The man in charge of all infrastructural projects in the Gov Willie Obiano Administration in Anambra State, Mr Lawrence Chinwuba, otherwise known as Commissioner for Works, spoke to Fides editorial crew of Jude Atupulazi (editor-in-chief) and Uche Amunike (assistant editor) on a wide range of issues bordering on government projects. As the state heads to her next gubernatorial election, the state government’s infrastructural report card, as presented by Chinwuba is laid bare for public assessment.
When the government took off, Governor Obiano promised this state that he would complete Obi’s roads and commission them before starting his own projects. Has he done that? If he has, how far has he gone?
Thank you very much. Yeah, you are right. The mantra of our campaign was premised on four Cs. The first is continuity and that involved at that point, that the new governor, Willie Obiano, would complete projects started by his predecessor, Peter Obi. He would commission them and then he would commence his own. I can tell you to a very large extent and to the best of his ability and within the available resources to the government, Governor Willie Obiano has fulfilled that promise and by the time we finish this interview I am going to give you some copies of payments made to contractors, so that you’ll see what he has done in each senatorial zone.
First of all, we still kept all the contractors that we inherited. It’s very important because they were constructing the roads we inherited from Governor Obi. Since APGA is one party and continuity is our mantra, Gov Obiano kept faith in the 3 senatorial zones. Yes, he has also started other projects of his own, simply because as a government, you have your own strategy which is for the welfare of the people and if you know Willie, he looks at hundred years to come, not today, which is why everywhere he goes, he keeps on telling people the story of a mad man, a dreamer. An innovative thinker is like a mad man. He sees the future but those around him don’t see that future; so they think he is a mad man. The man may see that future, see the result of that future and laugh and people around will say he is mad.
So he (Obiano) has ventured into other roads and bridges which this government believes will impact positively on the people of Anambra State and our socio-economic development. So to answer your question, yes, he has kept faith with the continuity mantra of APGA in 2013.
Ok, may we know the extent to which he has worked on those projects that were bequeathed to him. Has he finished them?
Like I said, within the available resources, some have been finished. In fact, a lot had been finished. Others are in the process and like I’ve said, yes, he has commenced some other ones on his own. If you look at Ogwu Ikpele Road, very long, about 60km. It goes into Rivers State’s borders. We inherited that project from the previous administration and we have kept faith.
If you look at the express way, it was part of what we inherited in the drawing. The only new ones were the bridges that the present governor launched and which you know, have been completed. I read your editorial on Fides (on endless work on flyovers). In any bridge construction, you must have some amendments or some remedial works, but in that other one, when they closed the dual carriage way, it was to facilitate the asphalt lane, so in the second phase of that, we first did a binder’s cost because in the specification of that road, you have both binder’s cost and wearing cost. The wearing cost is the final asphalt layer but people would see it and wonder why the work is still going on. Again, there are other things on that bridge that may involve one or two contractors. For instance, the lighting, which is a different thing altogether, but we’ll still come to that.
You said that many of the roads bequeathed to you have been completed. Can you name some of them?
Ezeudu Road which cuts from Zik’s Avenue to Enugu-Onitsha Expressway by Kwata Junction where you have the Dunamis Church. You also have the one from Nimo that goes down from Okacha Junction. Or you don’t have the idea about it?
Somebody must be making a mistake here. I thought that one was only the marking you did, because you know I’m from Nimo.
No. No. No. No. It was Governor Willie Obiano that commissioned it last year’
I hope you know I’m from Nimo and we know all about the history of that road.
That’s what I am telling you; that it was commissioned last year. May be you weren’t there at the ceremony. It was these people that left now, IDC, that did it.
Yes, because the road had already been completed but you came and marked it.
No. No. No. It is not marking. Lane marking is a different thing. We marked the lanes three months after commissioning. It was Gov Obiano that commissioned it. Justice Ononiba was there. The PG of your town, (Sir Frank) Igboka was also there and they all spoke.
Does their presence cover the fact that the road had already been finished by the previous regime, minus the markings?
No! No! No! No. It wasn’t so.
So you insist that it is this government that finished the road? Is that the point you’re trying to make?
Yes. That’s the point.
So let’s get it right; what you’re saying is that the road was not finished. I mean the tarring?
Yes. It was not finished. Yes. Because I heard some comments. Then the other one, one of the longest ones from Nkpor to Amawbia; 28.2 kilometres, was completed and commissioned by Obiano. And we have the pictures, we have the records. The records are here because in the road, you have the drain, you have the earth work, you have the asphalt. So, previous administrations might have done the drains, done the earth work, and we lay the asphalt, and in doing that, each of them has a percentage. You calculate and say, Yes! When the governor is talking, the governor is talking. He will say that his predecessor started this road. He did so so and so percentage. I am doing so so and so percentage. I have those records of what I’m talking to you about in a file. So, we have the records. Ok?
Go on. So, that’s number three?
Yea. So, we’re continuing the Amansea. Then, Upper Iweka to Zik’s Roundabout at Onitsha. Right now, they are laying final asphalt there. It was something that was started by the previous administration. We are finishing it. IDC is on it as we speak. People were calling me yesterday because of the traffic. So, there are a number of them. There are other ones we are continuing like Amansea, Ebenebe, Oba Ofemmili by DIECO. Dieco is working on it now. So, there are a number of roads that were started that we’re still working on, but like I said, there are other ones we have started, including bridges for strategic reasons.
If you permit me, I’ll tell you about those bridges. Iyiora. We are doing a road with this, through Iyiora; going to Orient Petroleum site at Aguleri Otu. We’ve done another bridge; that bridge is completed. You can drive across today. Then, there’s another one through Anambra. They call it Aguleri-Uno/Aguleri-Otu Road, Orient Oil Rig Road. That one, the bridge has been completed. CCC is doing it. That’s about 43 kilometres in length. So, that’s a new thing. This government did that. Then, the former government started the Umueje Bridge. The history of that bridge is very interesting because the oil rig is in Anambra; in Aguleri-Otu, but they could not assess that area unless they went through Iga. Asaba in Iga. They faced a lot of problems because, each day, those villagers would put a lot of wood collecting tolls. We deployed the military and it didn’t solve the problem. So, we sat down and said, ok what do we do? What I said now, I’m talking about the previous administration which I was a part of. I said we needed to build a bridge through Anambra soil across to that well. That was the origin of the bridge at Umueje. It’s about 10 kilometres of road from Umueje to the oil rig. So, but that bridge wasn’t started until the present administration. Now, they are about launching the beam. About completing that bridge. So, it is this present administration that is continuing the construction of that bridge and the road.
Ok, in summary now, can you give the percentage of the completed ones and the on-going ones? Just a percentage.
No. It won’t be right to say the percentage simply because we have so many roads. You understand that. Some of them, I am going to give you after this interview.
Okay. So, let’s come to the Amansea-Amawbia Road. You know, we understand that initially, there was a design by the former government for it to have six lanes. That is, three on each, and they also left some money behind. About 25%. And after that, this government came in, abandoned that design and went for flyovers. So, what informed the decision to leave that design and go for flyovers that apparently have not solved the traffic problem?
Thank you. You see, sometimes, news flies around, going with falsehood. Like I told you, I was part of the previous administration. The design that was abandoned was defective and was done by EMPLAN Group. Okay? It was structurally defective. And so, I was with Tenders Board then, the present administration looked at it and discovered the errors and said, no, we wouldn’t go with this. That’s one. Two, what was designed for the main carriage way is still what we’re doing because it was approved by the federal government. Don’t forget that this is a federal road, so you don’t have the monopoly of what you design and what you don’t. Whatever you do there, you must get the approval. The supervision is being jointly done by the Federal Ministry of Works and the State Ministry of Works and we’re going down to Amansea if not for funds constraints.
But, in the process of doing the road, we discovered that there was need to build the three flyovers. First, to decongest the traffic. Two, to add a kind of flair. A kind of sense that this is a state capital. I’ll tell you a story. In 2009, my institution hosted their national conference here and because I practiced in Lagos, they knew that I was here. So, a group came and there was a national election. So people from South, West and all the rest of them, North, came. Some of my friends arrived late in the evening, around 7.30pm, and then, the only visible landmark in Awka was Udoka. So, if you’re approaching Awka from Amawbia, from the Onitsha end, and you see the light in Udoka you will know that you are approaching a city. But because there was no light, they drove past Awka, went to Ugwuoba, stopped because of the transit camp. They saw a lot of lights and stopped and asked if they had gotten to Awka, but were told they had passed Awka and they drove back. Today, if you come into Awka, nobody will tell you that you are in a city. That’s the essence of the flyover, of course with the suspension lights. It’s only in Lagos that you have suspension lights between Old Ikoyi and Lekki Phase 1.
Ok, coming back to the old design, you said it was found out to be structurally defective. Why then did the federal government approve it?
It was not approved, actually, but they discovered it was defective. It was discovered here in this ministry that it was defective under Ilozumba, my predecessor, and they stopped it.
We also understand that the flyovers you are doing were not approved by the federal government. Hence the refusal of the Works Minister to visit them when he came.
No! They were approved. We can’t do that without their approval. You see, these are fallacies.
That’s why we have come to confirm.
You should have come to me earlier than now. When you hear those things, you have my number. You should call me for clarification, not necessarily a formal interview like this. The minister, when he came to Asaba, came specifically to see the Second Niger Bridge because of a lot of issues surrounding it, especially the compensation. So, the Obi of Onitsha and all the chiefs and all the major stakeholders were there. So, we held a meeting inside the Julius Berger yard, and a lot of issues were resolved. The governor insisted, persuaded him, pleaded with him, to visit Umunya to see a section through Umunya to Awkuzu. It was horrible then. It was during the rainy season. So, he didn’t come to Anambra to visit the flyovers. No. When the Minister of State came, I rode in the same car with him. He saw the flyovers. When the Senate Committee on works came in either early December or late November, last year, I was with them. I took them round. We stopped at all the flyovers, especially on top of Amawbia flyover, and they made comments. When the House of Reps committee of works came, we did the same thing. We actually carried out integrity tests on the bridges before we continued along Umunya because that is our headache now as we speak because we want to get that road from Amawbia to Umunya so that you can drive comfortably from the bridge head once you drop from Asaba into Onitsha and down to Awka while we continue the other one. Of course, the other one has been awarded. The Amansea/9th Mile has been awarded by the federal government.
Ok, like we pointed out to you, we are placing ourselves in the shoes of the public, so we are asking you what they have no opportunity to ask you. So, you said that part of the reasons why you embarked on the flyovers was to decongest traffic and beautify the town. But at the Aroma end of the flyover, we have seen that there is still a lot of traffic there during work hours. So, why has it not been able to take care of the traffic there?
Good. Thank you very much. I’m sure that when you came in, you saw some white people. Two of them and the MD of Awka Capital Development Authority, Arc. Mike Okonkwo. It is the issue that we were discussing. He came with various designs and we were looking at those designs. If you see now what they do, you have two openings on each of the flyovers. We closed one, put this ASTA people there to control the traffic, so once you are going up and are Enugu bound, and you want to go to the state secretariat or Ifite, you’ll take one lane and go. Those who are coming from Ifite or secretariat are not allowed to take that immediate one to cross over to the high tension street. No. They go down as if they are going to Onitsha and then take another turn and start coming back again. And we’re doing something that will solve it in collaboration with the Federal Road Safety Corps. We are working together. So, I’m sure that in the next one, two, three months, those observations on traffic build up there would have been a thing of the past. We are going to handle that.
So, why then are people criticising them? Recall that Ngige and Tony Nwoye said that if the APC government comes in, they would demolish the bridges for not conforming to specifications.
Well, my brother, you know there’s something that is called the politicians talk. What it means is that even if you buy a brand new Rolls Royce from a company that makes Rolls Royce and you even have your receipt, a politician can come and say, look at this car. That car was sold as a third hand. It was bought in Belgium. You understand what I mean? But you, you know that you bought the car and even have your receipt and it’s a brand new car. A Rolls Royce, but somebody will come and tell you, I know where you bought it. Is it not at Ladipo? And people will laugh. Some people will believe you, some will doubt. In other words, somebody can say he will come and demolish. Demolish what? For what? You have a design that was approved and it’s being done by qualified contractors, supervised by engineers from the Federal Ministry of Works and State Ministry of Works. So, why demolishing it? Can’t we use the resources to go and build other ones? We are now thinking of what to do at Regina Caeli to link Awka North and South, to help people who are crossing everyday on that highway. We are thinking of what to do at Esther Obiako (Ikenga Hotel Junction). That’s the major headache for the state. So, if we had the resources, we’d go there and duplicate what we’ve done so that we’ll save lives and decongest the traffic that is there. So, I don’t bother. I don’t quarrel with anybody. Ok. Demolish Awka, get money and build a new city. That’s okay for me, but for goodness sake, we are being professional here and very thorough. So, if my brother Tony comes and says he wants to demolish Awka, OK. If he has the resources, he can take all of us to somewhere temporarily and build a new city, then we come back and inhabit it.
Ok, you were talking about the lights and we said we’ll come to that later. People have been talking about the unceasing work at the flyovers because, throughout last year and even up to this point, you will drive past one of the flyovers freely and then, the next minute when you come back, they have cordoned it off and are ostensibly carrying out repair works. So, why this seeming unending work on the flyovers?
Thank you very much. If you’re doing a major work like flyover with dual carriage way like the ones we have now…don’t forget that this contract was awarded in 2015 and for them to have gotten to this level of completion, it’s amazing. Beyond that, we are doing a major project. It’s a bridge, flyovers on a new carriage way. We are bound to have intermittent work going on there. First, the dual carriage itself; and as I explained to you, you have the binders cost. You have the wearing cost. We’ve finished the binders cost and did lane marking. The lane marking ought not to have started, but the governor insisted that in order to celebrate our 25th anniversary of the creation of Anambra State, he needed that lane marking. Don’t forget that he is the one that brought that lane marking because of what he wants to achieve in Anambra. So, he said, go and lane mark this, at least for that celebration. So, after that, we said, ”Your Excellency, there will be a second coating which we call wearing cost”, and he said ”yes, no problem”. So, if we’re doing lane marking, we are bound to cordon it off so that cars don’t run into those who are doing that work. If they are doing asphalting, they are bound to cordon it off. If they’re mounting the suspension light or maintaining them, they’re bound to cordon it off. So, with all these schedule of work, we’re bound to have some disturbances and inconveniences. It happens in Lagos State. It happens abroad. The only thing abroad is that because they have light all the time, they can work in the night. We don’t have that luxury. So, you’re bound to have these inconveniences. Like I told you, as we speak now, between Upper Iweka and Zik’s Roundabout in Onitsha, work is going on; final asphalt laying which is the wearing cost. People call me that they are disturbing them, traffic can’t move, this and that; and I’ll tell them, ”please have patience. In less than two weeks, they will be out of that place”.
So, when do you reckon that the work on the Awka Flyovers will stop?
Well, again, the work on Awka flyovers, the major work, I will say that in the next one month, they will be out of there. That’s for the flyovers, except for the maintenance work, just as you replace bulbs in your house. So, if anything goes wrong with the filament, the suspension lights, they are bound to go there and change it and you don’t expect somebody to be changing the lights while you have speeding cars moving on the same lane. That is risky.
Now, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the cost of the flyovers, because, initially, we were given N5b. Now, some people say it is N15b. Can you put it to rest? How much did they cost?
Well, as you said, work is still going on, so it is difficult for you to put a cost until we have finally finished. But certainly, it’s far less than the N15b you mentioned. Nobody can use N15b to build that type of structure.
But in your estimate, what do you think it cost?
No. No. No. I don’t want to look at estimates. In the Ministry of Works, we don’t do estimates. We give you the BEME and the BEME means that we have finished the work before you can say this road cost me this. This bridge cost me this.
Did you have any problems with your predecessor, Ilozumba because we understand that he resigned because of variations on the cost of the flyovers; that it jumped from N5b to N15b. He wasn’t happy with that and resigned.
No. No. No. My brother, I don’t know where these things come from. It’s so amazing. Don’t forget that Ilozumba served Peter Obi for 8yrs. After that, the current governor persuaded him to continue so that there would be a smooth hand over. So, there has never been at any time, any type of conflict existed between either the former commissioner or the present commissioner, or the former commissioner and the government on any issue. I meet with him regularly. We meet at functions. So, there has never been anything. And a variation shouldn’t cause any problem between a commissioner and a governor or the government. No. The issue of variation comes up in any job simply because, if we perceive anything that was not foreseen by the consultant while designing that project and the contractor feels that there is need for it to be captured, that’s where you have variations. A typical example, if a consultant is designing a road, let’s say from here to Onitsha and for one reason or the other, he did not traverse that road and there’s water and you awarded the contract based on the drawing and the cost he gave to you, the contractor, after working for 1,2,3 kilometres, and sees a pond, he comes back to the ministry and says, ”please, this road you gave to me, this is the alignment, this is the drawing, this is the cost, but all of a sudden, after 4 kilometres, I saw water. It was not envisaged. It was not in the BEME”.
Once it’s established, they go back and through the tender’s board again, go through EXCO, get approval to add it to the cost. So, it’s not something that will bring any problem to anybody and there was none. I don’t know where that false information came from.
How do you assess the state government’s policy on zero pot holes? Do you think it has been successful?
Extremely successful. My brother, let me tell you, Anambra State has the best network of roads in Nigeria. That’s on record because, all people that come here, senators, people from National Assembly, all commend us. Even some of the people that visited me this morning. You cannot continue to build new roads without having in place, a mechanism for maintenance. That was why on November 2015, the governor launched Operation Zero Potholes where he bought equipment worth millions of naira and he went ahead to recruit able bodied youths from Anambra State and trained them and they have been doing a fantastic job. People would say not much was done during last November/December. It was because there were no bitumen in Nigeria. Most of our major contractors couldn’t access it. Even IDC along the express road. You would notice that before Christmas, they stopped almost opposite Crunchies. It was this year that they started laying asphalt and completed it…so, because there was no bitumen, it has affected our work, otherwise they have been doing a fantastic job. If you look at Obi Okoli, at the intersection of the Abakiliki Road, you will discovered the major fault there. When they did the road, there was a lake drain. That is, the lake that will drain water from maybe, Cosmilla end down to Abakiliki and so on. Now, we have started doing the culvert to link the drains so that once water comes, it goes down without coming up on the surface.
Of course, you know water and asphalt are not good friends. Once it stays on top of asphalt for a week, it gives way. So, it’s been a success. They have done a fantastic job.
Okay because you said the problem was in December when you didn’t have enough bitumen, but long before then, there had been places where potholes existed and it took a long time for them to be repaired even when bitumen wasn’t scarce, so what accounted for the delay?
Yea. I said something at the beginning. Anambra has the highest number of roads in Nigeria. Virtually every major town has roads and over the years, there was no maintenance. Nothing was put in place. So, we cannot just fill all of them within this space of time. We must have some gap.
Ok sir, thanks for availing us your time.