The construction of a major road in Adamawa that has gulped N3 billion and would have solved the transportation problems of millions of residents was abandoned in 2014 due to the Boko Haram insurgency.
However, now that there is relative peace in the area, a disagreement between the contractor and the government on the valuation of work done is still stalling the project.
The Gombi-Ga’anda-Fotta road was first awarded by the Murtala Nyako administration on December 3, 2009. The 36km road with three bridges was awarded to A.G. Vision Construction Nigeria Limited at the cost of N4.6 billion with a completion period of 24 months.
The Gombi-Ga’anda road is the only one that links many villages with Gombi town, the administrative headquarters of Gombi Local Government Area. The road also connects Gombi and Shelleng local governments in Adamawa State and Borgu town in Borno State.
With many of the communities that the road links being farming communities, the road is a major means of transportation of farm produce and cattle. But its poor state and non-completion, 12 years after its contract was awarded, has made life difficult for the farmers, traders and others who ply the road.
Transportation of farm produce to the hinterland by farmers has become expensive because of the increased transport fare caused by the bad road.
“We spend much time on the road while transporting our farm produce to markets for sale,” Abbas Ibrahim, a farmer, told this reporter while lamenting the bad state of the road and higher cost of transportation.
He added that because of the low purchasing power of the residents of the communities, they cannot transfer the higher cost of transportation to the consumers, saying, “at the end of the day, we sell the products at lower prices.”
When the contract for the road project was awarded in 2009, N3 billion of the total contract sum of N4.6 billion was paid upfront to the contractor, A.G. Vision.
However, although the road project was supposed to be completed within 24 months, the construction was delayed because of the repeated attacks by Boko Haram in the area, Francis Dzarma, the site engineer of the construction firm, told this reporter: “In fact, some of our staff were killed in Boko Haram attacks during the construction and we lost several equipment”.
Five years after the contract was issued, the company could no longer continue with the project because of the Boko Haram attacks.
Mr Dzarma said his firm, in September 2014, wrote to the Adamawa government that it could no longer continue with the project due to the Boko Haram attacks. He said the works ministry via a November 2014 letter with reference GA/AGV/RE/VOL.1/101 & 102 asked the contractor to vacate the sites.
Speaking on the amount of work done before the company stopped work, the engineer said, “we have constructed only one bridge at Kanjara and backfilled it which is now motorable even at the peak of the rainy season. We have completed hydric structures 75 per cent while surfacing almost 50 per cent completion.”
Adamawa is one of the three states most affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. The other two are neighbouring Borno and Yobe states.
However, due to the efforts of Nigeria’s military and security agencies, the spate of attacks in Adamawa State has reduced significantly since 2016. A lot of businesses that were once shut have reopened while many displaced persons have returned to their communities.
A.G. Vision, the contractor, says it is ready to return to work but needs more money from the government. However, the government says based on its valuation of the amount of work done on the project, the firm had only completed 30 per cent of the work despite receiving over 50 per cent of the money.
“Government had paid N3 billion to the construction firm, but the level of work done so far by the company did not tally with the amount released before the stoppage of the work,” a senior official of the Adamawa works ministry told this reporter in May.
“Though, the present administration of Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri had again negotiated with the company to resume work and henceforth payment will only be made based on the work done,” the source added, asking not to be named as he has no permission to talk to journalists.
Mr Dzarma, the contractor’s site engineer, disagrees with the government’s position.
He told this reporter that the level of work done commensurates with the amount released. “That is why the company is demanding another payment before going back to the site,” he said.
Controversial Budgetary Provisions
Although the road project has been abandoned since 2014, the state government budgeted a total of N750 million for the project between 2015 and 2020. A sum of N150 million was included in each of the budgets of 2015, 2018 and 2019 while N300 million was included in the budget of 2020.
Sources in the works ministry and the Adamawa government, however, told this reporter that none of the funds budgeted in that period was ‘cash-backed,’ meaning the funds were not released.
When this reporter confronted Mr Dzarma on how much his firm has received so far for the project, he declined to state the amount.
“We have two pending unpaid certificates, as it is now I cannot declare the amount received so far,” he said.
He insisted that his firm was ready to return to work but only after they get more money from the government.
“Honestly speaking, A.G. Vision Company is ever ready and willing to go back to site with understanding of payment from the government. We are ready, we have the machinery, manpower and technical know-how,” he said.
Residents, Traders Lament
While the Adamawa government and the contractor continue to argue, the road remains uncompleted and residents and road users continue to bear the brunt of the uncompleted project.
“The bridges constructed on the roads many years ago have broken down while some of them have cracks. I’m appealing to you my colleagues to impress (it) on the state government to come to our aid and construct the road to ameliorate the hardship faced by my people,” Japhet Kefas, the lawmaker representing Gombi in the Adamawa House of Assembly, told his colleagues during a House sitting in August 2020.
Moses Suetana, a trader, lamented the high fares charged by commercial drivers plying the road, saying, “the cost of goods will be moderate if there is a good road.”
Another trader, Lami Elijah, told this reporter that “the road is getting worse and requires urgent attention”.
“For now, we cannot transport bottled soft drinks as they would break into pieces,” she said.
Edward Festus, a commercial bus driver plying the road, said vehicles plying the road do not last long.
“No new commercial vehicle that plies the road will last for more than two years,” he said.
Ladan Dashu, the chairman of a traders’ association in the area, said one of the bridges constructed has now become a death trap due to potholes.
Buba Lamido, a cattle dealer and Fulani leader, narrated how the bad road has affected cattle trading in the area.
“We pay on each cow from N3,000 to N4,000 from Ga’anda to Gombi while to Song we pay N10,000.
“With the delay in reaching markets on time, buyers of cattle who came from far away have gone and we don’t have any alternative than to sell them at give-away prices,” he added.
When contacted, the Adamawa State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Umar Pella, simply said the government is committed to completing the project and other abandoned ones.
“If you remember, Gombi-Ga’anda-Fotta road contracts at a time became moribund, and up to now it is sad the work has not been completed,” he said.
He refused to be categorical on when the road project will continue or be completed, saying, “as a government, we are committed not only to initiating and completing our own projects, but also completing every project that has been abandoned by our predecessors.”
This story was produced as part of the Udeme project, a social accountability and transparency project of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism(PTCIJ). The content is the sole responsibility of the author and the publisher
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