NDDC Dey Charge!

By Iwara U. Iwara

In Naija street parlance, “…to dey charge” expresses that uncanny application of the adrenalin pump which shifts overwhelmingly positive gears into visible activity to the admiration of many. When these happens, we rejoice and clatter lips in prayers, shed tears of joy and gleefully wish, nothing will change. There is also an unfortunate predominant variant of “…to dey charge…” where crass showmanship attracts illusionary urge-ons that impress hangers on and daze the dim sighted. When we attend jolly functions and insist on that lousy but continuous spraying of those wad of notes, we are in the latter category, I must say. I may be unable to faultlessly show how the predominance of this catchy phrase became a major domo, like they say on the streets too, but the expression has come to stay and for my personal convenience, I have the Naija street permission to apply it to what I was preoccupied with, several days ago.

Specifics … a phone call from Clara Braide, the Special Assistant on Communication to Victor Ndoma-Egba, Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, board, set the tone for an assessment tour of NDDC’s interventions so far, on selected failed and unmotorable roads in some parts of Cross River State, a tour that took me out of Calabar for two days.

We began in Okon Inok, Calabar, where we inspected a 120m fresh asphalted road. Asuquo Abasi Street in Calabar South, a 400-metre length of asphalted road with 1000 metre drains and two culverts, completed in March this year was next and it came with some drama. Just before the point where the road joins Atamunu Street, a resident of the area came forth to thank NDDC for working on the road and “…driving mosquitoes away. Ah, before if you come here, there is always a pool of water and the mosquitoes from the water terrorize us … it is not happening again”, he said. That was of course positive and unsolicited endorsement of good work done.

By the time we looked up work so far done on Edem Effiom/Oyom Guest House Road, Ikot Ishie, Calabar, I was taken in by the quality of work. This road use to be a complete eyesore; have tried using it on a few occasions and it was hell on earth driving through. I saw in the work documents that the contract was awarded in November 2016 (360 metres long, with a side drain, and a 6.5 metres long culvert) and completed in April 2017. Construction here also took care of a 1.5 kilometre erosion remediation … impressed.

We moved to the site of what I refer to as a disaster waiting to happen. Why? As you drive either into or out of Calabar, by the narrow bend at Pamol Estate, better known as Km 16 of the Ikom/Calabar road, gully erosion has effortlessly consumed one lane of the road. Dual Basol Nigeria Ltd, was awarded this contract on November 29, 2017. Four months after the company was awarded the contract, they are yet to move to site while drivers and commuters take a risk with that spot. If you know these Dual Basol chaps, tell them ‘I no bow them’.

The journey through the Ugep/Akpet/Adim stretch of the Ikom/Calabar highway road was a bumpy one as usual. At Adim, yes, that treacherous part of the road which can hold you down for days, if you are unfortunate, we got assurances that contract for remedial work on that portion of road will commence within the first leg of the 2017 rainy season, Victor Abang, a senior administrative aide to the NDDC chairman, who led the tour and offered explanations, promised. He sounded absolutely sincere enough for me to believe him.

Mkpani came calling. The NDDC hopes it can commence and complete seven kilometres of asphalted road from the Mkpani junction to the village centre, with a one kilometer drain. The contractor was expected to return to site on April 24, 2017 and complete his work by May 18, 2017. Let us pray that the communal clash between the Nko/Mkpani communities, with the very visible toll of destruction borne by the latter community, will not stand in the way of this project …I have said Amen to this.

For remedial work from Ohana (Obubra LGA) to Alesi sections of the Calabar/Ikom road, the NDDC must be commended for giving indigenous construction companies a shot at this job. Faith Plant Global Intl. Service Ltd. and Zenit Construction are showing no job incompetence. I remember that as a rookie journalist covering one roundtable conference held at the Mirage Hotel, Calabar, several years ago, one of the speakers at the conference, drove through a philosophy. He said that, one of the requirements for employment is a previous job experience(s) but added too that if someone never gets present opportunity, he/she can never have previous experience. That speaker was Victor Ndoma-Egba, today’s NDDC chairman. They have the opportunity today, they will go places and must also heed the advice given to take the work in sections for quality assurance. I made a new friend at this site and the picture we took and I uploaded same on social media, brought forth a flurry of comments and likes … up on till this point.

The convoy moved on to the Ekpugrinya-Okundi road (Boki LGA) where repair work was on-going. I was not impressed with the quality of on-going work and I openly said so. It was clear that the contractor was ploughing half hands; while the job papers specified that the asphalt should be four metres thick, he choose to go with two metres and it was overwhelmingly unacceptable. Those in-charge, must take charge (NDDC, una hear?) Kakwagom/Bawop 2km on-going road project was where night fell and we had to make a dinner stop at Victor Abang’s residence before heading back to Ikom for the night.

Early the next day, we hit the road again and inspected work on the Bendeghe Ekiem 3km road and the ambitious Akparabong/Bendeghe Afi/Nde 10km new road, expected to be completed in 24 months. It was a short one and Calabar was on everyone’s mind at this point.

Verdict

What I saw was quite impressive and I must commend Ndoma-Egba’s immediate team for putting the tour together. Their principal will receive greater commendation for driving a transparent process. Beyond what the NDDC is currently doing, several other interventions in places all over the length and breadth of the state will be jubilantly appreciated. The NDDC is indeed working and proudly, a Cross Riverian is driving and it is only six months into his tenure.

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