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Saturday, February 22, 2020


"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored" - Aldous Huxley

By Substance Udo-Nature

On the last count, contracts for reconstruction of the Calabar-Itu Road have purportedly been awarded for not less than five times in the last five years of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, with Senator Ita Enang as Director-in-Chief and Producer of the Album of Songs of Empty Promises.

Within this period, not fewer than five less popularized roads in other parts of the country have been begun and completed. One instructive reference is the Illorin-Jebba-Mokwa federal road. Awarded at the contract sum of N13.57billion, work on the road started in 2013. By 2015 that President Buhari took over the reins, only 15.9 per cent of this road linking the South West and North West was said to be completed. However, because of the transparent and quality advocacy of the recycled Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, who hails from that region, the road which is part of the Lagos-Algiers Trans Sahara Road Network had since been fully completed. 

On 1st October, 2016, President Buhari had stated in a national broadcast that the Calabar-Itu Road led 11 other federal road projects where construction work has commenced. “Notwithstanding the budgetary constraints, the current budget allocated two hundred and forty billion naira for highway projects against twelve billion in 2015.  Work on the following highways has now resumed: 1. Dualization of Calabar-Itu Road in Cross River/Akwa Ibom States. 2. Gombe Biu, Illorin-Jebba; …”

On Wednesday, May 3, 2017, the then Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, announced to journalists that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting of that day approved N54 billion for the reconstruction of the Calabar-Itu Road:

“The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing had just one memorandum. It was for the award of contract for the reconstruction of the Odukpani-Itu-Ikot Ekpene route linking Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. The road project was approved for award to Messrs Julius Berger Plc…What is expected of the Federal Government is a complete reconstruction of Calabar-Itu Road to a 4-lane expressway similar to the East West Road and not merely patching and resurfacing of the existing 2-lane road constructed in the 1970’s. And by this time next year, the stories on the road will change,” the minister boasted.

Again, on Tuesday, November 28, 2017, Babatunde Fashola, in a keynote address he delivered at the United Nations’ co-sponsored capacity building programme for the Federal Road Safety Corps, in Abuja, acknowledged that there were some roads in the country that were built in the 1970s which had not only outlived their design life, but have had to deal with increased tonnage and capacity beyond what their design intended.

He then asked, rhetorically: “Can such roads truly be expected to still be intact and deliver a pleasant motoring experience?” Thankfully, this type of roads is NOW receiving attention under President Buhari, like the Calabar-Itu-Odukpani Road, Gombe Biu, Illorin-Jebba and other roads that fall within this category are being awarded for reconstruction”.

Shockingly, in July, 2018, the then Senior Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters (Senate), now Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Ita Enang, granted an interview on Inspiration Radio, Uyo. Somewhere during the interview, the savvy and swervy party man told the incredulous but listening public:

"The Federal Government is not reconstructing the entire Calabar-Itu Road, even though the road will be dualised. Where it needs patching, it will be patched. The President has mandated me to go around the road and show Julius Berger where there are rough portions for them to intervene”.

About two months later, when the 2019 Presidential election was smelling thickly in the air, Sen. Enang, again, propounded that the federal government had released 11billion in addition to 5billion already paid to Julius Berger, the reason for which he was on the road to see things by himself. Whatever conspiracy or cajoling there were, with him in the farce theatre were the South/East Regional Manager of Julius Berger, Mr. Juergen Fischer; a representative of the Federal Ministry of Works, Engr. Amos Duke; and some handy journalists on his esoteric payroll.

“We are here at Calabar–Itu-Ikot Ekpene Federal Highway where the Federal Government awarded contract to Julius Berger Nigeria Construction for the dualization of the road. So, I came here on behalf of the Federal Government to look at the extent of work that is going on. Let me say that I am highly impressed by the extent of work done….We all came to see the extent they have gone because we have money in the budget this year for this road,” Enang told Akwa Ibom people.

In October, 2019, the serial former lawmaker corroborated Fashola when he said on another radio interview that the federal government had awarded contract for the dualization of the Odukpani Junction in Cross River State to Ibiakpan in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State worth 54billion since 2017, but only 3bllion was released in the 2018 budget.

This amount being too poor according to him, Julius Berger left the site because the National Assembly slashed the money meant for them: “We have taken steps to ensure Julius Berger returns to site. In 2019 budget, we secured N3.9 billion but much has not been released to the contractor. We are appealing to them that even though we have not given them what is substantial enough, they will return to site when the rain stops”, he pretentiously assured.

Senator Enang’s cacophony took on a new tune as soon as the 2019 elections were over. In one of his post-election media charades in Uyo, Friday, 27th December 2019, he hinted that the federal government has requested funding support from SUKUK bond for the completion of Calabar-Itu Road, upon which he had personally written to the federal Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Works and Housing to assist. “I have written and I am requesting for funding support from the ministries, from the SUKUK bond through the Debt Management Office, Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Works and Housing”.

However, on another radio interview, January 11, 2020, Enang said the Akwa Ibom State government should reinvest on reconstruction of the Calabar-Itu Road the controversial 78billion he said the federal government refunded to the state for constructing or maintaining federal roads. “Why is the governor not using the money so far refunded by the federal government in working on the road instead of waiting for the federal government? The essence of the refunds was partly that the state government will plough it to reconstruct the Calabar-Itu Road”.

Barely a week plus by today, Mr. Fashola again announced the award of contract for the Aba-Ikot Ekpene stretch of the same Road. Almost immediately following that pronouncement which many took with a pinch of salt, Senator Ita Enang, taking extravagant advantage of the people’s understanding, usurping and arrogating duties to himself, bypassing his superiors with presumptuous unilaterality and without courtesy for critical stakeholders, hurriedly wrote a personal letter on behalf of Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Abia people thanking and commending the federal government with bloated optimism:

Part of the obtrusive and glory-seeking letter read: “Your Excellency and the Federal Executive Council have by this breathed life into the economy of the South/South and South East. This road being the economic artery of the two zones will indeed lighten the sufferings of the commuting public…a big thank you as we together make more impact in the South/South and South/East geopolitical zones.” Not few have condemned this butterfly choreography as part of Enang’s tactical game of stealing needless attention for himself on this road. 

This was one of the points the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inyangeyen, highlighted in his interview on Planet FM 101.1 popular programme, “Gov. Udom Beyond Politics”, a package designed essentially to give updates on Gov. Emmanuel's developmental trajectory, Tuesday, 18th February, 2020.

He asked: “How many times will contract on Calabar-Itu Road be awarded? Sen. Ita Enang has messed up the entire thing. Ita Enang our son should stop embarrassing us. He is not coordinated in what he is saying. Other roads that are constructed in Nigeria don’t carry such stories”.

Mr. Inyangeyen, himself a celebrated super-master of road construction dynamics, urged Enang to be realistic, factual and frank to Akwa Ibom people. He was advising Ita Enang against his boomerang razzmatazz on the Calabar-Itu Road. The Commissioner was not throwing stones as some may misconstrue, but merely responding to one of the questions raised.

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