By Arinze Chijioke
WHEN workers with Ambeez Services Limited arrived Obeagu to commence the construction of the 7.680km Obeagu – Ugwuaji with Spur to Uzamdunu Road in 2019, members of the community rejoiced.
“Our hope was that the project, which stretches across five villages from Obeagu, will open up business opportunities for our people” traditional ruler of the community, Ikenga Nyia said.
Obeagu, one of the communities in Enugu South local government area had been selected to benefit from the World Bank’s Second Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP-2) in the state.
Prior to the commencement of the project, Obeagu had a track road which was covered with bushes and served those who had motorcycles and bicycles and those who trekked. It was the major route for residents of Obeagu, Obunagu, Uzamdunu, Nkpofia, and Amagu.
To demonstrate their acceptance of the project, members of the community brought down fences and other buildings which were along the road, after the company said it needed expansion for grading. Nyia also made sure that all equipment used in the project were safe.
“Although there was no compensation, we were not worried because we wanted the road because of its economic importance for us, “he said.
Nyia explained that the contractor had told him and members of the community that the project was a partnership between World Bank and the Enugu State government and that while the bank will expand and grade the road with side drainages, the state government will step in afterward to asphalt it.
Enugu’s RAMP-2 project details
In 2018, the Federal Government received financing from both the World Bank (WB) and French Development Agency (AFD) for the implementation of RAMP-2, a six-year project that is intended to improve transport conditions across communities in a sustainable manner, thereby improving access to the rural population and increasing economic opportunities.
Five states including Adamawa, Enugu, Osun, Niger and Imo states were expected to benefit from the RAMP-2. Phase 1 of the project was implemented as pilots in Kaduna and Cross River states.
In line with the Project Development Objective (PDO) of RAMP 2, Enugu State was assigned the target of constructing/rehabilitating 370km of rural roads in addition to River Crossing (Bridges and Culverts) across the State.
Addressing journalists after a meeting of the State Executive Council, the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Enugu, Greg Nnaji explained that RAMP-2 in the state had an approved budget of N7.6 billion from the World Bank for its activities. To be able to access the fund for the project, the State government paid its estimated counterpart fund of N400,238,237.00 million.
While the project was coordinated at the National level by the Federal Project Management Unit (FPMU) under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMA&RD), it was implemented in Enugu by the State Implementation Unit (SPIU) under the Enugu State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure which had 12 Core Staff and 15 Support Staff, headed by an engineer, Chinedu Ugwu as the State Project Coordinator.
Although the RAMP–2 was designed to officially come to an end by December 31, 2018, the state secured an initial extension to October 31, 2020. Another extension was secured for the Project till December 31, 2020, the date the Project was technically closed. Payment for liabilities however was allowed to end on April 30, 2021.
Enugu was praised for a job well done
At a workshop held to promote the dissemination and adoption of low-volume road manuals in Enugu state, the National Coordinator of the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP), an engineer, Ubandoma Ularamu, praised the state for completing the project.
Ularamu urged the government to ensure that they maintained the roads to be able to participate in the next phase of RAMP, which is the Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project, RAAMP.
In his address, the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, a professor, Simon Ortuanya, said that his administration was determined to bring ‘speedy development to the rural areas in the state. He said that his administration’s policy drive had helped in ‘opening rural communities through improved road infrastructure leading to a boost in agriculture and economic activities’.
But while the state government boasts of having completed the multibillion-naira projects, residents of Obeagu are not entirely happy as the road was not complete.
From incomplete side drainage, which makes it easy for water to create channels and potholes on the road to the washing away of sand used for grading, making transportation difficult, residents hardly ply the road.
“We have waited for two years, yet there are no signs that the government will come back to complete the project,” Nyia said. “Whenever it rains, the graded road becomes impassable”.
When Ambeez commenced the grading of the road, Individuals started building shops and houses on both sides, hoping that it will be completed. Sadly, most of those projects have been stalled. The owners are looking for alternatives.
The road has since become a safe track for thieves.
Philip Nomeh, a member of the community says he has had to deal with dust emanating from the road since it was graded. He says the government needs to step in and complete the project because of its importance to the people.
Always a bumpy ride
Travelling through the 2.220km Enyazuru Ohomorba Road, particularly on a motorcycle is always a bumpy ride. The site of stones adorning the red earth and waiting for tires to burst is common. It is also common to see hard stones that were used for grading of the road littering everywhere, on both sides.
Like that of Obeagu, the Enyazuru Ohomorba road in Udenu LG was graded in 2020 by I.Q International Limited. Whenever it rains, it washes off the surface of the road and creates water channels, leaving motorcyclists and car owners at its mercy.
At the beginning of the road, there are drainages on both sides. But it does not extend to the end. Those living in parts of the communities without side drainages have had to battle flooding.
Residents such as Paul Ngwu, who live along the road and those who own shops say they have had to battle dust for the past two years since the project was abandoned. They fear that gradually, they are going back to the days before the project commenced when the road was impassable.
Eze Ernest, a motorcyclist who often plies the road has had to fix his tires severally. He said that the situation has increased transport fares as users now pay N300 for distances that were formally N200. According to him, it is often difficult to manoeuvre the gallops because the stones are everywhere. To deal with this, he watches his speed to avoid falling to the ground.
Onah Michael, an elder in the community said they gave the contractor every support needed to implement the project such as security for equipment and food on some occasions for workers.
“After they graded it, they promised they will come back and complete the project, “he said. But we have not seen them and we have been managing the project”. We want the government to come back and complete the project because it extends to several villages including Enyazuru, Imilike, Ugwueke and others”.
Graded, abandoned Umuaji Aguobu road now pothole-ridden
Felix Eze thought his dream of travelling on a good road in his community finally came to reality when Ambeez Services arrived at Eziagu LG for the construction of the 12.560km Umuaji Aguobu Owa-Umuaji Mgbagbuowa Agba Road.
“For decades, our community never had any good road, “he said. “The major one we had was unmotorable”.
When grading commenced in 2019, Eze monitored closely and helped as best as he could, with the security of equipment. Other members of the community did too.
After the road was graded, the side drainages were constructed and that was the last time members of the community heard anything about the project. Two years after it was graded, with incomplete drainage, the road has become difficult for motorcyclists and car owners to ply through, especially during the rainy season. Now, it is common to see both commercial and private vehicles stuck on the road, either abandoned or with their owners making efforts to get them working again.
James Victor, who plies the road said he washes his motorcyclist at the end of each day because of its bad state. He said he has had to fix his motorcycle severally because of the prevalence of potholes on the road. The situation has increased transport fair as residents now have to pay between N1000 and N2000 from Amansi to get to the community.
Like the road in Eziagu, the 3.100km Uhuogiri railway road in Aninri LG was only graded and abandoned. Although its side drainages were completed, unlike other road projects, the road is always impassable each time it rains.
Those living by the roadside have battled dust often raised by vehicle and motorcycle riders at the peak of the dry season. They say it affects everything. Their trees. Their houses and their clothes, whenever they wash.
Cletus, a motorcyclist who often plies the road said it was sad how the state government has refused to come back and complete the project two years after it was graded.
“While the drainage extends to the end of the road, making it easy for water to follow through a channel, each time it rains, there is the challenge of dust and potholes which often discourages us from plying the road, “he said.
State government promised to asphalt road projects
In December 2021, the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi assured that his government was putting plans in motion toward asphalting all RAMP roads by 2021 and 2022 fiscal years, respectively.
Ugwuanyi gave the assurance during the inauguration of 30 Community Based Road Maintenance Groups, CBRMG in all the communities that benefited from World Bank projects in Enugu for sustainability.
The governor, who was represented by Deputy Chief of staff to the governor, a professor, Malachy Ukwueze warned that government would treat any case of abandonment of duty as an act of sabotage to the state and disservice to their respective communities.
Ugwu had told the gathering that the CBRMG is an essential component of RAMP as roads constructed by Enugu RAMP are all gravel roads until the state government or World Bank decides to asphalt the roads. He appealed to the state government to expedite action towards asphalting these roads to make for more lasting protection of the roads.
The government had In July 2020, inaugurated a technical committee to evaluate all projects being executed under the RAMP-2. The committee was expected to among other things, examine the scope of work assigned to the contractors and carry out a quality assessment of the work done with a view to proffering any remedial actions.
Contractor says projects executed according to specification
When contacted, the procurement officer of Ambeez Services Limited, Nwajiagu Sunday, said that the company worked according to the contract document provided by RAMP and which required them to create access roads in rural communities, such as Ugwuaji.
“If the contract had said we should do asphalt, we would have done that, “he said. “Everything we did was in accordance to the specification and bill of document, including the drainages”.
RAMP-2 project coordinator, Ugwu said that it was intended to encourage farmers in rural communities to be able to transport their goods to the nearest market, raise their standard of living and curb harvest losses and increase in food production and economy so that there will not be migration to the cities.
“The project is not for city dwellers and that is why what we did was earth roads, “he said, adding that some of the projects are beginning to have potholes because they are in locations that are prone to erosion.
He however explained that the state government is supposed to step in and asphalt some of the roads where traffic has increased after grading because such roads have become state roads.
He further explained that part of the problem also lies with the non-passage of the bill establishing a road maintenance agency whose responsibility will be to maintain rural roads in the state.
“The agency was supposed to get money from allocations to the local governments, state internally generated revenue and percentage of construction contract awarded so that we don’t have to depend on subvention from the governor to fund road maintenance,” he explained.
Speaking further, he said, “We have maintenance gangs for all the roads, and they are supposed to be working to ensure that they handle challenges of potholes,”. “When dry season sets in and funds are available, they are supposed to do continuous mechanised maintenance”.
While noting that some of the roads did not have complete drainages because they are only put at critical points, he said that the WB and AFD constructed more than 400 km in the state under RAMP-2, including pilot roads and spot improvements for roads that are bad and needed improvement.
He said that RAMP in the state will ensure that roads under the Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAAMP) will be tarred because there is no need giving people road that will fail after some time.
“We might also look at the roads where traffic has increased, and they can migrate”.
Communities in need of asphalt should write to the government
When contacted, works commissioner, Nnaji said that the government had already started asphalting some of the roads, adding that it is done in stages and in line with budgetary provisions.
He however noted that communities are expected to formally write the state government if they are in dire need of the projects to be asphalted and stop waiting and expecting the government to come in.
“They know the due process of making their intentions known to the government, “he said. “The project is a partnership between the state and World Bank which has taken its hands off after the earthwork because that is their specification, “he said.
He further noted that Enugu state runs an open inclusive government and is ready to listen to communities that make their requests known, adding that two of the road projects have been asphalted already.