It was a colourful ceremony at the flag off of a new road project in the hinterland of Abuja as the people of the area saw it as a gateway to their socio-economic prospects. CALEB ONWE reports
Residents of some rural settlements on the axis of Apo-Wasa, Takushara and others could not hide their joy last week as they rolled out drums to celebrate the flag off of a road project that would invariably provide them easy access to other parts of the Federal Capital Territory.
To these rural dwellers, this road project, estimated to cost government over N8billion, means not just a connection to the existing Abuja road networks, but an enhancement of living standard, considering the strategic developments expected to be drawn to the areas by the project.
Along these road corridors, you find serious economic activities, like quarry sites and mega farms that have huge potential to contribute to the development of the country.
Inside Abuja gathered that the popular Apo mechanic village and the auto spare parts market, which the Federal Capital Territory Administration had earlier relocated to Wasa have remained at their temporary site, because there was no access road to the place.
Apart from these pockets of economic activities, it was also revealed that there are several estate developers that would have moved to start large scale housing projects in the new districts already earmarked for mass housing projects. All these developments have been kept in abeyance because of the roads that were not in good condition .
Before now, previous administrations only made political promises, some awarded contracts for sections of the road with little or no results.
The project appeared to have been jinxed by corruption, the same factor that has impeded other development projects in the country.
Apo-Wasa-Karshi axis of the road was reportedly awarded to an indigenous company; funds were dispensed, but the project was not executed in a commensurate measure.
The project was on record, as one of the abandoned projects that almost forced sorrowful tears from the present Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Mohammad Bello. He almost broke down in tears during an inspection tour of the road shortly after assuming office. In an emotion laden voice, he lamented that ” this is a road that leads to nowhere”.
The lamentation, ostensibly, was due to the revelations in the project files which he had scrutinised against the physical verification of the works done, and the ‘irritable’ excuse of the then contractor, who blamed the delay of the project on lack of working tools to crush a rock blocking the right of way.
The road is believed to be the solution to the perennial traffic always experienced on the Keffi-Maraba-Nyanya-Abuja road, as it provides an alternative route to commuters.
It was also gathered that when the road is completed, commuters from Karshi axis who are going to Lokoja and other parts of the Southern Nigeria , may not need to pass through the Abuja city centre.
Flagging off the project
Minster of the FCT, Malam Muhammad Bello, said that his administration would remain committed to executing projects that would improve the living condition of FCT residents.
Bello disclosed that his administration was considering adoption of the Public-Private-Partnership as a viable strategy to completing an adjoining part of the expressway measuring 52kilometres, expected to end at the Abuja-Lokoja highway.
He noted that to ensure speedy completion of the projects within a 12-month time span, the two carriageways have been awarded to different construction companies namely M/S CGC, (Nig) Ltd – for Left-Hand-Side carriageway of 15km and Gilmor (Nig) Ltd – for Right-Hand-Side carriageway measuring 5km. The contract sums for both roads are N6.17billion and N2.45billion respectively.
“The flag off is symbolic of the next phase of the administration’s roadmap for infrastructural development and provision of social services in the satellite towns and rural communities as the Minister indicated recently while swearing-in the newly appointed Mandate Secretaries and political aides,” he said.
Executive Secretary, Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) Engr. Umar Jibrin, also confirmed that the Outer Southern Expressway (OSEX) is one of the Regional Road Networks provided for in the Abuja Masterplan. It provided access to the City Centre from the Southern axis of the FCT. It covers 73kilometres, and runs from the Villa Roundabout at its intersection with the Outer Northern Expressway (ONEX) right on to Abuja-Lokoja Road at Gwagwalada.
“The OSEX stretch defines areas designated for the land-swap scheme. The project would also fast-track the relocation of Apo Traders and mechanics as well as open up Takushara settlement, location for a national heritage site identified as the first historical iron smelting place in West Africa by the renowned British archaeologist, Prof. Thurston Shaw.
“The road will provide access to Wasa affordable site, which is an ongoing project by the Authority as well as the Wasa resettlement scheme. Fast track the relocation of Apo Traders and Mechanics to the designated informal sector site here in Wasa” Jubrin noted.
The people react
Luka Shekwoyi, a resident of Takushara and a farmer was happy that the roads were coming. However, he expressed mixed feelings about the development. He expressed fear, saying that the road might bring hardship on his people.
In his opinion, once there are roads infrastructure in the place, government may begin to demolish their ancestral homes, and also collection of their farm lands.
“Constructing the road is good but I hope that government will not collect our farm lands and demolish our houses. We have lived here for a long time, though we don’t have a good road that links us with other places in the town, but we live our lives and enjoy what we do”, he said.
Another person that has a different perspective is Matthew Ezechukwu. He claims to be a major stakeholder in the Apo auto spare parts market. He stated that the road was the main obstacle to the relocation of the market.
He also said that the Apo Traders have never refused to relocate to the Wasa permanent sites but insisted that basic infrastructure like roads and light must be in place.
“The road project is a welcome development. As a matter of fact, it is the lack of access road to Wasa that has delayed our relocation to the permanent site. The Minister has said that the road will be completed in 12 months. So, we are waiting to see”, he said.