GERSHOM BASSEY, CALABAR-ITU FEDERAL HIGHWAY AND MATTERS ARISING
Before your candle bow to the uncertainties of life, let’s take a trip to ancient truths that are as old as the Egyptian philosophy and gods. Truths such as the first this and that in the world attributed to the Pharos, an African country. Truths that are evidential and convincing. They are like the claws of a Lion, brutal, dreaded yet unassuming. These truths will not leave you the same way they met you, as they could make or mar your worldview, because perception begat action.
Less I forget, it is no longer news that a supposed blessing between Cross River and Akwa-Ibom states through the instrumentality of the Calabar-Itu federal Highway has become but a curse in view of the damages arising from years of negligence. What is perhaps news at this time and should interest you is the undercurrent that has continued to deny the people what is due them. An undercurrent that has led to broken skulls and blood spill while waiting for ‘godot’.
As you keep vigil over deaths arising from the manifold accidents on the protracted road, government and her Agents continue to snore from ‘ayonda’ amidst concubines. This monumental failure has left tongues wagging with questions such as, ‘Are the beautiful ones ever going to be born again? Or was the Ghanian playwright, Ayikwe-Amah, right in his literary masterpiece, “The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born”?
In this book of reference, the playwright vividly painted a picture of a corrupt political system in Ghana which later succumbed to the voices of reason and revolution.
Against this backdrop of cruelty and formlessness, Sen. Gershom Bassey, representing Cross River South Senatorial District, and Chairman, Senate committee on FERMA came like a god out of the machine to seek explanations for a paltry #1billion captured in the 2020 budget (ERGP–12141470. page 1098), for the construction of the Calabar-Itu federal Highway, considered to be long over-due.
In this wise, Sen. Bassey engaged the services of Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), Minister of Works and Housing for clarification of gray areas bordering on a budget considered to be below average. To this end, the Minister swiftly in a correspondence dated 14th February 2020, provided useful information on salient issues militating against the reconstruction of the federal highway. The issues raised in Mr. Fashola correspondence will interest you as it includes, the contractor handling the project, compensation for affected communities, total cost of the said compensation, names of benefiting communities, and many more. The correspondence reads in details:
- “Odukpani – Itu Bridge Head was awarded to M/s Julius Berger Nig. Plc;
- M/s Julius Berger Nig. Plc has been instructed to commence work at Odukpani, the Cross River State Section;
iii. To ensure accelerated progress, the project has been included in the 2020 SUKUK funding programme with N1billion & N2billion earmarked for sections of the road within Akwa Ibom State and Cross River State respectively;
- The contractor, M/s Julius Berger Plc. stated that compensation issues constitutes a problem within the Cross River State section of the road and for that reason, it is unable to commence work;
- It is the resolution of the Federal Executive Council that the responsibility for paying compensation to affected persons along the construction width of a road project shall be borne by the State Government where the road is domiciled;
- That the Ministry had completed the valuation of buildings, crops and economic trees along the construction width of the project in Cross River State and had arrived at a compensation cost of N1,147,008,880.71 for the following Communities
- MBAT ODUKPANI
- NGBE AYA
- IKOT OKON AKAIBA
- AKAI EFFIWAT
- OBOT EKPO VILLAGE
vii. That the Ministry had communicated the cost of compensation to the Executive Governor of Cross River State requesting that he makes payment through the contractor, M/s Julius Berger Plc. to enable the contractor commence work.”
Having perused the response of Mr. Fashola, the Honourable Minister of Works and Housing, I am perplexed as to how the Federal government will cheaply relegate it statutory responsibility of land ownership and infrastructural developments on a crawling state like Cross River with the least federal allocation in the country. Could this be the case of robbing Peter to Paul?
Succor however returned to the people of the state as pragmatic Sen. Gershom Bassey promises to partner with the Ayade led administration in achieving the road project including compensation for the benefit communities. With this beckon of hope, the results from the union between the legislator and his state governor is expected to recreate a mental representation of the Egyptian architecture that has stood the taste of time as well as assuaging plights of the masses.