Friday, 3 December 2021

Niger Delta Group Issues Ultimatum to FG to Resume Remediation of Calabar-Itu Highway or face Closedown

By Kingsley Agim 

A Niger Delta activists group known as Niger Delta Activists Forum (NDAF) has issued a 30-day ultimatum to the federal government to re-mobilize contractors to continue remediation of Calabar-Itu federal highway, vowing a total closedown of the road should the demand be overlooked.

Reports have emerged that the contractors carrying out repairs on the Odukpani-Itu-Ikot Ekpene road (Julius Berger, CCECC and Sermatech Nig Ltd) have abandoned the site due to inadequate funding of the project.

The NDAF had in 2019 protested against the lamentable condition of the road where contracts were awarded and little or nothing is done since then.

Though the minister of works, Babatunde Fashola, had promised that the project would be given priority funding, through the SUKUK bond starting from the year 2020, the job has since been blighted by bottlenecks not beyond the government to handle.

And two years after, the NDAF, again, is raising the alarm over the pitiable state of the road and the negligible attention by the government and contractors, which has caused motorists and travellers with harrowing experiences, accidents and deaths.

Speaking to journalists in Calabar on Thursday, the National President of the group, Comrade Success Jack, expressed concerns over the alleged withdrawal of the contractors from the road and warned that if in 30 days days contractors fail to return to site, the group will take the decisive action of shutting down the road.

Comrade Jack said Cross River and Akwa Ibom states and indeed the Niger Delta are not less important than any other part of the country.

He said: "It is trite to emphasize at this point, that the sufferings, the pains, economic and social woes brought upon our people, by the dysfunctionality of this road is one too many.

"Our people are however disappointed by the fact that, while other projects across the country are being well funded and progressed, this one has virtually remained unattended with huge economic loss and haemorrhage to the people of Cross Rivers State, the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large.

"We acknowledge that, over this period in review, a lot of work has been done in awarding the balance of the distance to Sermatech Nig Ltd. But Mr President, there are still issues hindering progress and causing a stalemate", he said.

Speaking further on the failed efforts to work on the road, he said "Sermatech Nig Ltd has mobilized to the road but were stopped from commencing work because compensations for individual properties on the right of way have not been paid.

"Julius Berger and CCECC from our investigation need to be cash-backed to fast track their jobs and open a new leaf in the social and economic life of our people.

"We will be reviewing the situation in the next thirty days, with the inevitable option of shutting down the road once more. For now, we wait while urging that the right things be done and quickly so sir."

He stated that the apprehension of the people is growing by the day, communities are getting agitated, businesses are increasingly being unsettled, security of lives and properties are at stake.

Comrade Success Jack called on President Muhammadu Buhari not renege on his promises to the people, but rather use the deplorable situation to write his name in gold.

"Our last straw of hope is one your integrity Mr President, please don't fail us. The paucity of funds complained by the federal government should not be said, only when it comes to critical projects of national importance within the Niger Delta region.

"With barely fifteen months to the 2023 general elections, our hope for the completion of this project is growing thinner. We believe that this situation provides you with a rare opportunity to write your name in gold in the hearts of our people", he pleaded.

He declared that the forum will be reviewing the situation in the next thirty days, with the inevitable option of shutting down the road once more if nothing is done.