Abandoned Projects And The Niger Delta, The Case Of Ekregbesi Bridge

The Oasis Reporters

June 17, 2017

Canoe trip across the Ekregbesi creek.
Photo credit; Damian Mike
Canoe movement towards the abandoned bridge.
Photo credit: Damian Mike
Ase River. Ekregbesi Creek is a tributary of the river.

One distinguishing factor of the Oil rich Niger Delta today in Nigeria’s coastal region of the south, is the sore thumb of epochal projects that have been largely abandoned in the face of stupendously wealthy politicians and their cronies who double as contractors.
The Oasis Reporters has been sending it’s team of stringers and investigators to look into the plethora of abandoned projects in the region.
The focus here is on the Ekregbesi Creek Bridge.
Ekregbesi Creek is a tributary of the Ase River, both in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State. The creek virtually cuts the Ase kingdom into two, making travel by road from the larger Ase to it’s trading outpost and quarter, Asaba –Ase virtually impossible without a canoe to ferry the traveler across to Iwene and Asaba Ase, where the kingdom opens up to the Southern Ijaw town of Abari.
The alternative is to make the entire journey by a wooden canoe through the Ase River to Asaba Ase where the river flows into the larger River Niger. This is how it has been for centuries.

Then the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) hurriedly set up by the government of Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2011) as a last minute palliative to address the infrastructural challenges in the region that had woken up the spirit of militancy in the region.
One of the contracts awarded was for the construction of a bridge across the Ekregbesi Creek and a tarred road that runs alongside the Ase river to Asaba Ase.
According to Sam Ajighevi, a former national football team player and currently a football Coach  in the area, the ‘whole contract from Ase to Asaba-Ase through the Ekregbesi Creek was awarded to Wokson (Nig) Ltd with mobilization fee paid out”, but almost 15 years after, work on the bridge has been abandoned.
Though indigenes of the area admit that the road has been constructed, but without the bridge in place , it’s still back to square one as travel is still the same way it was centuries ago, by wooden canoes.

“The bridge is key”, said Mr. Damian Michael, an indigene of the area who brought photos of the abandoned project to the Office of The Oasis Reporters.

Our reporter in the area learnt that the entire contract for the road and the bridge was awarded to Willie Oki owned, Meir Engineering Construction Co. Ltd .

“NDDC gave him the contract”, a source said. “He did the road from Ase to Ekregbesi creek, and to Asaba Ase without a kobo paid to the company. Then he started the bridge. That was when NDDC paid him the mobilization fee, which was a quarter of the contract sum.

“At the same time, the government of Emmanuel Uduaghan awarded some State government roads to Willie Oki. But rather than complete the bridge and wait for balance money, he went for “quick business” by investing the mobilization  money on the Uduaghan road contract jobs. 

Unfortunately, till Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan left office, he did not pay Willie a cent.

Therefore the contractor is stuck with an abandoned project and a suffering community. NDDC too, seems helpless ”

 

Uduaghan gave them state roads to do but didn’t pay them after using the NDDC late mobilization money to do them. So they are stuck.

The only way out for now, is for the new governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa to show compassion and pay Meir Engineering Construction Co. Ltd.

It’s the only hope.

The Niger Delta is Nigeria’s cash cow that funds Nigeria’s budget  up to 95% each year. All that was required was for oil exploration and exploitation to take place by mostly foreign oil firms, royalties paid to the federal government and the monies would be used to fund the lifestyles of politicians with a little set aside for infrastructural development.
Yet the Niger Delta region that bore the brunt of the exploitation and destruction of it’s eco system remained derelict, decrepit , depressive, forlorn neglected and rejected. When the indigenous people protested, they were humiliated, their leaders hanged and the people killed by security forces sent in to pacify the region through force of arms while previous leaders stole the oil blocs that were distributed to people from tribal areas that are not indigenous to the region.

Ever since the change of heart by Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military ruler and a civilian president 20 years later, hope rose that the region would get a better deal.

Actually the architect of the Niger delta marginalization was Obasanjo himself.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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