Abia Governor-elect, Dr Alex Otti, has said that he would not award any contract in secret but transparently follow due process and make every process bare to members of the public.
Otti who spoke through his Special Adviser Media, Mr Ferdinand Ekeoma, after an assessment of the dilapidated Port Harcourt Road Aba with a team of engineers from Julius Berger Construction Company, said that his administration would always be accountable to the people.
This is coming barely one week after the Managing Director of Julius Berger, Dr Lars Ritcher, visited Otti in his Nvosi country home.
The Governor-elect who expressed deep concern over the deplorable condition of the strategic road said his administration would engage reputable ‘Grade A’ construction companies to fix Abia roads.
He explained that he decided to bring in Julius Berger to assess the road in fulfilment of his campaign promises, adding that discussions are still ongoing for the formal engagement of the construction giant to fix the road.
”During the campaigns, Otti promised to bring reputable construction companies to Abia to build our roads. This is what he has done by bringing Julius Berger to inspect the condition of the road. Discussions are going on.”
Otti decried the condition of the 5.9-kilometre road which has totally collapsed at many points, thus making it impossible for vehicles to connect from Alaoji axis of the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway.
”During the inspection, we trekked from No 1 Port Harcourt Road to Alaoji end. We saw the tragedy that has befallen our people. Now that Julius Berger has first-hand information on the road, we expect to do the needful in a matter of weeks.”
Asked if Otti who is yet to be sworn in as Governor, had awarded any contract, he said:”We are not going to award contracts in secrecy”.
”When it’s awarded, Abians will know everything including the cost and the millage. There will be nothing to hide because Government should be answerable to the people.
”But the most important thing is that Julius Berger and another reputable grade one construction firms are coming to handle projects in Abia.”
Otti who said that Port Harcourt Road “is very strategic” to the economic survival of the state, vowed to give it and other key strategic roads in the commercial city a facelift.
”This road is very strategic to our people. So many people have buildings here but unfortunately, they have been abandoned due to the deplorable condition of the road. Residents of adjoining roads are also affected.
”Otti considers it a top priority to begin with Port Harcourt Road while discussions are on-going on other roads. Julius Berger will handle strategic roads including Obohia Road. Otti has made a firm promise to use grade A reputable companies to execute road projects that will stand the test of time.”
On whether Otti’s administration would pay compensation for demolished buildings on the road, Ekeoma who noted with concern the fate of the owners of the affected buildings, said Otti would dialogue with them.
”There will be a holistic analysis of what happened concerning demolished structures along the road.
”Based on what we gathered, a lot of houses were demolished without any compensation to the owners. Most of the demolished buildings are far from the road. Ordinarily, you have no reason to demolish the buildings but because Government was not thorough, articulate and humane.
”It should have sat with the contractor to know whether those buildings actually encroached on the road. They didn’t take those things into consideration but went on a demolition spree.”
Otti who regretted that some of the owners of the affected property had died out of frustration, said he would like to ” interact with them to know what to do to ameliorate their sufferings”.
Meanwhile, some residents and business owners around the area expressed delight that at last, there is hope in sight, saying that the reconstruction of the road will revive economic activities in the area.
One of the traders at Cristal Park Junction, Mrs Glory Chukwujekwu, said that cost of transportation had soared since the road went bad, disclosing that a bag of orange which initially was charged N200 now costs N700 by tricycle operators.
She said that generations unborn would not forget Otti if truly he fixed the road.
Another resident, Madam Onyekachi Odinaka, a provisions store owner, said that so many residents had relocated from the area following the sorry-state of the road.
She said that the only few Indigenes who had no option had stayed back as most strangers had relocated back to the city centre.
Mrs Odinaka who said the people voted for a change, appealed to Otti not to dash their hope after lifting it.
Vanguard Correspondent observed that the prestigious National High Should Aba which is on the road had been overgrown by weeds just as many of the buildings on the road had been deserted obviously for lack of motorable access road.
It was also observed that ponds had accumulated in some portions of the road.
Although the road is a federal road, Abia State Government had awarded contract for its renovation but apart from water drainage in some parts of the road and sights of many demolished buildings, there were no signs that work was going on on the strategic road.