The Untold Story of Ongoing Faulks Road, Aba, Project
-John Okiyi Kalu
Prior to the inauguration of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in 2015, the dominant image of infrastructure deficiencies in Aba, the commercial nerve center of Abia State, also known as Enyimba City, was the perennially dilapidated “Ukwu Mango” area of Faulks (Ariaria) Road, along with the fabled Ama Ikonne “river” believed to be unfixable because of alleged activities of a certain “mammy water” that residents believed lived around the area popularly called 7-Deck.
According to a prominent traditional ruler in Aba, Eze Isaac Ikonne, Enyi 1 of Aba, he once contemplated relocating from his palace along Faulks Road because of the seemingly intractable flooding of the vicinity which defied solutions for much of the 45 years he has been on the ancestral stool of his fathers. Indeed, when the military administration of former East Central State asked traders to relocate from Ekeoha market at the center of Aba to the current Ariaria International Market, the order was resisted because of the nature of the terrain of the area until sometime in 1974 when Ekeoha market was razed down by an inferno that destroyed the means of livelihood of thousands of post-civil war Igbo traders.
It is a historical fact that where Ariaria International Market is located along Faulks Road today is the lowest lying area in the western part of Aba while Ndiegoro is the lowest lying area in the eastern part of Aba. The soil around Faulks Road area was water logged and elephants used to freely walk the area, hence, Aba is known as Enyimba City. Indeed, attempts by administrations before Governor Ikpeazu to fix Faulks Road failed soon after as water continued to seep through the soil, especially around Ukwu Mango area where Ifeobara pond is located, and Ama Ikonne axis.
For more than 20 years before the election of Governor Ikpeazu it was impossible to drive through from Brass Junction to Enugu – PH Express Road junction and the people living around the area literally gave up hope of ever driving along Faulks Road, end to end. This fact was not lost on then newly elected Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who awarded a contract to an indigenous contractor, Bills Limited Civil Engineering Company, to reconstruct Faulks Road along with 6 other road projects on his first day at work.
But when he paid an inspection visit to Faulks Road, he was not satisfied that the quality of work being done by the contractor would permanently solve the problem of flooding and deliver a top class road to the people of the state. Promptly, he canceled the contract, moved the contractors out of site and made his now famous statement; “Ukwu Mango may have defeated my predecessors in office but with God on our side Ukwu Mango will not defeat me and I will commit to doing everything possible to solve this challenge for our people”.
With that mindset, the Governor invited a top class construction company along with others to make presentations on how to permanently fix the flooding challenge around the area as well as deliver a 4.8km road from Brass Street to Express junction. Setraco won the contract principally because the company brought in water management engineers from Netherlands to design a high tech engineering solution, after a detailed study of the project, that presented a viable solution to the Ifeobara Flood control aspect of the total project.
The project has four major components:
A. Dredging of the lowest point in Aba, the ifeobara pond, to enable it collect and pump out storm water from the area.
B. Tunneling from the pond to Waterside which is the major storm water collection point in Aba.
C Installation of pumps at the pond and along the pipe way to pump water in case of over flow into Ifeobara
D. Construction of the 4.8km dualized road
Details of the scope of work is as follows:
1. 4.8km length dualized road from Brass junction to Express junction making up a total of 9.6km road of 8m width on each side.
2. 10km drainage covering the full length of the road all the way through Aba – Owerri Road to Margaret Avenue from where a massive underground drainage pipe of about 12 feet height carries storm water to Aba River (Waterside) near Eziama High School, Aba.
3. Six laybays for vehicle parking along the road.
4. 10km kerbs along the road with 9km covered slabs
5. Three units of roundabout at Brass junction, Express junction and Okigwe Road junction along the road.
In addition to the above, there were construction activities designed around Ifeobara basin area, the area principally responsible for the perennial flooding of Ukwu Mango area of Ariaria market, close to A-line. This aspect of the work is principally meant to control flooding around that area.
I. Laying of 5.5km pressure pipe to Ifeobara pond. It should be noted that this is different from gravitational pipes that are designed to channel water without any need for a pressure pump.
II. Excavation and expansion of Ifeobara pond to collect more storm water from the area prior to being pumped out to Aba River.
III. Installation of high pressure intermittent water pumping machines.
IV. Building of a plant house with two new massive electricity generating sets that power the pumping machines.
V. Channeling of storm water from A-line Ariaria to Ifeobara pond.
In the public record of Abia State
Government, this project is ongoing as not all the components have been fully executed. But with more than 70% of the 9.6km road aspect executed, the initial binding course implemented, Governor Ikpeazu took the decision to open the road temporarily to traffic in 2019 to allow President Buhari seamless passage to Ariaria Market for the purpose of commissioning the Ariaria Independent Power Project attracted by his administration and executed by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) of the Federal Government.
Governor Ikpeazu never commissioned Faulks road project or stated at any time that the project has been completed by Setraco. Indeed, nobody living in Abia can state that the Governor ever performed any commissioning ceremony along the road as it was always known and stated by him and his media aides that the project was ongoing.
After the visit of the President, the Governor considered closing portions of the road to enable Setraco execute the laying of the wearing course (popularly known as asphalting) of the road but decided that doing so would hurt the business of the traders who were gearing up for the business of the Yuletide season. He directed Setraco to return to site late in December 2019 when the traders must have traveled for the season with the market shut down to continue the work. But the company appealed that their workers would have closed for the season as well by the 22nd of December, 2019, to resume in January 2020.
Today, Setraco is back to site and working along Faulks Road to first address some key observations of Governor Ikpeazu regarding the unexpected early failure of the binding course along portions of the road. During a live radio interactive program monitored from Aba in December 2019, Governor Ikpeazu pointed out an error with channeling of storm water that was responsible for the failure of the road around Osusu junction. He expressed reservations about the seeming error of the project managers in not choosing to transport storm water from Ifeobara through Osusu Road while the rest of the storm water from Faulks Road is channeled through Brass-Aba Owerri Road to Waterside.
To give vent to his thoughts, Governor Ikpeazu directed the contractor handling the ongoing Osusu Road project to ensure that he delivers wide enough drains to carry storm water from the Osusu, Omuma and Faulks Road areas of the city. That has been successfully executed and Setraco is set to connect the Faulks Road drain pipe through Osusu. It is important to note that Osusu Road is one of 3 road projects in the state currently being implemented by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu using the innovative Rigid Pavement (Cement) Technology pioneered by his administration as part of measures to ensure that critical road projects last beyond a minimum of 10 years. Others include Afor Ibeji flood control project in Umuahia and Eziukwu Road in Aba. He previously implemented the technology at Echefu, Owerri Road, Ngwa High School portion of Aba – Owerri Road, Ehere Road, Aba, Umuola, among others.
Obviously, when people who know next to nothing about the scope of a project publicly make caricature of themselves by making statements like “why should a 4.6km road cost XYZ amount when it costs ABC amount in neighboring states”, you can’t help but pity them. If you give your spouse N2,000 to cook a pot of okro soup and I give mine N10,000 to prepare same pot of soup with stock fish, periwinkle, fresh fish etc, it is obvious that more ingredients must be involved in my pot of soup than yours. Likewise, it is idiotic to compare cost of two buildings simply because they are both one-storey. Even first year general studies students who took engineering courses know that the cost of a project largely depends on the scope of work to be done, among other variables, and only someone on a mission of mischief making will seek to mislead the public by making straight line comparisons as if every 1km road is designed same way, involves use of same materials and are located in same terrain.
With what Governor Ikpeazu has already done, nobody is discussing Ukwu Mango again in Abia or on the social media. Same with the beer parlor fabrications on Ama Ikonne and 7-Deck that are fast fading from the memories of our people because Governor Ikpeazu got the job done instead of whitewashing the challenge.
Ikpeazu has defeated Ukwu Mango and Ama Ikonne “mammy water” even before completing Faulks Road and Ifeobara flood control project.
Another issue that folks have previously discussed within the public space is the ownership of the contract. For the avoidance of doubt, the state Government awarded the Faulks Road contract to Setraco Construction Company. From what we know, the Chairman of Setraco also owns another construction company called Hartland. Both companies work together, where necessary, to deliver projects in same way that divisions of same company can be expected to work together. The Umuagu – Isingwu Umuahia erosion control project of NEWMAP and Abia State Government was awarded to Hartland and we observed that they worked with some equipment and personnel of Setraco. Likewise, the current Federal Government awarded portions of Ikot Ekpene Road, Umuahia, to Hartland but equipment belonging to Setraco can be seen along the active project site.
Insinuating underhand deal by the Ikpeazu administration because Setraco is associating with Hartland to implement Faulks Road or any other project in the state is the type of stuff that can only come from a bitter soul in need of urgent redemption. Also, switching to attack a corporate entity that is not in any form or manner involved in politics is the stuff for frustrated loose cannons. There should be limits to what one can do, even if politically desperate and frustrated by personal inordinate ambitions.
Governor Ikpeazu is irrevocably focused on delivering more dividends of democracy to the people of Abia State and would resist attempts to distract him and his administration from delivering sustainable dividends of democracy to the people of the state. He will not stop with the already completed 86 road projects executed by his administration since 2015, he will ensure that all the projects started by his administration are not only completed but also done to the highest standards so that those coming after he must have left office would not have to go back to the same roads again. After all, Abia’s infrastructure deficit has never been the result of previous administrations not attempting to construct roads but more because those road projects were rushed for momentary applause and they didn’t last. Hence, instead of adding to the road infrastructure capital of the state, subsequent administrations have had to return to exactly same roads to reconstruct them. Thankfully, Governor Ikpeazu is changing that narrative, and step by step, brick after brick, the new Abia is emerging to the glory of God and prosperity of the people