By Oladeinde Olawoyin, Abdulkareem Haruna and Abubakar Ahmadu Maishanu
Ongoing road construction at Dadinkowa mayama Local govt Kebbi State
In the second and final part of this report, the state of two major roads being constructed by the Buhari administration are reviewed.
Read the first part of the report here.
The Gombe-Numan federal road rehabilitation project was awarded afresh by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2016.
Nearly two years into the life of the multi-billion naira contract, Nigerians plying the road are not elated about the progress of the project.
The federal government awarded the contract for the completion of the rehabilitation of the Gombe-Numan-Yola road to Triacta Nigerian Limited and Chinese Geo-engineering Company (CGC).
While Triacta Nigeria Limited undertakes the Gombe to Kaltungo portion of the road, CGC is to rebuild the road from Kaltungo to Numan.
The phase-II of the project, located in Gombe State, is to cover the road from Gombe to Kaltungo, which covers a distance of 83km. Earlier in March, motorists plying Gombe-Numan-Yola highway were assured that the ongoing construction work on the Gombe-Kaltungo axis would be completed by June.
The Project Manager of the road, Imran Khan, told the Director Federal High Way, North-East at the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Rufai Mohammed, that over 45 kilometres out of the 68 kilometres from the Gombe – Kaltungo axis of the road had been completed.
From Gombe, there is a completed road portion which stretches up to Ngadao, a little village located about 30km away from Ngadao, up to the Wuro-Yola village (about 5km further).
Our reporter observed in July that fresh rehabilitation works are being undertaken, with some portion of the two sides yet to be completed. A large portion of the road, which leads to Kumo town (44km away) is, however, yet to be tarred, after the recent removal of the dilapidated tarred road.
All the reconstruction effort from Gombe axis heading to Kaltungo, stops some few kilometers from Kumo town. The rest of the road, which leads beyond Kumo town, up to about 18km away from Kaltungo, is still yet to be rehabilitated.
This paper, however, observed that a completed portion of the road, about 18km, leads up to Kaltungo town.
Isa Adamu, a petty trader in Wuro-Yola village, informed PREMIUM TIMES that about 2km portion of the excavation and grading part of the road, which passes through their village (about 36km away from Gombe), was only done between the June 10 and 13.
“It was not up to a month that they moved their equipment to where it is now, not far away from our village,” he said. “I think they stopped working due to Ramadan Sallah.
“We are looking forward to having them return immediately so that they can tar the road on time, before the rains turn the graded road into (a) pool of mud and cause problems for travellers,” he said.
Saleh Abdullahi, a vulcaniser who operates along the Gombe-Yola road, said “the completed portion that stretched up to Akko local government was done long ago, but when the minister of works came to visit the road, the contractors came to do some dressing of the road, like painting the middle and so on, and left to Kaltungo area”.
Our reporter also observed the presence of road construction equipment which were parked at the spots where fresh works were being carried out. Vehicles had to dust their way through the freshly graded portion of the road which is awaiting further development.
The remaining stretch of road that goes beyond Kumo town is still dotted with large potholes.
Auwal Suleiman, Triacta Nigeria Limited’s quality control manager for the Gombe-Yola project, said “the Gombe-Numan-Yola rehabilitation project was awarded since 2011 but there was no mobilization for contractors to commence (the) work, until 2016, when it was finally funded”.
He said the work commenced in earnest in June 2016; starting from the Gombe town to Kaltungo, in Gombe State.
“And we were able to cover 23km by December of 2016. After that, we received a signal from the federal ministry of works to go to the Kaltungo end of the project which happened to be the worst part of the project.
“And in 2017 we were able to cover about 18km from that axis. After tackling the worse aspect of the road, we now returned to the Gombe side of the project where we left off, to continue the work, with the intention of connecting it with the Kaltungo side.
On the stage of the project’s completion, Mr Suleiman said “so far, about 65 per cent of the project has been completed.
“There are some sections of the road that are difficult, which we have not been able to cover, especially between Kumo and Billiri towns. Even vehicles are not moving on the road. They have to go down the shoulders and so on. We hope to cover the remaining 35 per cent part of the road by December.”
On the issue of funding, Mr Suleiman said the government has not been defaulting in payment.
“This government is really trying because they have not been defaulting in terms of payment. Each time we raise certificate for part completion, they pay promptly. That is why you see us working on the road.”
The challenge being faced by Triacta Nigeria Limited, according to Mr Suleiman, is the issue of traffic on the highway.
Gombe-Yola road is one of the busiest roads in North-east Nigeria. Contractors have to constantly pay attention and make provision for easy flow of traffic while the work is still ongoing.
This slows down the work, he said.
Another major challenge for the contractors is the rainy season, he said, which also slows down the speed of the road construction – though a common phenomenon in civil engineering.
The contractors said they have engaged over 500 unskilled labourers who are mostly from Gombe, Yola, Kaltungo and other smaller villages which the road passes through.
Most of the residents have not made any major complaints on how the construction efforts has made life difficult for them because the road is an existing one. Hence no one has asked for any kind of compensation due to encroachment.
“There is enough space to work on, so there has never been any cause to pay compensation whatsoever,” said Triacta’s quality control manager.
He added that “even if there is any private structure that is close to the highway, we see it as an encroachment and the federal government has the right of way. And that happen only when we are taking the project through the town.
We observed that there is only one bridge between Gombe and Kaltungo which is yet to be built. The management of Triacta explained that work could not start on the bridge due to some technical issues.
“There is only one bridge at kilometer -44, between Gombe and Kaltungo. It is a 90 meters long bridge. We have not commenced construction of the bridge due to some issues concerning the discrepancies in the estimation and what it would actually require to build it.
“We came to realise that the expected depth written in the design is not going to be workable. The piling depth that was prescribed for the bridge was too small to carry the bridge. So we invited the foundation technician to come and carryout some investigation to know the exact depth of the piling foundation.
“We are still waiting for that to be carried out, even though we believe it is going to be more than what they are going to specify in the bill.”
The road from Gombe to Kaltungo is being built with a wearing course (which is the outlook layer) of about 4cm; with a binder course of about 10cm; then a stone base of about 20cm, and then the sub-base (laterite base) which is 15cm.
There was not much filling on the road because it is an existing road, except where the contractors say they find the road level to be low.
Meanwhile, the other portion of the Gombe – Numan road rehabilitation is being handled by a Chinese company, CGC (Chinese Geo-Engineering Company). It is a 113km road distance which has been in a very bad shape for a long time.
Our visit along the road noticed work being done but at a very slow pace.
None of the portion of the road which has been excavated from Cham, a village on the border of Gombe and Adamawa state in Numan Local Government Area, has been completed.
Motorists are still seen pounding their ways through thick dusts of the excavated road as they ply to and from Gombe and Yola. A small number of construction workers, seen on the road, would not speak to PREMIUM TIMES or give contact details of their employers.
The excavation and partial laying of stone asphalt did not go beyond Savanah Sugar Company which is less than 20km. All the remaining portion of the road, from Savanah Sugar Company through Lamurde, up to Kaltungo (about 95km) where Triacta Company started its construction to Gombe town, has been in very bad shape.
A motorist, Sani Buba, seen changing a burst tyre near Lamurde town, said the bad road has so much toll on their vehicles.
“We have never seen such kind of road contract in this country,” he said.
“Unlike what we have in the ahead in Kaltungo up to Gombe, these contractors are just punishing us here, especially in the area that they have graded”.
Efforts to get the management of CGC to comment on why the project was being executed at a very slow pace were unsuccessful.
Sokoto –Tambuwal-Jega Road project
The Sokoto-Tambuwal Jega- Birnin Yauri road transverses Sokoto and Kebbi states.
The project was awarded by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in December 2014. Its cost was increased from N10.6 billion to N30.5 billion then. The project was to have been completed in 36 months, which means it should have been completed in 2017.
“The rehabilitation of Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega-Birni Yauri Road: Jega-Birni Yauri (186km) in Kebbi State was awarded in favour of Messrs Triacta Nigeria Limited in the sum of N19.8bn, thereby revising the contract sum from N10.5bn to N30.4bn with a completion period of 36 months,” the then information minister, Nurudeen Mohammed, said.
However, inadequate release of funds, insecurity and slow disbursement of funds are however delaying the ongoing construction of Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega road project, according to the project manager, Triacta Construction Company, Walid Aboujaoudi.
Like for other road projects covered in this investigation, the works ministry refused to provide details of released funds.
Slow disbursement of cash
“Part of our challenges is slow disbursement of cash,” Mr Aboujaoudi said.
“If the government is willing, we could have finished phase one and two of the projects but the little payment installment is holding the project back.
“The project from Sokoto, Jega and Yawuri is 311 kilometre by length. One bypass at Tambuwal is eight kilometre. Now 180 kilometre is completed. Put together, the phase one and two of the project is at 65 per cent completion stage.
“The completion period depends on how much the government budgeted for the project in a year. If the government can put a budget of N7 billion in a year, we can finish the project in less than two years. But they budgeted only N2 billion. That’s what makes the project to be uncompleted.
“If the government can’t increase the budget for the project, it will take several years before completion.
“The more they increase the budget, the more we move fast and our rate is five-year-old. Prices of diesel, gadgets, cement are going up. It’s better for us to finish quickly because of the increasing rate.”
Mr Aboujaoudi explained further that the issue of security is a major concern, as there are issues with workers’ safety.
“They are kidnapping us. They came here to the quarry in the month of Ramadan. They killed three police officers on guard and kidnapped our colleague.”
When asked how much ransom they paid before their colleagues were released, he said he was not part of the negotiation because they did everything from Abuja before the staff was released.
He said, “Because of the security situation, we are scared of staying longer in the site. We are forced to leave site early in the day because of the fear of the unknown.
“The host communities do complain about the slow movement of the project. We tried to explain to them our willingness to complete the project on time but the slow disbursement of funds and even the budget, is delaying the project.”
On the project impact on the host community, he said over three hundred locals were employed.
“We have three quarries. One in Zamfara, one at Sokoto and also in Kebbi State. We employed over three hundred locals in the host community.”
The village head of Marake in Shagari Local Government Area of Sokoto, Abubakar Magaji, commended the federal government over the ongoing road project.
Mr Magaji called on the construction company to provide speed breaks in specific locations because of the high speed with which motorists now ply the highway.
“We have little kids and our livestock are moving around. Only the speed breaker can notify some drivers to understand that they are approaching a village,” Mr Magaji said.
For three months, efforts to get the details of the money disbursed to the contractors have been unsuccessful.
When this reporter contacted Hakeem Bello, spokesperson to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, in July, he promised to get back to our reporters on details of the payments made to the affected contractors.
But several weeks after our reporter sent the questions and followed up with reminders, he did not respond.
Source: PREMIUM TIMES