A trip through the different sections of the East West Road that links Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers States in the country will confirm three things about Nigeria and its government. First, it will confirm that we are so used to failure that nothing shocks us anymore. Second, it will confirm that no matter how bad and awful the situation is, our politics is only that of self interest and wealth accumulation. Third, it confirms that
contractors, for whatever reasons they have chosen to want to undertake a job, can carry out the job with utmost impunity.
The East West Road is divided into four sections: the Warri-Kaiama section, the Port Harcourt-Kaiama section, the Eleme Junction (Port Harcourt)-Eket section, and the Eket- Oron section. The contract, over N200 billion and with a 2010 completion date, was first awarded in 2006 to four different contractors. However, militant activities in the region stalled considerable progress on the road between 2006 and 2008. The entire stretch of the road was later re-awarded to Setraco.
The East West road is the only one that links the four Niger Delta States and the motivation for its dualisation was the opening up of the rich and profitable Niger Delta area for greater investment and other opportunities. But in the last two years, motorists using the road have encountered only misery, devastation and utter neglect. The road, which begins from Warri in Delta State and terminates in Oron, Akwa Ibom is currently not fit for even a country at war.
Admittedly, militant activities affected the progress of work on the road before 2009. However, since contract for the entire stretch of road was re-awarded to Setraco, the progress has been at best negligible, giving the impression that Setraco does not have the capacity to handle it in a timely and efficient manner. For instance, the stretch from Eleme Junction in Port Harcourt to the University of Port Harcourt resembles a well travelled road by military tankers in Somalia, Afghanistan or Iraq. Indeed, it is arguable that all these war-torn countries would have roads as bad as the East West Road in Nigeria. The situation is not so different on the other sections of the Port Harcourt-Bayelsa road. What one sees on these roads are craters and valleys and not a normal road to be travelled on.
In November 2009, the government had warned that it would revoke the contract for the construction or rehabilitation of any road if there was no significant progress on such a contract by 2010. The threat of revocation is exactly what it is in Nigeria, just a threat. For the Nigerian public, especially those in the Niger Delta and visitors to the region, who have to go through the horrendous travel experience, this is unacceptable.
The federal government should immediately meet with Setraco to take stock and determine the future direction on the basis of their assessment. We believe that now that militant activities in the region have subsided, it is in the best interest of the region to re-award the contract to multiple contractors, as the pace of work, if any, is painfully too slow.