The federal government road project at Itu-Odukpani-Calabar Road in Akwa-Ibom state, may have been stalled as a result of one Bernard Okon Ekpenyong reportedly planting fetish charms on the equipment of the construction company, Julius Berger.
Blueprint information has it that the contractor handling the Itu-Odukpani road, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, has been violently obstructed and stopped from continuing with the project by one Bernard Ekpenyong at Nkim Itam in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state.
The development was confirmed by the Federal Controller of Works in Uyo, Engr. N. Ukpong who noted that Ekpenyong had continued to threaten to violently stop the work over bogus compensation and damage claims to sensationally milk the federal government of about N200 million, has obstructed and stopped Julius Berger from going forward with the project.
Ekpenyong is said to have employed the services of youths of Nkim Itam to disrupt work on the road, even he allegedly openly planted fetish material on Julius Berger equipment on site thereby preventing the contractor’s equipment and personnel on site from further work and progress on the project.
Further checks at the office of the Federal Controller of Works revealed that Ekpenyong had no justifiable reason or basis for his action which is against the overall interest of the communities affected by the federal government project.
It was gathered that Ekpenyong was advised against creating the blockade to avoid possible flood but refused to listen to wise counsel only to turn around after the flood to start making unnecessary and unwarranted demand in spite of causing damage to part of the project site.
The project contractor, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, was said to have written and drew the attention of the Works Sector of the Federal Ministry of Works Field Headquarters in Uyo, in May 2020, to the channelling of huge surface runoff water from a nearby automobile assembly company to the drain at Ch. 60+000.
In the letter addressed to the Office of the Federal Controller of Works, Julius Berger drew the attention of the ministry to the poor and potentially consequential surface water channelling activities of the automobile company and therefore called for the intervention of the ministry to get the automobile company to “directly guide its huge runoff water to the valley behind the automobile company’s premises.”
The construction company in the letter requested the ministry’s intervention to forestall subsequent overflowing of the drain and flooding of the communities around, even as the Controller of Works was said to have visited the automobile company on the issue and directed that the needful be done, but the company failed to act.
Blueprint gathered that the ministry as part of its proactive measures sought and obtained approval from its headquarters in Abuja for the enlargement of the drainage system and also got approval for financial compensation for properties to be affected by the construction of the new and wider precast drainage design.
Speaking on the situation an engineer with the Federal Ministry of Works told journalists that: “To effectively contain the water discharge from the said Car Assembly plant, and to prevent potential flood and damages, the water drainage design was changed from trapozoidal system to a pre-cast U-drain.
“The purpose technically is to accommodate increase in surface water runoff from the auto company heading towards the road carriageway and to properly channel the surface water flow to a bigger outfall drain.”
Meanwhile, some members of the Nkim Itam community and other citizens of Akwa Ibom are said to be planning to hit back at Ekpenyong and his allies for the breach of the peace necessary to continue the implementation of the project expected to benefit the various communities, however, the Project Coordinator in Uyo, Mrs. Ukochio Ndifreke, has continued to appeal to Ekpenyong to take the “native charms” from Julius Berger’s equipment to let the Itu-Odukpani-Calabar Road work progress unhindered.