The East-West Highway Mega Project
I am an unabashed devotee of programs like MegaStructures on the Discovery Channel(TM) where amazing design and construction projects from different parts of the world are depicted and in my enthusiasm, it is easy to miss ongoing projects underway right near me.
I drove on the famed ‘East-West’ road yesterday and to my utmost ‘surprise’, in just over 2 hours of unhurried driving from Port Harcourt, I reached the outskirts of Warri. This morning, I hurried back, and from the major roundabout leaving Warri to Choba bridge, it took me just 2 hours, even with rain, construction traffic, some bad road segments and pauses I made to take pictures.
These are some of my observations.
1. This mega project stands shoulder to shoulder with many others in complexity and logistic demands so there is a lot to learn from it. Sadly, we are not telling our own stories.
2. Traveling along the road is like a road building class. Every step of the construction process is on display – from clearing vegetation along the proposed road route, to casting and placing the concrete drainage and bridge structures, to raising the road to the necessary levels using prodigious volumes of engineering grade sand to finishing the actual driving surface. Undoubtedly road construction in the Niger delta is extremely involved, complex and expensive.
3. On the equipment side, what is needed must often work immersed in fresh or salt water from swamps or tidal water bodies and is thus more expensive to lease/purchase, operate and maintain.
4. On the material side, the natural topography of the region is low-lying and verdant meaning vegetation must first be cleared, revealing areas sometimes equivalent to the height of a 4 storey building that require filling with engineering grade sand that may be imported over vast distances at great cost.
5. The plethora of rivers and rivulets that rive the region make it necessary to construct numerous bridges which would not be necessary in other geographic settings, again at great cost and time.
6. Even the weather ‘conspires’ against construction in the region because the total number of days unhindered by rain may not exceed 90 days a year. The rest are interrupted by varying intensities of rainstorms or showers that can set work progress back by days and weeks.
Based on my observations, I can report that vegetation is being cleared and surveyors are delineating the road route. Drainage structures are being cast and covered with engineering sand in consolidated, compacted layers. Asphalt paving is underway and myriad activities connected with delivering the road are on-going. Also, emergency repairs have been done to some of the worst portions of the road surface to ease the misery experienced by travelers. That the East-West road is a crucial transportation link between many regions of the country is not in doubt and this mega project deserves full financial support and oversight.
I gleaned a deeper appreciation of the problems faced by Minister Orubebe or indeed ANYBODY tasked with the challenge of completing the East-West road. While budgetary allocations are a primary limitation to what can be scheduled and accomplished, there are many more things that money cannot overcome – even in the best of circumstances – without the passage of TIME, if the intention is to deliver a high quality, sustainable, well executed job.
People should really stop throwing out the hackneyed ‘nothing is going on with the East-West road’. Nothing can go on IN ALL AREAS along the nearly 200 km route AT THE SAME TIME. With good project management and adequate reporting though, progress can be measured against expectations. This road would be a breeze to finish if all the resources available from the area it traverses were dedicated to it alone. However, the resources are taken to Abuja to be ‘shared’ so those who complain about the ‘slow pace of progress’ should tackle the problem there in line with Nigeria’s constitution.
TOP LINE LAST: Setraco is a boss! The road from Warri to Bomadi junction is simply silken and with the increasing extent of dualization, it will add to driving pleasure and safety when the whole thing is completed.
Eyewitness report and photos by Ebi Bozimo