The Civil Liberties Organization(CLO) has called on the Federal Government to include the dilapidated Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene highway in the list of federal roads earnmarked for concessioning by the Federal ministry of works recently.
CLO chairman in Akwa Ibom, Mr Franklin Isong told correspondents in Uyo yesterday that the call has become imperative as the National Assembly has been unable to make adequate budgetary provision for the highway since the contract for its reconstruction was awarded.
Isong regretted that the road has become a subject of politics and a death trap wondering why federal roads in Akwa Ibom would be made to suffer such level of dilapidation and neglect even as the state has continued to contribute the highest amount to the Federation Account.
The chairman who lauded FG initiative to concession some federal highways to private concerns to boost their maintenance said urgent reconstruction of the highway would save commuters from hardship and boost the socio economic fortunes of Akwa Ibom and Cross River states.
“So we are appealing to the President to intervene in our federal roads. We don’t know why the Calabar-Itu-road has not captured in concessioning plan of the federal government.. But we are saying that whatever it takes it should be placed on the topmost priority of the federal government.” He said.
He decried the hardship been faced by commuters especially female traders who transport foodstuffs from northern Cross River to Akwa Ibom and other parts of the country in the past 25 years that the condition of the road deteriorated adding that such female traders are sometimes attacked and raped by hoodlums when lorries conveying their goods break down due to the condition of the road.
He also called on officials and federal appointees from the two states especially the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio to impress upon the FG to as a matter of urgency reconstruct the road rather than using it to play politics.
“We are calling on the Federal Government and our brothers who are in government to persuade the federal government to see reasons not to allow this project enter into politics.” The chairman stated.
Isong’s appeal is coming after the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang had in an interaction with correspondents in Uyo revealed that inadequate budgetary provisions was stalling the construction of the road while blaming officials and National Assembly members from both states of not doing enough to attract FG attention to the condition of the road, wondering why he should be left alone to lobby for fund to be appropriated for the highway.
“I struggled from 2015 and got the first N6 billion in 2015/2016 budget and when it was to be awarded, it was rehabilitation that was advertised to rehabilitate the road from Ikot Ekpene to Calabar, I said no.
“I took the budget to the Minister and Federal Bureau of Procurement. It was advertised in the a Federal Tenders Journal but this is not what was advertised in the budget. By the time I was able to overcome that fight, the budget had lapsed, the year had gone and the N6 billion was gone. I alone.
“I struggled in the following year to have N4.7 billion and the following year, I split the road into two because if I did not split the road into two, the amount I got in the budget would not have been able to do the initial mobilisation.
“Part of the road was awarded to Julius Berger because that was the money I got in that year from the budget, N4.7 billion was able to take for mobilisation as Julius Berger was paid that money, but it was not still enough for them to heartily mobilise.
“I later struggled two years after to have the other outstanding portion awarded at N50 billion to CCEC. I had N3.8 billion in the budget for that aspect, and I got another money for the Julius Berger aspect. Before we finished the documentation, the year has lapsed and that money has lapsed.” He explained.
He called on federal lawmakers and governors of both states to also take responsibility for the road as it remained vital to the economic and social development of the area adding that efforts are been made for alternative funding for the project.
“I want all the ten members of the House of Representatives from Akwa Ibom, the three senators from Akwa state and all the eight members of the House of Representatives from Cross River, and the three Senators from Cross Rover state to lift their hands to God and said I, as a Senator or member of the house of representative have contributed to get money and to get this road funded.
“Let the Governor of Cross River State and Akwa Ibom also left their hands and say this is what I have done. For the Governor of Cross River state, I want to say that he has made efforts with me to get funds for that road. But it is Akwa Ibom that has not.
“I have endeavoured and tried but I will not surrender. Yes, I said we are going to raise funds from the Sukus bond. We have some funds from the Sukus bond, it will be applied but part of the job bas been done in the Akwa ibom state section, no job has been done in the Cross River state section. Much of the Sukus fund will be applied to the Cross River state section of the road.
“Out of frustration, we are going to apply part of the funds of the NDDC which ought not to be ordinarily, to do the East West road and part of the Calabar-Itu road. So all hope is not lost. God will still help us to have funds from other sources to get this road done
“Let it not be a thing that the government or people use to blackmail a person. I can’t be blackmailed on that road but I will never surrender, I will never say it is not my job. It will always be my job so long as the Lord enables me.” Enang had said.