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HomeNewsGakem Road in Cross River Deteriorates After NDDC Fails to Pay Contractor

Gakem Road in Cross River Deteriorates After NDDC Fails to Pay Contractor

By Patrick Obia

Akrabah, Akwurinyin, and Abukpem are three of the thirteen political wards which make up Gakem in Bekwarra Local Government Area of Cross River State. It is about five kilometres from the Local Government capital – Abuochiche, 30 Kilometers from Vandeikya Local Government of Benue State, and shares boundaries with neighbouring Yala in Cross River.

In 2015, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) awarded the construction of the community road to Opal Networks Limited at the sum of N199.5 million with a completion period of twelve months.

READ: Bauchi-Gombe Road: In Questionable, Shoddy Execution, FG Wasted Over N1bn In Emergency Repairs, Road Still Death Trap

Seven years after the contract was awarded, NDDC whose main objective is to develop the Niger Delta region appears to have tricked the contractor and the Gakem Communities. This is even as the Commission in the past few years has been on the front pages of newspapers and its modus operandi, the subject of controversies.

The contractor started initial construction in July 2015 but twenty-five months after attaining 52 per cent partial completion, the construction stopped following non-payment from the Commission. The partial work on the road has made travelling to the communities a hard slog.

Gakem Road in Cross River Deteriorates After NDDC Fails to Pay Contractor 1
Akrabah-Akwurinyin-Abukpem road in Gakem, Bekwarra Local Government Area of Cross River State.

RESIDENTS ENDURE HARDSHIP OVER INACCESSIBLE ROAD

The affected communities whose inhabitants are farmers have not felt the presence of the government for decades. They lack basic amenities, such as roads, portable drinking water, public power supply, or even secondary school in the community.

“We have challenges conveying our produce out from the community because there is no way a vehicle can carry goods out from here,” said Emmanuel Opah Ushie, the Clan Head of Oduo in Gakem. “It is either they carry it on their head or when the road is dry they manage to use cyclists and it is usually expensive because their bikes do break down. We find it very difficult because there is no road they can pass.”

READ: How Contractors Pocketed Over N78 Million Meant For Road Projects In Bauchi

He said the three tiers of government have neglected his community. “Nobody from the government has ever come to ask us about this or that about the road. We are only looking for any alternative measures we can give our report on why it has been abandoned.”

Gakem Road in Cross River Deteriorates After NDDC Fails to Pay Contractor 2
Chief Emmanuel Opah Ushie, the Clan Head of Oduo in Gakem, Bekwarra LGA of Cross River State, during the interview where he spoke passionately about the deteriorating state of the abandoned road.

The Village Head of Akrabah in Oduo Clan in Gakem, Godwin Odey said the road was still manageable until the contractor and NDDC carried out the final destruction, putting them in more agony.

“We have no passable road linking the community,” he said. “They came not to construct it but to destroy it so that we can no longer have an access road again except by managing ourselves.”

A resident of the community, Margaret Adie told CrossRiverWatch that the road has been a nightmare as they could not transport their farm produce.

“We suffer a lot to carry our goods to the market,” Adie said. “Our everyday prayer has been that God should bring a Messiah to our aid. With this rainy season, we find it difficult to survive because we can not move the little we produce to the market. Please, the government, the contractor, and the world should come to our rescue.”

Gakem Road in Cross River Deteriorates After NDDC Fails to Pay Contractor 3
Village Head of Akrabah in Oduo Clan, Gakem Community, Chief Godwin Odey pouring emotions on the state of the road.

CONTRACTOR VOW NEVER TO RETURN TO SITE

The Managing Director of Opal Networks Limited, Higgins Peters said that his company was tricked to work after the contract was awarded without any payment from NDDC.

He said the move to commence the project with his funds plunged his company into debt, having waited for twenty-five months for payments from the NDDC. Hence, he was forced to abandon the project.

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In a letter of disengagement addressed to the director of the project in Cross River State for NDDC, the contractor insisted that he would not go back to the site unless a 50 per cent variation is met.

“Nothing on earth would make me go back to that place except they give me mobilization and apply variation to it,” he told CrossRiverWatch.

NDDC did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

This republished investigation is supported by Civic Media Lab.

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