Over 800km of Road Contracts Awarded, Edo Does not Need Flyovers – Engr. Ojior
By Nosakhare Agbonigiarhuoyi & Godspower Eguasa
With over 800km of roads contracted to various contractors so far, the Edo State Government has reiterated its promise to deliver road infrastructure befitting of a transportation hub to residents and visitors.
In a recent interview with the Permanent Secretary, Edo State Ministry of Roads and Bridges, Engr. Osikhena Omoh Ojior, spelt out ongoing road projects, planned road projects as well as the challenges Edo State faces in delivering quality roads to residents.
In this first part of the interview, Engr. Ojior explains why people are quick to compare roads in Edo with Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta states as well as the revolutionary 9 junction improvement projects embarked upon by Governor Godwin Obaseki.
ECO: Since your appointment, Edo residents say they are seeing more government interventions on roads. What changed?
PS: I don’t want to paint a picture that will seem as though those who came before me were not doing anything. Processes are in place to ensure due process is followed, particularly with regard to Edo State’s procurement law. The perceived delays were necessary to ensure due process. While early rains present a major challenge, what may seem like a delay to some people, is simply allowing the process to take the needed time to ensure due process is follwed. Road works have always been ongoing and planning is continuous, with a focus on improving responsiveness to the needs of the populace. The present administration deserves credit for managing resources astutely, as most road construction jobs are being funded with Internally Generated Revenue due to a decline in federal funding to States generally.
ECO: Are there valid issues for people who compare Edo, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states on roads constructed?
PS: What Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers get as revenue is almost quadruple of what comes to Edo State as federal allocations. But I can tell you that in terms of the performance of this current administration, none of those states can match Edo for the length and quality of roads we have constructed.
Governor Godwin Obaseki earmarked over 1000 km of roads with the contracts awarded, and we’ve been able to deliver more than 550km. About 100km of that was done in just over 6 months. This is inclusive of construction and reconstruction as well as the rehabilitation of roads.
Moreover, people sing about Rivers State because they are building flyovers, but as one of our project consultants has said, building flyovers may not necessarily be the solution to Benin City’s traffic congestion challenges, especially when you consider the funding constraint.
For us, functionality takes priority, rather than just constructing flyovers. We would rather do a junction improvement project like what we are trying to do at 3rd East Circular and Sakponba Junction.
We have embarked on a huge junction improvement project that involves smart traffic management systems at those two junctions. The system when put in place will serve us better because movement across those junctions would now be smart as the traffic light can sense where there is vehicular traffic and give priority to a particular road as opposed to another with less congestion traffic.
ECO: Could you explain why the junction improvement project is a priority?
PS: Just like with your private needs, we’re always trying to balance the unending needs with the available scarce resources. For us, all our projects align with the Edo State 30-year regional masterplan which is aimed at delivering us the best place to live in and prosper by the year 2050. To achieve this, we have to follow a process. That process prioritises some aspects before others. Essentially, we want people to be able to move easily across the State; because movement is a key requirement for business.
We are leveraging our cultural and transportation hub statuses as a State. Irrespective of where you’re traveling to, East, West, North, or Central, you will end up possibly passing through Edo State. This implies that roads and transport infrastructure are a priority in order to provide that easy movement of goods and services across the State, so you can see how this serves us as a people.
We are also planning for tourists who would want to come and see the old Benin Kingdom and our cultural heritage. As you know, tourism is very important for us and a vital enabler of tourism is the free movement of goods and services, which brings us back to the need for the right transportation systems.
With this, you can see that everything is intertwined. For now, we have prioritised the first two out of 9 junction improvement projects, the other reason is the fact that the funding required is too huge to just start work on all 9 sites at the same time so we need to gradually deliver the project in phases so that we can deliver the project as planned. That’s why the junction improvement project is important. It’s to ease the flow of traffic in those areas mentioned.
ECO: Are the Benin Auchi Road, the Benin Abraka Road, and the Benin Sapele Road not a cause of concern for you and the Government, and when should residents expect major interventions along those roads?
PS: Edo State happens to be lucky in the sense that we have a lot of federal roads. The Edo State Government has been in contact with the new Federal Controller of Works for Edo to intervene because our citizens are suffering. He is in contact with the headquarters in Abuja to try and see how they can quickly get contractors to start work so that the sufferings of our citizens can be reduced on that route.
On our part, we have provided them with a design that will enable us to manage the flood water from the area; because over the years what has happened is that people have encroached onto the right of way and blocked natural water paths. So, any road you build where there is water constantly, the road is bound to fail.
Most roads are built for 30 tonnes of axle loads from vehicles, but today some people have vehicles carrying up to 60 tonnes of axle loads on the same road built for 30 tonnes. This behaviour leads to early failure of our roads because the road has its limitations.
The Federal Government is now trying to see how they can even use more durable materials, which will make the road a tad more expensive, just to make sure that the roads maintain their designed lifespan.
But it’s a constant challenge. If we say we have to design our roads to take 60 tonnes of axle load, then the cost of the road will skyrocket so it’s a delicate balance between functionality and cost. This is the reason why we still try to maintain the designs that we currently have adopted because if we say we want to build a road for all seasons which will even carry up to 60 tonnes, the cost will double if not triple.
The Benin-Abraka road is also a federal road but the intervention that is going on there now, for a 40km stretch of that road, is being done by the Edo State Government.
ECO: Many roads in Edo State lack proper drainage systems, and some residents have complained that this has caused some roads to deteriorate prematurely. A case in point is the Ekehuan-Ugbiyiko road. What is being done about this and other roads in Edo State?
PS: That particular section of the Ekehuan Road is a 6km long plateau, and both sides, of the route, are higher than the road. As draining the road becomes very challenging, the only means of draining this plateau is to go underground to depths between 9m to 15m.
We are talking about going to a depth of a 5-storey building to drain the road. It’s not an impossible task but it is a major engineering challenge for which the cost would be prohibitive at least for the current revenue profile that the State has. For the sections which we cannot drain now, you would see that what they have done is to build the road using reinforcement and concrete, what is called a rigid pavement, so that it can last longer.
The difference between a tarred road and a concrete road is primarily in the binder. The rigid pavement uses ordinary Portland cement, the flexible pavement uses bitumen. As much as possible, the water will still cover the road but at least the road will be passable.
The portfolio of road works that we have on hand currently as of today is about N50 billion. For now, our focus is to try to complete the roads that we have in our current portfolio, within the tenure of the current administration. Maybe as we are improving on our revenue generation, it will make us more able to take on more roads to be done.
The Ministry has compiled a list of over 500 roads that we are at different stages of repairs and rehabilitation. So it’s not a small task that we have on our hands. Benin happens to be one of the sub-nationals that has a very high road density. Unfortunately, the majority of them are unpaved. We are trying to see how we can change this statistic by looking at other technologies to use in driving down costs so that we can deliver more roads to our people.
ECO: Is it safe to say that no road will be constructed in Edo State without drainage from now henceforth?
PS: That is the directive given by His Excellency. As much as possible, where we are constructing roads that pass through several communities, we expect the communities to grant us access, where access is required for us to drain that particular road. Where the community is not willing to grant us access, we will not start the road.
However, there are some roads where drains may not be necessary. Case in point GRA, which was originally designed to not require concrete line drains, because the area was designed to have a lot of green areas. As such rainwater was not supposed to flow from private residences and gather on the road; it was supposed to be absorbed by the grasses and other plants within their premises.
I grew up in GRA, and I know that Aiguobasimwin never had any issues with flooding despite it being a low point. But with the increase of residents surfacing their premises, and with natural water paths being blocked, water gathered on the roads.
It is our plan to return to this earlier concept for some of the roads to be reconstructed in the near future. We are incorporating grassed shoulders and walkways into our road design for roads without side drains.
ECO: As the rains resume what are some of the areas we should expect interventions?
PS: We hope that we will finish all ongoing spot improvements and rehabilitation works so that those areas where we hitherto became bottlenecks leading to traffic congestion will disappear.
To be honest, NiMet has predicted this year that there will be increased cases of flooding. We can’t stop that for now, because there are a lot of challenges with the flooding problem that we have in Edo State as a whole. In Benin City specifically, the major rivers that serve the metropolis have not been dredged in a long time. So, they are full of silt and other debris. That is why we are having a higher problem of flooding within the metropolis. To the best of my knowledge, we’ve not dredged any of our rivers in the last 30 years and the capacity for the rivers to take inflow has been largely limited.
Dredging is not an easy or cheap endeavour, but we have planned some interventions along that line to take flood water to the rivers. If we are able to raise the money for it, we will do it. But people should prepare for flooding.
To reduce the impact of the rains, people should avoid using our drainage channels as waste dumps. The other thing I would advise is that as the rains become heavier, those in low-lying areas of the State, will need to put sandbags to prevent water from flowing into their houses. The government has limited resources and cannot do everything at one time. We individually have to help ourselves in some instances.