Infrastructure refers to the basic facilities and systems that serve an area, a city, region or country. It includes the facilities necessary for the proper functioning of the economy. It may also refer to the physical components of interrelated systems providing services essential to enable, sustain or enhance societal living conditions. They include technical structures like roads, bridges, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, telecommunication etc. Infrastructure is thus a key pillar of economic growth of any modern society and a catalyst for economic development.
It follows therefore that the economic growth and development of any modern society is tied to the level of its infrastructural development since infrastructure is the base for the development. And Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi appreciated this more than anybody and that was the basis of his stewardship in Rivers State.
Even with sizable coastal areas and Islands, road transportation is the most common mode of transport in Rivers State. Therefore, from the inception of his tenure as the Governor of Rivers State in October 2007, Amaechi directed efforts and deployed significant resources of the state towards the development of infrastructure.
Against the backdrop of this commitment, the administration articulated its vision with respect to the road sector as “A Rivers State where all communities are accessible by quality roads…” This vision by emphasizing quality roads implicitly acknowledged the finding of a study that there is a strong positive correlation between the economic development and the quality of the road network of an area.
Road serves many socio-economic functions. As a former United States Senator Christopher Dodd, an apostle of infrastructure development, noted highways, roads, bridges are an indispensable part of our lives. They link one end of our nation (state) to the other. We use them each and every day, for every conceivable purpose. But quality also matters. Good and reliable road network helps to deal with problems of spatial difference – distance, thereby connecting people. Good roads reduce journey times and enhance road safety by increasing the reliability of road travel.
In acknowledgement of the socio-economic importance of good road networks, the administration of Amaechi made significant investment in the sector through the construction of new roads, the completion or continuation of ongoing road projects, the dualization and rehabilitation of old roads and the construction of bridges and flyovers. The objective was to connect communities both rural and urban as a means of reducing poverty and enhancing economic growth.
Between 2007 and 2014, over 300 contracts relating to roads and bridges, land reclamation and shore protection projects were awarded. As at August 2014, 165 of these contracts had been successfully completed with the remainder at various stages of completion, with the exception of two in which the contractors were not mobilized before the end of the tenure.
The administration also completed 23 major bridges in different parts of the State with six other bridges at various stages of completion. The completed bridges include nine bridges on the Unity Road (Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo) Road; two Steel bridges at Eagle Island; Ndoni Steel Bridge; three bridges on the Okrika Ring Road; bridge at the Abuloma-Woji Road; Mbiama-Akinima Bridge; Bolo Creek bridge. The on-going bridges include Woji-Akpajo bridge (70% completion); Luwa-Bere bridge (50% completion); Orashi Steel bridge (60% completion) and Tema Steel bridge (40% completion).
The administration completed two major flyovers: Agip Roundabout on Ikwerre Road and Eliozu on the East-West Road. It reconstructed the collapsed flyover on Aba Road near the Nigeria Air force Base. Another flyover at Woji has reached 85% completion level. Two interchanges were also completed at Rumuokwurusi (at the intersection between the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway and the East-West Road) the area erroneously called “Eleme Junction”; and at Obiri Ikwerre (at the intersection between Prof. Tam David-West Boulevard and East-West Road).
To evidence, Amaechi’s concern for all the residents of the State, 70 percent of the roads are located in the rural areas with the remainder 30% are within the Greater Port Harcourt Metropolis. From the rural areas to the urban centres, no part of the State was left out in the development of good road network. The Amaechi Administration expanded and completed the Okrika Ring Road. It expanded the Mbiama-Akinima Road. It constructed the Dere /Bolo Road with bridge. It substantially completed the Unity Road, which traverses three local government councils – Khana, Andoni and Opobo/Nkoro. Before he left office, Governor Amaechi ensured that the people of the Ancient Opobo Kingdom could get to Opobo by road.
Anxious to ensure that all parts of Rivers State were accessible by road, the Amaechi administration entered into advanced discussions with the Nigeria LNG Ltd with respect to the completion of the Bodo-Bonny Road, which had been abandoned by the Federal Government. The administration also completed the Rivers State end of the Port Harcourt Owerri Road, in order to create relief for Rivers people, in the same way it attempted to reconstruct the Rivers State end of the East West road, but was refused to do so by the then Federal Government. To improve movement of farm goods and encourage trade and commerce, the Amaechi administration constructed a major spine road between Isiokpo and Omerelu.
The Isiokpo/Omerelu road reaffirmed the high premium the Amaechi administration placed on transportation. The criticality of some roads made them a compelling proposition for the Amaechi Administration. These included the Ada George Road (Mile III Diobu to Mgbuoba) and the Port Harcourt – Owerri Road. The Amaechi Administration constructed a dual carriage Highway from the Port International Airport Junction to the boundary between Rivers State and Imo State; the rehabilitation of the Port-Harcourt – Aba Expressway (from the Rumuokwurusi Interchange to the boundary with Abia State). The Administration also awarded the contract for the Trans-Kalabari Highway which construction had commenced before the end of tenure.
Within the capital city, the need to decongest the Aba Road led to the conception and construction of a Relief Road before the ever-busy Rumuola Junction to link Aba Road to Rumuomasi/Elekahia/Trans-Amadi. This Relief Road opened the area for residential development. The Old Stadium Road (renamed Ken Saro-Wiwa Road) was dualized. Similarly, the Old Aba Road up to Rumuogba (Artillery) was also dualized. Okporo Road was dualized to take traffic from Aba Road to the East-West Road.
To address access to the Industrial Area: Trans-Amadi, the Amaechi Administration dualized the Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road linking Aba Expressway. It also dualized the Oginigba – Rumuobiokani Road. It dualized Nkpogu Road, which takes traffic to and from Eastern By-Pass. Save for a disagreement between the Contractor and the Ministry of Works, the bridge that opens up the second lane of the road would have been completed before the end of term.
The Administration conceived, awarded the contract and commenced the construction of another major spine road linking Garrison to East-West Road (Garrison-Trans-Amadi-Oginigba-Woji-Elelenwo) with an interchange at Garrison, three bridges at Waja River, Oginigba River, Woji River and underpass at Oginigba (near the Zoological Garden. The execution of the road project is phased.
The Woji section had attained a level of completion since 2014 that allows for reasonably unimpeded use by commuters. Work continued at the Trans-Amadi section before the end of the term. Within the same Trans-Amadi axis, the Amaechi Administration conceived, awarded the contracts and substantially constructed the Abuloma-Woji Road and the Woji-Akpajo Road. The objective of this road is to take traffic to or from Eleme axis (Akwa Ibom) away from Aba Road.
The Administration also conceived, awarded the contract and commenced the reconstruction of the Rumuepirikom – Rumuolumeni Road; the Elioparanwo Road; the Igwuruta-Eneka-Rumuokwurusi Road as dualized roads. The Administration reconstructed the Ikwerre Road from Education Bus Stop to Agip Roundabout. To provide relief to Ikwerre Road for commuters from Rukpokwu, Iguruta, International Airport, and the Administration reconstructed the G.U. Ake Road linking Aba Road to Ikwerre Road close to Rukpokwu. The Amaechi Administration also conceived and awarded the contracts for the dualization and reconstruction of the Old Aba Road (Rumuogba) – Woji Road and Oil-Mill –Elelenwo-Akpajo Road (the Old Refinery Road.)
In summary, Amaechi gave significant attention to the development of good roads in Rivers State on the understanding of its many benefits to the socio-economic wellbeing of the State. The Amaechi administration left a number of nearly completed roads that now serve as low hanging fruits for the new administration. What is required is for the present government to build on the excellent foundation laid. Those who are resorting to cheap muck-raking rather than face their work are only wasting their time and that of the good people of Rivers State.
Giadom is the immediate past Commissioner of Works in Rivers State