George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Senator Rochas Okorocha, who left the Douglas Building, Owerri, on May 29, 2019, as Governor of Imo state, for the new occupant, Emeka Ihedioha, was still in charge when his legacies started crumbling.
By March 2017, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) had raised concern over the integrity of an intersection bridge otherwise called flyover constructed by Okorocha’s administration at Amawire, Akwakuma in Owerri; the state capital.
President and Chairman of the Council, Mr. Kashim Ali disclosed that a letter was written to the governor requesting him to provide details of the consultants and contractors handling the project for them to furnish the body with some necessary information.
COREN had threatened to invite the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), to storm the project site and arrest anybody seen there, if the government failed to comply.
Ali had lamented: “The state government has not given us that information; we have written to the governor for them to give us the details urgently; to know the engineers involved to prevent what will cost lives. If they don’t do that, we have no option but to report the matter under our MoU conditions to ICPC and they would find whoever it is and get information they need.”
Again, barely a week to the expiration of Okorocha’s tenure, Daily Sun was alerted by an indigene of Umuchima in Ideato South, of the caving in of a section of the bridge built by the Governor in their area.
Our correspondent was still working on the story when photographs of the shoddily constructed bridge and other similar infrastructures went viral on the social media.
Our findings showed that the bridge at Orashi River in Mgbee community, part of the major road linking Orlu council area through Ideato South of Imo state to the neighbouring Anambra state; which was dualised by the immediate past administration has become a death trap following the collapse of a section of the dual carriage way.
We gathered that the same section of the bridge had caved in late last year, but was patched up with cement by a local contractor. But shortly before the general elections; the portion succumbed again and was left unattended to by the previous government.
The situation had caused several accidents there especially at night as many commuters were not used to the road.
Recently, a car plunged into the river because of the deadly spot, but fortunately for the driver, he ended up at the shallow side of the Orashi River and had to be pulled out by sympathizers.
In fact, the situation there now, forces vehicles coming from both ends of the road to take the manageable section, in spite of the several pot holes that dot the entire stretch of the road.
A commercial driver, Mr. Stanley Durueboh blamed the collapse of part of the bridge and even a large stretch of the road on use of inferior materials as well as unqualified contractors for the job.
“Okorocha had done well by dualizing this major road but the bridge across the Orashi at Mgbee has caved in about thrice since the completion of the road. You will notice that even the road is riddled with pot holes down to Ogboko junction in Ideato south and from there to Akokwa; which the second lane is yet to be completed,” he said.
He noted that the road deserved immediate attention from Governor Ihedioha after he recently inspected it, pointing out that Anambra state Government during the time of Mr. Peter Obi, had taken care of its own side of the road.
A building engineer, Andrew Chilaka said that anybody who had witnessed the construction of the road ought to have known that it would not stand the test of time.
“I was particularly happy that it was being dualized but when I saw what was going on in the name of construction; as a building engineer, I was just sceptical. Even the so called bridge across the Orashi River is nothing but a culvert and it was not done with reinforced concrete. So, I was not surprised when the culvert collapsed,” he said.
He disclosed that people fixed a barricade about 50 meters away from the collapsed portion to avoid further mishap, after a motorist had fallen into the marshy part of the Orashi River, one fateful afternoon.
Traditional ruler of Dimagu autonomous community and Chairman of Ideato South council of traditional rulers, Eze G. Osuala expressed shock that a bridge of this nature was built without reinforcement.
At the moment, the integrity of several infrastructures built by the immediate past administration has become a source of concern to the new Government and indigenes of Imo state.
Governor Ihedioha recently declared an emergency on the state of infrastructures in the state. He had earlier stopped use of Orji Bridge in Owerri which is currently undergoing integrity test by a team of engineers from the Nigeria Society Engineers (NSE).
It is worthy of mention that a section of the bridge across the Nworie River on the Fourth Inland road leading to Nekede had equally collapsed shortly after it was constructed and was left unattended to by the immediate past government.
Ihedioha visited the partly collapsed bridge shortly after assuming office but was shocked to hear from the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works that the ministry did not know who the contractor was.
The Permanent Secretary’s statement has somewhat confirmed the position of the ministry that their engineers who were supposed to supervise construction of roads and bridges by Government were never involved in the projects under the former Governor.
In fact, a staff of the ministry who would not want to be named alleged that “Okorocha side-lined the ministry in the execution of construction because he alone awarded, supervised and paid the contractors who were not known to the ministry”.
A member of the Nigeria Society of Engineers in the state, Isidore Ebochi told Daily Sun that even a layman knew that the roads and bridges constructed under the former Governor were substandard and did not conform to engineering principles.
He alleged that the contracts were awarded to road side contractors who were not known to the NSE.
“For example, if a kilometre of road is supposed to cost N100 million, Okorocha will instead award it for N60 million to the local contractor without a design or consultant. I also learnt that he will ask somebody to supply graves and another person to supply laterites and so on. The worst part is that these contractors are not even known and therefore cannot be held responsible for the shoddy jobs they have done,” Ebochi said.
Elsewhere, a prominent Imo politician who preferred anonymity blamed the docility of the people for what happened during the last administration.
“When we were challenging Rochas in court, through press conferences and public lectures, many were collaborators or onlookers. Now, everyone is on the street. I just hope these people will remain vigilant and responsible now that Emeka is in power and not come up only when Emeka leaves to talk about his terrible deeds. If Rochas was challenged seriously while in power, he would not have done this much harm. Imo politicians and elites are mostly cowards,” he stated.
Okorocha has asked Imo people, and indeed, Nigerians to disregard Ihedioha.
He even accused the government of defacing some of his legacies in a bid to justify their claim that his years in government were wasted.
Special Adviser (Media) to the former governor, Sam Onwuemeodo, in a statement, last weekend, described Okorocha as the defending champion of Imo governorship. According to him, it is not a “garagara” thing but a matter of achievements and track record.
Onwuemeodo also accused the new Government of spending N16 billion on stage-managed protests and sponsored media attacks against Okorocha and on fictitious renovations of certain government structures.
He said: “Nigerians should not listen to the PDP government in the state at the moment and should not take them serious. It is a government of deceit. A government that will go to a very smooth road at night and dig big hole at the middle of it and go back there in the morning with journalists to show them that Okorocha built inferior road. Such government does not worth attention but prayers for repentance.”