By Sola Omoniyi, Lagos
Abia State Governor, Alex Otti, has flagged off the reconstruction of the perennially dilapidated 6.7 kilometres of Port Harcourt/ Aba Road and equally gave an official completion date of 18 months.
It gathered that the Port Harcourt road, one of the most deplorable Federal Roads in the state was awarded to construction giant, Julius Berger at the rate of N30 billion.
Julius Berger is expected to reconstruct the road as well as build a flood control mechanism within the area which is part of the flood-ravaged Uratta, Ohabiam and Ndiegoro flood-prone area.
Speaking during the flag-off, Otti said he was glad that his administration is taking yet another strategic step in fulfilling one of his major campaign promises which is to permanently break the jinx of Port Harcourt/ Aba Road and revive the long-abandoned economic activities along the area.
He recalled that artisanship activities and other major business activities within Port Harcourt Road once gave Aba a set of peculiar advantages, starting from the early 1980s when the revered leader, Dee Sam Mbakwe, Governor of Old Imo State, constructed the road to feed into the expansion of the booming oil industrial complex in Port Harcourt.
He said that Mbakwe’s vision gained a foothold almost immediately as the road became a major hub for the servicing of heavy-duty vehicles, equipment, spare parts, power generating sets and ancillary tools.
He stressed that because of Mbakwe’s visit, the entrance axis of the road which has multiple adjoining streets emerged as one of the busiest parts of Aba and a go-to destination for maintenance engineers, procurement officers and contractors working for the multinationals in Port Harcourt and environs, bringing Immediate prosperity and a host of other economic and social advantages to the city of Aba.
“For about two decades, it was all bliss and blush for businesses around this area until things began to fall apart in the mid to late 1990s, followed quickly by the unfortunate collapse and abandonment of the 2000s.
“Nothing seemed to work thereafter. In time, the businesses, including those that had their corporate headquarters around here began to disappear, finding more favourable locations as it became clear that succeeding administrations did not have the will to make the right commitments to restore this stretch of road and sustain its economic advantages; until today.
“Perhaps I should go on and announce that I am partly fulfilled that we have reached another milestone in what had been a very long process which started immediately after my victory was announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on the 22nd of March 2023,” he said.
Earlier, on April 27, representatives of Julius Berger were on an inspection tour of the Road to get a general overview of the scope of work to be done and other fundamental details that would guide the technical designs and specifications.
Speaking further, the governor said the inspection visit was necessary for a holistic understanding of what is needed.
“We also had to invite other construction companies to have a look-in and send us their reports. To be clear, we were careful not to repeat the errors and misjudgements of the past for which the state wasted billions of taxpayers’ money without any measurable improvements in the condition of the road for more than 20 years.
“For us, it is either we reconstruct Port Harcourt Road and do it well or we don’t do it at all. Remember that during my several stops in this great city during the electioneering campaigns, I made one thing very clear: we shall only go for the best because you deserve no less.
“With the above covenant in mind, we resisted the temptation to start another trial and error on a road as important as this and decided to accept the engineering design and bid presented to us by possibly the most reputable civil engineering company in Nigeria with more than 50 years of operational experience and several landmark projects in all parts of the country to its name, Julius Berger Plc.
“For us, Port Harcourt Road Aba is not just any other project, it will be a testament to our willingness and determination to ‘rebuild ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated’ as contained in Isaiah 61: 4.”
Otti said that he would not be drawn into the tragedies and heartbreaks that attended previous attempts at fixing this 6.7km stretch of road but would rather invite Abia people to look to the future with great optimism and expectations, certain that the days of mediocrity are over.
He said that he expects that on completion, the reconstructed Port Harcourt Road will drive the economic rejuvenation of the resilient city of Aba and send a clear message to the businesses that had left that the “Elephant is back on its feet, never to stumble again.”
He added that his administration shall spend the next twelve to eighteen months working to reset the fundamentals by making sure all the economically significant roads in this city are in good condition, re-organise the waste management system for enhanced efficiency and see to it that the basic facilities investors and residents look out for are in place.