Saturday, May 5, 2018

Why we use local contractors in road construction — Akwa Ibom Works Commissioner

The state government has resorted to using local contractors in construction of roads across the state, how durable are the roads constructed by these local contractors? 100 per cent durable I will say. We know that a Federal Government agency has been doing road below our expected standards and I confronted them and advised them to raise the standards. Therefore, I will not do what I have earlier protested against. The roads we do will last between 20 – 25 years minimum. 

They are done very well. The major reasons roads don’t last in this tropical rain forest belt is because of lack of side drainage. Under Governor Udom Emmanuel, even the roads in rural areas have drains on both sides. After every rainfall, there should be a process of the rain water going through the drainage channels to outfall drains for water to discharge. 

We are doing quality jobs and that is why we can confront any agency doing jobs below expectation here. One good thing today is that when Emmanuel goes for campaign in every community to scout for votes, he will have projects to show the people in each community. He is a promise keeper. 

I hope you people are aware that the Ring Road 2 is under construction and will help access from Udo Udoma to Abak road to further ease traffic and that work will soon commence on Ring Road 3 which will take people off Airport Road straight to Nwaniba and Le Meridien Hotel. You wouldn’t need to come into the main city anymore. 

There is every hope that Ring Road 4 will also come on stream soon. What informed the government’s decision to patronise local contractors? Yes, I am proud to say it, because I have come to realise that materials like red earth, stone base, asphalt and equipment used for road construction are the same. 

Anybody can bring in a white man if he so desires. I came and saw that indigenous contractors were discriminated against and the Governor said we should use them and prove a point. He started with smaller jobs and many jobs given to them were done very well. 

All they want is, give them the job, the resources and free hand to work. For the indigenous contractors in Akwa Ibom, they have performed very well because the Governor gave them the enabling environment to do their job.

 The truth is that all the machines used in construction are globally standardised equipment, while other materials used are sourced from our communities here. In fact, between 95-98 per cent of the entire work force of the so- called foreign multi-national firms are our people. Go to the big construction firms, white men are the project managers and the rest of the people on the project are our people. 

So, this idea of discriminating against the indigenous contractors does not go down well with me. About 12 of the roads we recently commissioned were all done by the indigenous contractors. One good thing about them is that they are committed to the state project. Sometimes they do raise money on their own when we don’t have funds to commence work on some of these projects. 

It is on record that notwithstanding all the foreign construction firms which have benefited from here, none has done corporate social responsibility projects for the people. But one of the indigenous contractors, Hensek Engineering Services headed by Engr. Uwem Okoko, who did the 4.6km Nung Ukim Road, chose over 200 youths after working in their community for empowerment with various sums of money. He gave the community a Town Hall, borehole projects and generators.

 Today, the community is more like a city than a rural area. The first CRS done by a construction firm here is done by indigenous contractor. Thus, I will personally like to patronise them, to discourage capital flight and have them re-invest their profits into our communities to help government develop the state. 

You said good roads attract industrialisation and you have done that across the state, but the Governor’s country home is the major beneficiary of most of the new industries coming to the state. Why? First and foremost, I want to tell you that Onna Council Area where the Governor hails from so far has the least of the newly constructed roads across the state. The bulk of the new roads closest to Onna Council Area which criss-cross the governor’s community is in the neighboring Mkpat Enin Local Government Area. You see, one of the things we need to understand in life sometimes is that if a person is violent; he may not be confronted, but will be avoided. 

There is this mistake in our communities that when they see strangers, they will start to make unnecessary demands. If an investor comes around and finds good road networks in different local government areas, what he considers next is conducive environment, where he can do his business without interference. Secondly, do they have elders and stakeholders who can talk and the youths will listen?. Onna is one community that has given investors free hand to do their businesses without hassles and has shown great hospitality and understanding to them. 

Governor Emmanuel has no hand in their choice of where to cite their investment. If automobile plant cited at Itu Council Area is up and working, is it in Onna or the ceramics industries which is almost at the stage of revival, is it in his home town? How about the Peacock Paints factory abandoned for years which the Governor reactivated, which is in Etinan? The Governor should be encouraged to go look for more investors. The truth remains that a private investor will always look for where his investment is secure. Anyone with the fear of youth uprising without elders to curtail their actions would unlikely go to that community.

 I urge other communities to put their acts together and benefit from these private investors. Let me tell you something, the Governor knowing very well that someday the crude oil we depend on may dry up and leave us stranded, took time and found a global market for coconut with willing investment partners.

By Harris-Okon Emmanuel Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-Eyen in this interview explains some issues surrounding the activities of the state government in the past few years with regard to why the state government is patronising local contractors in road construction and elimination of middlemen in the payment of compensation to property owners, among others. Excerpts.




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