Communities Groan Over Deplorable Road Abandon By AfDB, C’River Govt

Communities Groan Over Deplorable Road Abandon By AfDB, C’River Govt

Cross River State Government and African Development Bank (AfDB) jointly awarded the Yahe-Wanokom-Wanikade-Benue border road for construction under the Cross River Rural Access and Mobility Project, CR-RAMP, the project remains abandoned, while the supposed beneficiaries continue to lament deaths, loss of livelihoods and increasing poverty due to the deplorable state of the road.

 CYRIL OGAR writes on the plights of the affected communities:

Road cutting across North Ukelle in Yala Local Government Area in Cross River State which on a free flow drive takes 49-minutes journey on the 30.3 km road from Yahe Junction, Yahe Township to Wanikade in North Ukelle is a hellish experience. Not just because the fare is outrageous, but due to the attendant ill health that communities along the corridor of the abandoned road are exposed to.

The deplorable state of Yahe-Wanokom-Wanikade-Benue border road has become a perpetual source of sorrow to residents of the affected communities, including Ebo, Okpodon, Ezekwe, Igede, Wanokom, Wanikade, and Wanehim. Smallholder farmers and traders in these communities say the road has affected their livelihoods.

They find it almost impossible to take their farm produce and goods to markets in neighbouring communities. Access to markets outside the state, including the neighbouring Benue and Ebonyi states, especially in the rainy season, has become a daydream for them.

In the rainy season, the road becomes completely non-motorable. Many parts of the road have been cut off by gully erosion, making it difficult for vehicles to ply the route even in the dry season. While trying to maneuver the road, motorists are often stuck in potholes, the majority of which have become deep like pits.

Lorry drivers who regularly ply the Yahe-Wanokom-Benue border route. Narrating their ordeal during their trips to the communities, Eric said he often spent a minimum of N20,000 repairing his truck each time it developed faults after plying the road.

“For instance, I’m changing a broken spring at N12,000; two new hangers at N2,000 per one and then workmanship N4,000, making everything N20,000, which is the lowest I often spend.”

Eric, who said he only drove through the road to markets in the communities in the rainy season with his tipper truck, lamented how miscreants blocked the road and extorted truck drivers N1,000 to N1,500 every market day.

Also speaking, Gabriel Obok, who owns a provision store at Wanikade market, where he sells different brands of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, said his business had taken a hit.

“A trip that ought to take me 90 minutes from Wanikade to Abakaliki often takes the whole day due to the bad state of the road.”

In the same vein, Ugede lamented that the agrarian communities along the road often grappled with food wastage due to poor road networks to the markets.

Although some transporters make brisk business, charging exorbitant fees due to the nature of the road, the consequences for them far outweighed the gain. Christian Samson, a motorcyclist in the area, said he charged about N2,500 during the dry season and as high as N5,000 for a single passenger without luggage when it was the rainy season. Samson lamented that this had led to quick wear and tear of automobiles and increase in the prices of food and other commodities in the area.

A farmer cum teacher Veronica Oben, who lives in Wanihem community, narrated the effects of the abandoned road on her farming business and the education in her community.

The most painful part is that I buy farm inputs, especially herbicides and seedlings at a high price, but after harvest, I do not make much gain because it is always difficult to take them to markets outside my community due to the condition of the road.

Oben, who also teaches at Seat of Wisdom School, Wanikade, further lamented that the bad state of the road had adversely affected education in Wanihem community and other communities along Yahe-Benue border route.

According to her, no teacher transferred from other places to Wanihem, Wanikade would accepted to stay and work in the affected communities.

Most public schools in the community are empty. Some have only headmasters, principals and few indigenous teachers recruited within the community. As the road gets worse, life becomes more miserable.

Tales of deaths, accidents and near misses

The poor state of the road has added to the statistics of preventable deaths in most communities along the corridor.

Out of 100 recorde d deaths annually, 95 could be attributed to the bad state of the road. He said it was often difficult to access healthcare in neighboring communities when emergency needs arose. “For one to get proper healthcare services, the person has to go to Ogoja. It can take about three hours during the dry season and six hours when it’s the rainy season.

In recent, three persons from Wanokom died on the road in January this year when they were being rushed to hospital at Yahe.

Wanokom to Yahe is about 23 minutes by bike but it took three hours to get to hospital. “We experienced hell before we reached the hospital. We tried using a car, but the car got stuck on the road. We used a bike but there was a delay on the road and before we reached the hospital, the woman had fainted three times. She almost died on our way to the hospital but it is only God who knows how he saved her that day,” she recounted.

Awarded in 2011 but abandoned

The contract for the Yahe-Wanokom-Wanikade-Benue border road was first advertised in December 2010 and awarded on May 18, 2011, under the Cross River Rural Access and Mobility Project, CR-RAMP, to Emamed Nigeria Limited, ENL, at the sum of N792.863 million by the African Development Bank Group. The project, pegged at 37.5km, was designed to be implemented through a special arrangement by the State Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) under the supervision of the Cross River State Ministry of Works.

Contract details

Weeks after the contractor moved to site and tarred less than 5km of the 37.5km road, work ceased. Since then, the project has remained abandoned and communal efforts to get the contractor to return to site have proved abortive.

Evidence from worn out tarmacs observed by AljazirahNigeria showed that Emamed Nigeria Limited, ENL, only constructed the road from Yahe to a point not even to Ebo, the neighbouring community.

The CR-RAMP is a pro-poor project meant to address the challenges of rural roads in the state jointly financed by the African Development Bank (AFDB) and the Cross River State government, with each accounting for 34.52 and 65.48  per cent of the total cost of civil works respectively.

Emamed Nigeria Limited was paid in full

Contrary to the claim by the staff member of Emamed Nigeria Limited, Adeyemi Gabriel, that the ENL abandoned Yahe-Wanokom-Wanikade-Benue border road project because government refused to pay, documents and details obtained from the African Development Bank Group revealed that it released the complete contract amount, N792.863 million, to the contractor.

A sum of N777.205 million was first allocated for the project. However, financial review and amendment were done and the sum of N15.657 million was added to the allocated funds, bringing the total contract funds to N792.863 million.

The AFDB released the last tranche, N80 million of the contract funds, to Emamed Nigeria Limited on April 8, 2016.

Yahe-Wanokom-Wanikade-Benue border road was part of Lot 8, CR-RAMP/lot 8/2010/PRO/CW/vol.1, which included two other roads making a total length of 63.55km (37.5 km +24.85km +1.2km),” an official of the AfDB said.

The bank also confirmed that funds were released directly to the contractor based on monthly or periodic certificates for works completed and validated by the supervision consultants before submission to the bank.

According to AfDB, a total of 406.7km, equivalent to 85 per cent of a total planned length of 477.5 km of CR-RAMP, were completed to final pavement level before the project was closed in 2016.

However, it is contradicting how AFDB certified and paid Emamed Nigeria Limited in full for an abandoned project. Furthermore, the abandoned 37.5km Yahe-Wanokom-Wanikade-Benue border road is the evidence to disprove AfDB’s claim that 406.7km of the total 477.5km of CR-RAMP were completed.

The fact that Emamed Nigeria Limited received full payment for the project, therefore, means that AfDB included the abandoned Yahe-Wanokom-Wanikade-Benue border road project in its 85 per cent completed projects.

In 2017, Governor Ben Ayade re-awarded Yahe-Wanokom-Wanikade-Benue border road to Sydney Construction Nigeria Limited at the sum of N3.8 billion.

Unlike Emamed Nigeria Limited, which constructed a few kilometres before abandoning the project, Sydney Construction Nigeria Limited never started work on the road.

Residents of communities along the Cross River–Benue border road said they had become weary of government’s promises on the road.

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