Construction work on a major road in Nigeria has stalled three years after it kicked off. The Yenagoa-Obogoro-Oporoma Road has stalled in the wake of a reduction of the state allocation from the federation account.
The road project passes through the vast mangrove stretch of Southern Ijaw council area. The project is however, expected to transform the fortunes of the oil and gas rich but neglected communities in the central senatorial district of the state, which can only be accessed by water.The project had been resumed 3 years.
The excitement that greeted the resumption of work on the Yenagoa-Obogoro-Oporoma Road three years ago has given way to despair following the suspension of work on the project in the wake of the fall in the state allocation from the federation account.
The road project, which passes through the vast mangrove stretch of Southern Ijaw council area when completed, is expected to transform the fortunes of the oil and gas rich but neglected communities in the central senatorial district of the state, which can only be accessed by water. But the speed that characterised the project when it was flagged off and the belief that it would hit Oporoma, headquarters of the council area in record time to enable the natives’ access their ancestral land through land for the first time has again been stalled.
The project had been on the federal government drawing board since the sixties and had suffered several setbacks until Governor Seriake Dickson ignited the hope of the people by awarding the job to a Chinese firm,China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC, at the cost of N31 billion.
But indications that the project was heading for fresh trouble emerged in the third quarter of last year when the state started experiencing financial hiccups in the wake of the plummeting crude oil price, a development that caused the government to prioritise its spending.
Niger Delta Voice findings revealed that capital projects have been temporarily halted in the predominantly riverine state due to dwindling resources. When Niger Delta Voice weekend visited the road project site, the once busy area was a shadow of its self. The usual large presence of heavy duty equipment and personnel seen going about their work on the route was missing. Also the premises of the construction firm was quiet but for the soldiers sighted on guard duty.
The Obogoro-Yenagoa end to the Igebiri flank in Southern Ijaw council had been completed and covered with asphalt while bridge construction was ongoing at the later end before the cash crunch.
It was also discovered that the many small retail outlets and relaxation spots that sprang up along the once busy route have since closed shop following the suspension of work on the road.
Some Bayelsans who spoke to Niger Delta Voice expressed sadness over the turn of events and urged the government to diversify the state economy base by harnessing its rich agricultural and marine potentials so as to boost its revenue base and make available the needed cash to enable it execute its development projects.
“We had thought by now, the road would have reached Oporoma and save us the pain of travelling home through the pirate infested river.
Well, it is still better because you can get to Igeibiri on a good road and the board commercial motorcycle otherwise known as Okada to get to Ayama and board speedboats which is less than fifteen minutes to Oporoma,” said Timi, an indigene of Oporoma. Another indigene of the area, Tonpre Jones said, “We have waited to be linked to our ancestral homes for over five decades and are convinced that stoppage of work is temporary due to the zeal of the present administration to link the hinterland to Yenagoa. It is our prayer that the state revenue will improve to enable government complete this road for us.
“This is a project that is very dear to us and we are praying that work on the project would continue with the gradual rise in crude oil price,” Larry Ayebaemi told Niger Delta Voice.
Governor Seriake Dickson had even in the face of dwindling allocation from the federation account to the state reiterated the determination of his administration to leave behind a legacy every Bayelsan and the entire Ijaw nation would be proud of assuring that greater attention would be accorded road construction in the state.
He lamented the terrain and riverine nature of the state which have made the cost of executing road projects very high for the state to undertake and called for more federal intervention given the enormous contribution of the state to the federal coffer.