Mbak Ekid Itam section of the Calabar-Itu road completed by Julius Berger. Photo taken December 28, 2021.

By Abasifreke Effiong & Uwana Edighienyong

After three years of delay, significant progress has now been made on the dualisation of the Calabar-Itu road.

Contractors have resumed work on three of the four sections of the road awarded by the federal government.

One of the contractors handling a section of the road, SEMATEC Engineering Nigeria Ltd., said it will complete its own section covering 28.6kms by the end of April 2023.

The Calabar-Itu covers a distance of about 60km, has nine bridges and many culverts and cuts across Ikot Ekpene, Ibiono Ibom, and Itu local government areas in Akwa Ibom and Odukpani local government area in Cross River State.

The Dune learnt that the federal government has awarded the road project in four parts to three contractors at the cost of N185 billion.

The first section of the road which begins from Ibiakpan junction in Ikot Ekpene to Mbak Ekid Itam in Itu local government area with a spur to Ididep in Ibiono Ibom local government areas has been awarded to Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company, CCECC.

The second section beginning from Mbak Ekid Itam to Oku Iboku junction in Itu local government area is awarded to Julius Berger, while SEMATEC Engineering Nigeria Ltd., is awarded the stretch from Oku Iboku junction to the independent power plant at Ikot Nyong, Odukpani local government area, Cross River State.

The fourth section of the road which takes up from Ikot Nyong to Odukpani junction is also awarded to Julius Berger.

Select journalists led by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, toured three sections of the road on Tuesday 28th December, to ascertain the level of job done.

It was observed that about 3kms (from Mbak Ekid Itam to Ekim junction) within the Akwa Ibom section awarded to Julius Berger has been fully asphalted with drainage on both sides.

SEMATEC Engineering Nigeria Ltd., has cleared over 7kms and completed full earth work to formation level on more than 2kms in the section awarded to it.

At the section from Ikot Nyong to Odukpani junction, also awarded to Julius Berger, earthworks covering more than 1.5kms have been done.

The deplorable state of the Calabar-Itu road had remained a concern to commuters and businesses operating along the Cross River and Akwa Ibom State for more than a decade now.

Dualisation of Calabar-Itu road gathers speed after 3 years of delay  Work in progress at the Odukpani section of the Calabar-Itu road handled by SEMATEC Engineering Nigeria Ltd. (Credit: Abasifreke Efdiong – The Dune.)

In the last three years, many passengers from Akwa Ibom and Cross River State have had to travel in speedboats.

In 2019, The Dune reported that despite higher fare and cases of attack by pirates, it was safer to travel by sea than traveling on the Calabar-Itu road due to its dilapidated state.

Between July and September 2021, commuters spent an average of 4 to 6 hours in gridlock within the Oku Iboku – Odukpani section of the road due to the dilapidated state of the road.

There is now free flow of traffic on the road. Residents have attributed this to different levels of work carried out by contractors handling the road and ongoing remedial work carried out by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA.

Despite making six stopovers during the course of our inspection, it took two hours and five minutes to drive from Mbak Ekid Itam to Odukpani junction.

Addressing journalists, Senator Ita Enang, said the Calabar-Itu road is among the 1800kms of roads to be funded with the N621 billion tax credit facility given last week by the NNPC.

He said with the new funding option, there is hope that the project will be completed within record time.

Senator Enang thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for approving new funding option for the road.

“Now we have nothing to be concerned about. All the banking assurances that would make the contractors get to site have been done. Last week, we signed the tax credit facility between the NNPC and federal inland revenue. We should be impressed that out of the over N600 billion tax credit, the Calabar-Itu raod project is taking almost N185 billion.”

“Let me specially commend President Muhammadu Buhari for the effort he has made in securing special funds for this project. The President has given attention to the road, not just because of the shouts of the people but because he is concerned about everybody and every part of the country.”

Dualisation of Calabar-Itu road gathers speed after 3 years of delay  L-R: The youth president of Ikot Abiyak, Oku Iboku, Mr. Owoidoho Effiong Anana, the village head of Ikot Abiyak, Eteidung Bassey Ikotidem, with the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, during the inspection of work on the dualisation of Calabar-Itu road. (Credit: Abasifreke Effiong – The Dune).

Senator Enang lauded SEMATEC Engineering Nigeria Ltd., for continuing to work on the road during the yuletide and making it motorable, and urged communities on the road to cooperate with the contractors to ensure timely completion of the project.

The site manager of SEMATEC Engineering, Engr. Joe Ukpata, said the company has fully mobilised to site.

He said the company has four teams working on the road and was bringing in expatriates to support its local content to quicken the construction of bridges and shorten the duration of the contract.

“We had to revise the project duration when we discovered that NNPC was to fund the project; otherwise it was supposed to be a-4 year duration, but now we are looking delivering this project by April 2023”, Ukpata.

The village head of Ikot Abiyak in Oku Iboku, Itu local government area, Eteidung Bassey Ikotidem, lauded the federal government for showing more seriousness towards the project.

“We are happy for one, SAMETEC has been able to keep this section of the road motorable for vehicles to keep passing. For sometime now motorist refused to come here, we were cut off right from Nkim Itam because of the bad road. But I’m happy the contractors have been able to keep it to the level that we have seen now.”

Eteidung Ikotidem appealed to Julius Berger to water the road to reduce dust and its attendant health effect.

The youth President of Ikot Abiyak, Mr.
Owoidoho Effiong Anana, thanked the federal government for awarding the road for full dualisation and urged the federal ministry of works to ensure adequate supervision and monitoring of the project.

“We are happy that this road is awarded for full dualisation. Our appeal is that the government agency responsible for the job should ensure compact supervision of the job.”

“Eyes have seen that SEMATEC has started something”, Anana added.