By Kodilinye Obiagwu
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari and the five governors of the South East have agreed to a meeting in Abuja over the state of infrastructure in the region.
Briefing newsmen in his office Monday, the Director General of the South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF), Professor Simeon Ortuanya said the meeting, which would hold Wednesday, would address all the critical issues the governors have been harping on at the Forum.
Those issues, according to him, include the second Niger Bridge, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, deteriorating federal roads in the region, the Onitsha dry port and the continued neglect of the region in the appointment of service chiefs.
“We don’t have a southerner as a service chief and it’s over three years now. We hope the president will listen to the governors on this,” he said.
Ortuanya, who viewed the meeting as an outcome of the persistence of the SEGF in highlighting the Federal Government’s perennial neglect of the region, noted, “we are happy with the Federal Government. The have finally awarded the contract for the 2nd Niger Bridge and released N7 billion for the commencement of work.”
He disclosed that “this is the first time that actual work on the bridge would commence. In the last years, what has been going on were preliminary works.”
The main contract for the bridge was signed in August 2018 for N206 billion, while work on the bridge was billed to commence in September 2018.
Displeased with the N7 billion or less than 10 percent of the contract sum the Federal Government released, Ortuanya, called for the release of “at least 50 percent of the contract sum to the contractors so that significant work can commence on the Bridge. The contractor, Julius Berger is a reputable company.
“We also feel that the contract period of 42 months is too long and urge the Federal Government to review the contract period down to two years.
Ortuanya argues that “beyond our request of 50 per cent contract fees for the contractors, the Federal Government should source the balance of 50 per cent from secured Federal Government bond. This is the only way to save the project from being abandoned.”
On the Akanu Ibiam airport, he called on the Government to “urgently do the needful to ensure that the contractor returns. The cargo section should be made functional. The tarmac is bumpy, damaged structures are yet to be repaired.”
Ortuanya hopes that the governors will have fruitful talks with the president on how to improve the general infrastructure in the region like the dry port, abandoned since its foundation laying ceremony. The dry port was commissioned a long time ago and we hope they resume work on the projects that have been commissioned.
The DG described as lamentable the condition of the South East roads from Enugu to Port Harcourt, Enugu – Onitsha, Obollo Afor – Ninth Mile as lamentable.