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Once upon a dream in Anambra

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By Juliana Adenike

When one of the largest airports in Nigeria – Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport – successfully concluded its maiden test flights on April 30, 2021, the feat was  described as “a dream come true.” The dream of building an airport in Anambra conceived 30 years ago was faithfully fulfilled by a man with a resolute and clear ambition.

A visit to the four major airports in Nigeria and other state airports will make you conclude that the Anambra airport is indeed a treasure bestowed upon the people. It is a symbol of a man, who stood against all odds. Having received several cautions, discouragements and backlash from people, Governor Obiano knew this was a project that had to be accomplished. Building the airport was considered a dream too big to accomplish, a mountain too great to climb, a river too deep to swim.

Yet, as though living up to his Akpokuedike title, Obiano arose like a warrior and delivered his people when they most needed him. By so doing, he has gone beyond where all his predecessors dared.

Anyone who had an opportunity to look at the Anambra airport project between 2017 and 2018 would have predicted it would fail. However, by 2019, Obiano resolved that the project must go on and mobilised the necessary financial and technical capacity.

Thanks to the dedication and hard work of many men and women, who walked along the governor’s vision, the airport’s construction officially began in January 2020. Incidentally, the Coronavirus Disease lockdown and restrictions of that year became a blessing in disguise, as the governor effectively quarantined men and materials at the airport site in Umueri, such that they worked night and day for practically15 months without interruption.

Obiano’s zeal and commitment to finishing what he started were attested to by those who rode with him. He brought comfort amid anxiety, assurance amid uncertainty, and gave no one any justification at all for feeling worn out.

What makes Anambra airport tick?

For the sake of clarity, it is crucial that we understand what makes a man like Obiano a great leader. Prior to Obiano’s administration, two administrations had started the project and subsequently passed the baton down the line, but Obiano carried it to completion. Four parcels of land – Parcel A,, Parcel B, Parcel C and Parcel D – were initially acquired for the airport site under the administrations of Governor Chris Ngige and Governor Peter Obi. It was Obiano that paid the final settlement for the acquisition of the balance of Parcel B, the land on which most of the airport was built, in two instalments for Parcel B. Nine contractors and nine service providers tirelessly worked together to build the airport.

The first plane that landed at the airport on April 30, 2021 was a Boeing 737 from Chief Allen Onyema’s Air Peace fleet. Alighting from the plane, Onyema, a Nigerian lawyer and entrepreneur from Anambra, was moved to tears as he embraced Governor Obiano on the tarmac. The significance of that moment was not lost on the thousands of Ndi Anambra gathered around the plane. Here was the owner of the largest airline in the country having the opportunity to fly his plane to his home state for the first time ever.

The Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport is in Category 4F, meaning that an Airbus A380 aircraft can land comfortably in it. The runway is the second longest in Nigeria with a length of 3.7km and an end safety area of one kilometre at both ends, a width of 60m and strip of 440m on either side.

It is equipped with Instrument Landing System, which ensures that aircraft are vertically and horizontally aligned with the runway while landing. With two taxiways, the airport’s apron measures 300m by 200m – enough to accommodate eight Boeing 747 aircraft at the same time – and is built on a rigid reinforced concrete pavement measuring 5560mm in thickness.

The apron is built to repel water. So, even when it rains, water runs off the surface easily. The concrete control tower, which stands at 34.5m (height of an 11-storey building), the tallest in Nigeria, has nine suspended floors and is equipped with a fireproof elevator and staircase. It is also equipped with biometric security doors. Every room in the tower, and indeed the entire airport, is equipped with a water sprinkler.

The airport has two access roads. The first and significant airport road measures about 5.7km and connects the Onitsha–Enugu expressway. It is a dual carriageway road with a bridge on either side. The road has drainage channels on both sides and is clearly marked and fitted with streetlights.

The airport has a four-storey terminal building with shops and a car park that can accommodate 750 vehicles.

Little wonder that thousands of elated Anambra people gathered at Umueri that fateful Friday, April 30, 2021 to witness the successful test-landing of four aircraft at the airport. Two of these aircraft were commercial planes, belonging to Air Peace. The other two were private jets, one of which brought Chief Ernest Obiejesi and his friends while the other brought Prince, Ike Chioke and his wife among other guests.

It was a memorable day, as history was made. According to the Commissioner for Works, Marcel Ifediofor, it was indeed a dream come true, while highlighting the efforts put into the project.

His words, “It is a credit to all of us, but the major credit goes to Governor Willie Obiano for his support, morally and financially, to make sure we got to this stage.”

His address included how contractors and service providers worked on the project, day and night, for 15 months unscathed, as well as how 500 machines and over 50 trucks were utilised and not a single accident was recorded.

“It is wonderful because safety is number one. Any contractor that takes safety seriously is a good contractor. This is really a dream come true because instead of going elsewhere to clear goods, we now have the facilities at our backyard,” he added.

Like every true leader, Obiano, in his eloquence, explained why the Anambra airport project was indeed worthy of note.

“The most interesting thing about this airport is that we did not borrow a kobo to build it. This, in itself, is a record in leadership. Our dream of an airport started almost 30 years ago when the government of Anambra acquired 530 hectares of land in Oba, Idemili South Local Council, with the intention of building an airport, but that never materialised. That dream is fulfilled today.

“We began the airport to expand the frontiers of excellence in Anambra seven years ago. We announced that our mission was to make Anambra the first choice in investment destination and a hub for economic and commercial activities,” he said.

Attesting to the brainchild, Onyema acknowledged how Anambra airport was one of the fastest airports to be approved by the Federal Government based solely on the quality of work done.

“What we have is the widest runway ever in Nigeria and it can land an Airbus 380, which is the largest aircraft. This is the first time an airline in Nigeria did a test-run with Boeing 737,” he also said.

The Anambra airport serves as a reminder that we should not let criticism divert our attention from the success that comes from perseverance. The fact that the airport saw 3,865 people land and take off on 142 flights in the first month, after it was opened, is eloquent proof of its success.

A representative of Ndi Anambra, Obiano understood his assignment, which made his critics, enemies and naysayers finally come to understand that “Okiriki ka a na-agba ukwu ose; a dighi ari ya ẹnu.

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FALLACIOUS PLEA BARGAIN: Why NBA must sanction George Ogara, Ejike Obumneme

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By Charles Nworie

It is no longer news that the PDP governorship candidate in Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah, dragged the APC deputy governorship candidate in Enugu State, Barr. George Ogara, and another lawyer, Mr. Ejike Obumneme, before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) for flagrant breach of the Legal Practitioners Rules of Professional Conducts 2007.

It is a well-known fact that many unscrupulous lawyers take advantage of a highly challenged system to file all manners of lawsuits and manipulate the judicial system to the advantage of their equally crooked clients.

It is against this backdrop that it becomes imperative to x-ray Mbah’s decision to seek actions by the LPDC to help rid the noble legal profession of bad eggs like Ogara and Obumneme, to preserve the sanctity of the profession and serve as deterrent to their likes.

Crux of the Matter: A Willful Misrepresentation of Facts to Mislead the Court and Destroy Another

On 7 December 2022, Ejike Obumneme Esq. filed a suit in the Federal High Court Abuja on behalf of Felix Ugwu, Jonathan Ndubuisi, Ikechukwu Eze, Agbachi Ude, Chris Ugwu and Emeka Aroh, in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2257/2022 seeking a declaration that by the express provisions of Section 182(1)(e) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the 1st defendant in the said suit (Dr. Peter Mbah) is ineligible to contest any election to the office of Governor of a State within a period of less than ten years from 7th day of July 2015. The suit alleged that Peter Mbah and the 2nd defendant (Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani) made a charge or plea-bargains and a plea of guilty was entered on behalf of them in Charge No. FHC/L/09C/2007 by the Federal High Court on July 7, 2015.

Consequently, they claimed that Peter Mbah became a convict as a result. The litigants further alleged that Justice M.N Yunusa of the Federal High Court found Peter Mbah guilty in the said Charge No. FHC/L/09C/2007 and imposed sentence of forfeiture of assets on him. The lawsuit equally alleged that the Federal High Court found Peter Mbah and the 2nd defendant guilty of money laundering offences in Charge Nos. FHC/L/09C/2007 and FHC/L/230C/2007.

However, the allegations against Peter Mbah as contained in the lawsuit filed by Ejike Obumneme Esq. on behalf of the plaintiffs were to Mr. Obumneme’s knowledge false and malicious, as Peter Mbah never entered into any charge or plea bargain howsoever in Charge No. FHC/L/09C/2007.

On the contrary, Mbah had been discharged from the said charge about two clear years before the alleged charge or plea bargain of July 7, 2015. Following an application by the EFCC through its counsel, Kevin Uzozie, in Charge No. FHC/L/09C/2007 (Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Nnamani Chimaroke & 11 Ors.), Justice M.N. Yunusa of the Federal High Court delivered a ruling on March 7, 2013 and discharged Mr. Peter Mbah and two other accused persons from the charge before the commencement of the trial.

So, clearly, the allegation as contained in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2257/2022 that a charge/plea bargain was made on behalf of Peter Mbah and a plea of guilty entered for him by Justice M.N Yunusa on July 7, 2015 was to Mr. Obumneme’s knowledge false, contrived and intended to mislead the court to disqualify Mr. Peter Mbah from the gubernatorial race, which he is running on the platform of the PDP. But as a lawyer, Mr. Obumneme undoubtedly knows or ought to reasonably know that Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2257/2022, which he filed on behalf of the litigants, is intended to maliciously injure and destroy Mr. Mbah’s political ambition and his reputation as a renowned entrepreneur because there is no way someone, whose name was struck out of a charge sheet at the instance of the prosecutor in 2013 would have become a party to any plea bargain two years later in 2015 as alleged.

Interestingly, the 1st Plaintiff in the controversial lawsuit (Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2257/2022), Mr. Felix Ugwu deposed at paragraph 13(c) of the affidavit in support of the originating summons, that George Ogara, who is a legal practitioner and deputy governorship candidate of APC in Enugu gave him the false facts at the latter’s office in Enugu on October 10, 2022. Yet, those facts were to Ogara’s knowledge false and malicious since Peter Mbah had been discharged from the said suit two years before the alleged plea bargain.

Since George Ogara is the deputy gubernatorial candidate of the APC party in Enugu State for the 2023 election, does anyone need the gift of clairvoyance to know that he deliberately and deviously cooked up the stories against the person of Peter Mbah in furtherance of his political ambitions?

SPECIFIC RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT 2007 VIOLATED

Every trade has its rules of professional conduct to protect the society from any abuse and also preserve the reputation of the profession, and the legal profession is not left out. In fact, it is one of the professions that have strictly applied their rules. Some lawyers have been disbarred, while some Senior Advocates of Nigeria have been stripped of that privilege. In this instance, Obumneme, who relied on the “facts” Ogara provided has clearly breached Rules 1, 15, 24, and 32 of the Rules of Professional Conduct 2007 as hereunder abridged. Ogara, on his part, urinated on Rule 1 of “The Rules of Professional Conduct 2007”.

*General Responsibility of a Lawyer:*

Rule 1: A Lawyer shall uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the cause of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner.

*Representing Client within the Bounds of Law:*

15(2) In his representation of his client, a lawyer shall-

(a) Keep strictly within the law notwithstanding any contrary instruction by his client and, if the client insists on a breach of the law, the lawyer shall withdraw his service;

(b) not file a suit, assert a position, conduct a defence, delay a trial, or take over action on behalf of his client when he or ought reasonably to know that such action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another;

(c) not knowingly advance a claim or defence that is unwarranted under existing law, but he may advance such claim or defence if it can be supported by argument in good faith for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law;

(g) not knowingly make a false statement of law or fact;

(h) not counsel or assist his client in conduct that the Lawyer knows to be illegal or fraudulent.

*Responsibility for Litigation:*

24(3) A lawyer shall not conduct a civil case or make defence in a civil case when he knows or ought reasonably to know that it is intended merely to harass or to injure the opposite party or to work oppression or wrong.

*Candid and Fair Dealing:*

32(1) In appearing in his professional capacity before a Court or Tribunal, a lawyer shall not deal with the Court otherwise than candidly and fairly; or

(j) promote a case which to his knowledge is false; or

22(k) in any other way do or perform any act which may obviously amount to an abuse of the process of the court or which is dishonourable and unworthy of an officer of the law charged, as a lawyer, with the duty of aiding in the administration of justice.

So, clearly, by filing a lawsuit, which he knew its intent is anything other than pursuit of justice; by joining in the creation and use of a palpably false evidence as contained in the affidavit in support of the originating summons in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2257/2022; by filing a lawsuit fraught with malicious, false and misleading information in a desperate move to mislead the court and destroy Peter Mbah’s political ambition and his standing as an entrepreneur, it is correct to conclude that Ejike Obumneme, a lawyer called to serve in the temple of justice, has desecrated that hallowed temple and also acted in a most malicious, dishonorable and devious manner unworthy of an officer of the law charged with the duty of aiding the administration of justice? Likewise, Ogara has behaved in a manner that shames his age and the noble legal profession.

According to the Holy Scriptures, unless judgment against an evil work is executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men will be fully set in them to do evil. The LPDC should therefore act expeditiously on these petitions to save the nation’s democracy and the legal profession. Let the hammer fall, and let it fall hard too.

Nworie writes from Enugu.

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Why Buhari is afraid of Buhari’s shadows

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President Muhammadu Buhari

The beginning of a thing is not as interesting as its end. All things being equal, last week’s Christmas message would be the last from…

By Tunde Asaju

The beginning of a thing is not as interesting as its end. All things being equal, last week’s Christmas message would be the last from Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s president. This last lap, as it should be, is stocktaking time and the president appeared to have found the meaning of change in the dictionary.

The president seems ready to engage with the nation on the eve of his departure. While he claims to have done his best, he admits that his best might not have been good enough. Rather than talk to Western media, he has granted an interview to a national newspaper, the first in a long while!

Obviously Buhari is afraid of the shadows of his legacy. He says he is committed to handing over to whomever Nigerians chose as their next leader as if he has a choice.

He is silent on the wanton arson targeting electoral offices nationwide. With seven deadly attacks in four months and over 40 so far, there would not be free, fair or credible elections if INEC is incapacitated. Under normal circumstances, INEC has had logistic trouble conducting elections. The problem is doubled with the current attacks.

Buhari wants to hand over to someone that would continue with his legacy. That assertion in itself is filled with double entendre. What legacy is Buhari talking about? A legacy of the Second Niger Bridge is worthy of continuation. It is a good one even when there is no logic in partially opening a completed bridge other than the Nigerian habit of commissioning projects. In commissioning projects, it so often happens that the ceremony costs enough to start a new one. A policy of once completed, start using would curb the gravy train.

The Abuja-Kaduna rail line has reopened for business. Nigerians deserve a judicial enquiry into how the project took off without the security aspect of the masterplan.

Did those who signed the final contract put personal pecuniary interest over the security of users? How could future projects avoid such lacuna? Nigerians deserve to know how its sovereignty was surrendered to bandits who killed several citizens, captured, imprisoned and tortured others without repercussion. The Americans would have sworn that the culprits would never escape justice – what is Nigeria’s attitude?

A substantial part of the Buhari legacy is a plethora of policy somersaults. Its fiscal monetary policy is nothing to write home about. Like a child presiding over a game of thrones, Buhari closed borders without consultation and reopened them without giving account. What did Nigeria gain or lose from that policy?

As things stand, there are many legacies of the Buhari administration that Nigerians would not want to stay with him to his last day. Under Buhari, the Nigerian economy is in shambles. Anybody promising to continue the legacy as is, would be an enemy of the nation. Even for the locust years of his predecessor, the Nigerian currency has never suffered such depreciation as it suffered under Buhari. Yet, rather than look at the underlying reasons, the Buhari regime opted to redenominate, repaint and reprint the naira at a cost worth investing in reasonable ventures.

We should not go to the field of education, where the Buhari legacy is bound to keep Nigeria behind its peers for decades to come. Incessant ASUU strikes due to inconsideration by those in power would do a number on Nigeria’s education for decades.

Buhari claimed to have spent every loan or palliative on poverty eradication, but the country’s bureau of statistics says 133 million or 63 per cent of the population are in poverty with rates of poverty as high as 91 per cent in places like Sokoto State. If majority of Nigerians live in rural areas, 70 per cent of them are poor by the report.

In the field of agriculture, the Buhari regime has lived on lies and subterfuge. Since rice became the staple of most Nigerian families, Buhari has banned, unbanned and resorted to dropping the ball on rice importation. All the while, Buhari was commissioning fake granaries and bogus silos while citizens buy rice at insanely high prices.

If a nation incapable of defending itself against internal strife is a failed state, then Buhari has presided on one. From the technical defeat of Boko Haram to the nepotistic mismanagement of its war on terror, Buhari failed on his promise to rid the nation of insurgency within three months. Instead, he opted for a technical defeat that has left many guessing.

When Buhari was sworn in, IPOB was a paper threat to life and living in the south-eastern part of the country. Today it and its allies are the de jure authority there determining how many days make a work-week and shutting down business as they please sans challenge.

Elected governments in this area barely exert authority beyond their state capitals all these in spite of the capture of Nnamdi Kanu, the self-styled IPOB leader. In that part of the country, federal agents work in fear for their own lives. This is not a legacy worthy of being written on the political epitaph of a retired general.

Buhari could claim to have inherited the trouble in the East. His weakness in negotiating with terrorists rather than people with genuine grievances has emboldened the mushrooming of ethnic militia now extending authority and sphere of influence.

We might need someone who has the president’s right ears to inform him that there is a burgeoning group calling itself in the West agitating for a separate Yoruba Nation. These people have flags and anthems and are openly recruiting members.

At this rate, every village would need to stand-alone. These are the reasons why mathematical soothsayers are saying that if care is not taken, Buhari might be the last president of a nominal Nigeria.

This is a legacy of weakness not worth bequeathing to an inheritor of power. It is a legacy not worth pinning on the epaulet of a general with a master’s degree in strategy, except of course the strategy is to leave it to the successor to tackle.

Need we say that under Buhari, crimes hardly known have become common problems for Nigerians? Violence against women and the elderly has increased, same with ritual killings. Religious bigotry has taken roots and insecurity has made Nigeria a no-go-area for citizens as well as foreigners working or visiting.

Buhari campaigned on the legacy of an anti-corruption czar; he is leaving the space worse than he met it. Apart from the corruption of nepotism that has rendered the state barely functional, corruption has multiplied. Appointments not based on merit have weakened the anti-corruption organs that Buhari inherited.

His inability to discipline errant officers, his general lack of interest in governance has made corruption grow into an untamed monster under his watch. His anti-corruption war is only efficient where his interests are threatened.

There is so much to say about legacies for which most Nigerians would not wait to see this president go; not because they know that something radically different is in the offing, but just for the hope that whatever comes after this could be better.

Daily Trust

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The Lies About Ekweremadu and South East Roads

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Ekweremadu returns to court after 42 days in detention

By Uche Anichukwu

Among Ndigbo, we say, “Onwu gbuo okorobia, ewere asiri jee akwa ya”, – meaning: when sudden death befalls an able-bodied young man, many fallacious stories are told at his funeral. Indeed many tales have been told since the unfortunate fate that befell former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and his family in London.

Only a few days ago, one Houston-based critic vomited a whole lot about Ekweremadu with triumphal gusto and air of finality. Among others, he wrote: “I had always told the senator in his face and written extensively on how he used his time in the Senate to collude with contractors to loot the funds budgeted for several public projects in Igbo land. These, of course, include Enugu/Onitsha, Enugu/Port-Harcourt, and Oji-River/Awgu roads, which have continued to claim many innocent lives. A simple scan of the internet on my name alongside Ekweremadu will show more, including a library, water, and road projects that were looted in my hometown of Ugbo, Enugu State”.

He also added: “One of the perceived prophesies is that I never ceased to tutor the senator on the genius of the adage: ‘A tree does not make a forest.’… Senator Ike Ekweremadu made sure that none of his political associates from his area could rise or shine”.

The irony of it all is that this man’s community, Ugbo, in Awgu LGA, is one of the greatest beneficiaries of Ekweremadu’s sojourn in the Senate, be it in terms of infrastructural projects or human capital development, regular employments, and political empowerment. Beside the asphalt road network across the length and breath of the hilly community, the water projects, electricity etc., which Ekweremadu attracted to Ugbo, the slanderer’s kinsman and political scion of Ekweremadu, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, rose from being Ekweremadu’s Special Adviser to becoming a three-term Member of the House of Representatives and incumbent Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. This has had a multiplier effect in development projects, employments, etc. in Ugbo in particular, and Enugu West, Enugu State and the South East in general. Ekweremadu also facilitated the appointment of the critic’s elder brother, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, into federal boards and subsequently as Special Adviser to Deputy President of the Senate. In appreciation for all these, the three autonomous communities of Ugbo came together to confer a chieftaincy title of Onwa na-etiri (Moon that shines for all) of Ugbo on Ekweremadu in 2011.

Instructively, although this senseless falsehood that funds voted for the reconstruction of South East roads were diverted by Ekweremadu into buying properties formed the core of the mischievous petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2016 (in a bid to exploit the adverse relationship between the executive and legislature following Ekweremadu’s emergence as presiding officer from opposition and Dr. Bukola Saraki’s emergence without the blessings of the “powers that be”, EFCC has not told anyone that it traced such funds to Ekweremadu after six years of investigating him. The asset forfeiture lawsuit is based on EFCC’s claim that Ekweremadu’s properties are above his “legitimate income” as a former Local Government Council Chairman, Chief of Staff at Enugu Government House, Secretary to Enugu State Government, five-term Senator, three-term Deputy President of the Senate, former Deputy Speaker and Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament as well as a legal practitioner.

Absurd and meretricious as this sounds, I will not go into it since it is subjudice. However, it suffices to observe that right-thinking Nigerians have continued to flay this strange arrangement where a Nigerian public officer is being called to prove his innocence (from his overseas detention) over his alleged assets contrary to the well-held dictum and practice that he who alleges, proves. This judicial ambush tells an entire story on its own. It is reminiscent of the July 24, 2018 siege when the EFCC led hosts of security agents to storm Ekweremadu’s official residence at about 4am without previous invitation as though they came for Osama bin Laden. At the same material time, battalions of security agents already laid siege to Dr. Saraki’s residence during the failed attempt to impeach them illegally.

Elementary knowledge of government tells us that the legislature makes laws, including the Appropriation Acts, while the executive implements them. As it were, Ekweremadu has never been a governor, minister, and director-general of any federal or state government agency. He has not been in a position to administer public funds, except as a local government council chairman between 1997 and 1998 when he was voted the best council chairman at the time.

A striking irony in the whole fallacy of Ekweremadu’s culpability for the state of South East roads is that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo could not reconstruct the Lagos-Ibadan road in the eight years that he was President, and the same goes for Abeokuta road.

I travelled by road from Port Harcourt to Yenogoa in November 2020. Obviously, Goodluck Jonathan could not fix the single most important road in the Niger Delta, the East-West road, for the little over five years he was president. I equally travelled from Yenegoa to Otuoke during that trip. It was not paved with gold. In July 2021, Niger Delta youths barricaded the East-West road last year to protest the state of that road.

Just like the Enugu-Onitsha road, travelling on Abuja-Minna Road or Bida-Minna Road is never a pleasant experience. In 2019 and again in 2020, the people of Niger State staged protests, blocking Abuja-Minna road for hours to register their displeasure. In September 2021, truck drivers barricaded the Bida-Mokwa-Kwara road in protest. Malam Abdullahi Mohammed, a tanker driver, lamented to the News Agency of Nigeria, saying, “The Bida/Lapai/Lambata road is completely bad. We sleep there for two or three days before getting to our destinations”. Let us bear in mind that Niger State produced two military Heads of State.

Furthermore, right from the days of Yar’Adua to President Buhari administration, the Kano-Katsina road is still work in progress.

Yet these are roads in the areas that have produced Nigerian Heads of State and I do not think they are pleased with the situation. It is therefore total ignorance or deliberate malice to argue that a lawmaker syphoned contract sums for South East roads when even successive CEOs (presidents) of Nigeria, who supposedly provided the funds, cannot boast of better roads in their regions and hometowns.

As could be seen, the poor state of our roads is a national and systemic problem not peculiar to any region. The root cause is our wrong road funding and governance models. Instead of concessioning our roads to the private sector, we are still depending on annual budgets, which are a far cry from reality and hardly released. When government announces award of a N10 billion road contract, for instance, it does not mean that N10 billion was released. Such funds are released to the Ministry in tranches and sparingly. Most times, completed parts fall apart before a new tranche is released. It is so bad that during budget defence in 2021, Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, called for embargo on new road contracts pending the funding and completion of ongoing projects.

He has underscored the challenges yet again in the ongoing budget defence at the National Assembly. He said: “The main challenge to highways development in the country remains inadequate funding. As at date, the government is committed to highway contractors to the tune of about N10.4trillion while a total of about N765billion are unpaid certificates for executed works.

“As at October 2022, the Ministry had a cumulative unpaid certificate in the sum of N765,017,139,752.92 for ongoing highway and bridge projects. Apart from the pressure of resources to pay, there is the inadequacy of annual budget provisions where N100 million or N200 million was provided for roads costing N20 billion or more”.

The truth is that the only roads guaranteed to succeed as of now are those captured under the Presidential Infrastructural Development Fund (PIDF) managed by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) because they do not depend on the unrealistic and yearly budget. They are notably the Lagos-Ibadan highway, the Abuja-Kano highway, and the Second Nigeria Bridge. By the way, it took the strategic thinking of Hon. Toby Okechukwu as the Chairman of the House Committee on Works in the 8th NASS and Ekweremadu to move the Second Niger Bridge from the stranded PPP arrangement with Julius Berger to the NSIA through the magnanimity of Fashola.

Besides funding, the initial serious flaw in the engineering design of the Enugu-Onitsha road by the Ministry of Works contributed to the delay in the reconstruction of that road. The built portions were collapsing such that even the contractors, RCC, were not willing to continue. The government had to either re-award it or redesign it. Ekweremadu and some other South East stakeholders preferred to have it redesigned than get an undurable road. In redesigning it, polymer, some level of filter (sand), cement, double binder (instead of the initial single binder), etc., were added. Anyone, who has plied the reconstructed portions would attest to the difference.

Apart from the usual funding challenge, the summary of the story of Oji-Achi-Mmaku-Awgu road, is that the Federal Government awarded it to a contractor that lacked the capacity for such a challenging topography. Unfortunately, successive Ministers of Works neglected to annul and rearward the contract despite recommendations by successive National Assembly Committees on Works after each oversight visit. Only Fashola could take that bold step in 2018 and it was awarded to SETRACO Nigeria after ten wasted years. The great work done on that road since then is there for the world to see.

By way of epilogue, although sacks of tales are taken to the funeral of an able-bodied man, the good thing is that it is not yet Ekweremadu’s funeral, by God’s grace. Those hastily composing a dirge, hurrying to bury a breathing man will have to cloth themselves in long, flowing gowns of patience because God is still on the throne. As Ekweremadu always says, the just shall be vindicated and the wicked will never go unpunished.

• Anichukwu is Media Adviser to Senator Ekweremadu

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