Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen is the Commissioner for Works in Akwa Ibom State. He speaks on the various road construction in the state, among other salient issues. Tony Anichebe reports
What is the state of road infrastructure in Akwa Ibom State since this administration came on board in 2015?
Let’s take your question from two dimensions.
One, there are roads we started, finished and people are already using; the roads we started that are ongoing and the roads we met and took them up that is now ongoing. There are also the ones we are doing on interventions using direct labour. For instance, to restore the beauty of Uyo as state capital, we are intervening in 44 roads within Uyo metropolis up to Ibesikpo Asutan. By the time we finish, you can drive into any part of the city without coming into major roads like Abak road, Udo Udoma and others. Some of the streets are the ones people classified as abandoned but today they are wearing a new look.
We are also remodeling Oron town to make it a befitting city and Eket town is also witnessing total remodeling and presently we are intervening in 16 roads across the city to restore the beauty of Eket metropolis. Governor Emmanuel’s administration has a lot to showcase. In 2015, we initiated and completed the 3.5km road in Ibiono Local Government, Ikot Udom.
That particular road which led to the palace of the paramount ruler received government intervention when the Governor visited him and could not access the palace owing to poor road, today it is a grade one road.
Your ministry has been accused of encouraging capital flight by not utilising the services of indigenous contractors on roads construction
No, the reverse is the case. My ministry has even been accused of over using the indigenous contractors. Before I got here, I learnt the indigenous contractors were not considered good enough for road projects, but I said if Asphalt, stone base, red earth are the same with the machinery used for road construction the same as what foreign firms use, then I insisted on using the indigenous contractors.
But I charged them to live up to expectation, allow them the resources and they are doing very good jobs. Almost all the roads we have commissioned, over twelve (12) of them were done by the indigenous contractors.
So, if I have my way, I will give the bulk of jobs to indigenous contractors, allow them the resources, give them enabling environment because they too have a stake in the state. The state also belongs to them, Again, I know Akwa Ibom people are happy with what we are doing with our indigenous contractors. Of course the profits they made from the job are reinvested back in the State. I want to say that virtually every parts of the state have good road coverage.
The few remaining ones will soon be attended to in few weeks’ time. The Udom Emmanuel’s government has succeeded in ensuring that dividends of democracy trickled down to every community in the state.
There was so much tension in the state recently over alleged abandonment of Uyo- Ikot Ekpene highway which was started by the Akpabio’s administration. What is the position now?
There was no time Governor Emmanuel abandoned the Uyo – Ikot Ekpene highway. The contractor firm handling it, the Julius Berger, has always been paid. The snag there is that the money allotted for compensation on that road has long been exhausted and many building are still standing on the way awaiting compensation. The money was exhausted before the coming of this administration.
Was the money stolen? No, I didn’t say stolen, if there was a provision of N10 that N10 was considered fully paid out while the Houses that were supposed to be paid for, so many are still left standing yet to be paid for. So this administration has the responsibility to now create means of raising more funds to pay the remaining of property owners.
It took a while because you cannot review a project based on compensation. Compensation is a delicate thing that when you effect a payment and pull down a structure nobody remembers what was standing there.
If you go to Ikpe Annang roundabout, there was a big two-storey building standing there before which about 141 million Naira was paid, we took it down but when I passed that road few days ago, I could not spot where the building was standing.
Some people say that your ministry is taking up more projects than it can handle?
That is not true because the Governor believes that if there are no adequate road networks across the length and breadth of the state, industrialization will not be well sited. It is his conviction that in his first term, he settles the infrastructural needs of the state, and during the second term which Akwa Ibom people had guaranteed him, he will highly concentrate on industrialization. In Economics 101, they said one of the things that attract industrialization includes good road network among others.