked as a security officer.
“When they abandoned the work, government engaged another one called Bulletin and now Amitec Construction and Development Company is the third and has equally abandoned site.
“If you had come during the rainy season, you wouldn’t get to this point; it’s so bad and risky and that is why we live a very sad life here. We are pleading with the government to come and complete this job because we are suffering.” Efai had said.
Both Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Udoh and Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyangeyen could not be reached to react to the abandonment of the N19B Etebi Enwang as they did not pick their phone calls or respond to text messages sent to their phones.
Meanwhile, Governor Udom Emmanuel on Sunday, during a special inspection of ongoing roads construction and other projects in the state has restated his determination to completing all ongoing roads and other life touching projects he started, within the lifespan of his administration.
He hinted that his government has made funds available to the contractors, although, according to him, the money may be in piecemeal due to the obvious challenges presented by the horrendous respiratory disease; Coronavirus as well as some drastic adjustments in the State budget.
Represented by his Chief of Staff who also supervises the Ministry of Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, the Governor informed that the inspection became imperative to offer him the opportunity to see things for himself since the ease of total lockdown occasioned by the outbreak of COVID 19 pandemic.
His words: “Let me use this instance to make some clarifications since I am still the supervising Commissioner for Works. Today, we went through local government by local government to see the jobs my boss; His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has given out, to see the level of their completion.
“However, apart from a little challenge that may be traced to delay in valuation for compensation to owners of structures in certain areas, with the assurances of the contractors, some parts or entire stretch of the roads I have inspected can be asphalted perhaps in the next one or two months, especially for the fact that drainage and earthwork had been done”, he said.
Mr. Inyang-Eyen who was accompanied during the inspection by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works, Engr John Itiat and Directors in the Ministry, however, commended contractors whom he observed were serious with their work but cautioned that the excuses associated with the rainy season were not altogether tenable because there are still certain kinds of work that can be done irrespective of weather conditions.