Umahi spoke to journalists during a state-wide projects inspection which was his first official function after his recovery from the COVID-19 infection.
You were in Akaeze in Ivo LGA, what can you tell us about your mission there?
The mission was for a bridge that connects Akaeze with Abia State. It is called Atani Bridge. I was however very angry because the bridge has not been reconstructed as against my directive. I visited the Bridge at the time I visited the Esu Bridge in Uburu, the one we have almost completed, and that one is a six span bridge while the Atani Bridge is a 2-span bridge. The former caretaker chairman had told me that he was going to construct the bridge and money was mapped out for that. I was disappointed when I visited the bridge to see that nothing was done there. It should have been done within three months but the Council Chairman who was to do it did not do it. I have directed for the probe of the funds that were allocated for that.
Every month, they receive their allocations and after paying salaries and pensions, the funds that is available, I would like to see how they want to spend it; the Chairman told me one time that he was going to use the remaining money for the bridge and I said go ahead. And of course, if I see what you want to do with funds and it is okay, I will say go ahead and do it because the progress of the local government is my responsibility and so, I always make sure they don’t misuse funds.
To the new Caretaker Chairman, I have told her to do the drainage of 1km road to the bridge, and then at the market, we want to redesign the famous Akaeze market. We want to see the beautification of the park. Also, I want the Caretaker Committee Chairmen to plant trees in all the roads in their areas; federal roads, state roads, local government roads. I want them to plant trees all through the roads at 5metres interval. From tomorrow, they should start to plant trees. The good thing about it is that when you leave office, the trees will be standing and if you are passing, you will say I did this and that’s the joy of life.
In Edda, Afikpo South local government area, you have almost completed the long road that connects the community from Amasiri, what informed your decision to construct that road?
We have a very difficult terrain here. Fortunately, I was the contractor that handled the road project when I was still a businessman. The terrain of that road was so terrible. About four expatriate contractors were awarded the job from Owutu down to Nguzu, it’s about 14.5km but they could not do it until Dr. Sam Egwu, the first civilian Governor of the state brought us to do it and we started working on it. Elechi came in as governor and inherited it and we finished it under Elechi. Under Sam Egwu, the valley where I am planning to construct flyover now is where we were to follow but Elechi came and felt that we should follow the other one.
We have one 20m-span bridge of which the depth is about 25m. One, we have so much accidents on this route and I am very much concerned. Because of my passion for the people and my passion for quality construction even when I was still a businessman, the work we did without any stone base since 2004 is still standing; very terrible terrain and it is still standing, no stone base, it is two inches asphalted.
We glorify God that He gave me the opportunity to rework the road now, and it can last for another 70 years and that is why we are using concrete to chase it. Not only did we start in Owutu, we have to project backwards about 10kms starting from Amasiri junction. Right now, we have done a total of 20kms of concrete from Amasiri junction to where we have stopped.
You spoke angrily with the Commissioner for Works at the Edda hill, what happened?
I was a bit angry because I directed the Commissioner for Works and the local government Chairman that this concrete should stop somewhere so that I see the possibility of putting a flyover to destroy this hill, and then save the lives of the people through a flyover bridge. I was so angry because this 300m of concrete is about N30million which I will not pay. The Chairman of the local government, the contractor and the Commissioner for Works will meet and take the responsibility because I was very clear on what should be done there; I was there with the Commissioner for Works and we agreed on what to do. That was not the first time we will agree on this. I hope the Commissioner for Works will send back the resident engineer to actually be resident in this place. And the Commissioner as a matter of urgency should begin to obey instructions. Get the contractor back to site to cut the concrete that is already cast by 4inches and put bitumen in it. This is my directive all over the state but it is not being carried out.
The measurement and cost have been done and it will cost about N3bn. This is quite 1.2km of flyover bridge; not only is 1.2km, the height is about 25m. We are encouraged in the Lord, so this is what we are thinking to do. The local government here has the responsibility of building two abutments and doing the earthwork while we have the responsibility of building the flyover and we are starting this August. For me, everything is possible with God. The life of one Edda man is more than N3bn but I will still achieve the project with less than N3bn and with the same quality with the ones we have in Abakaliki. That is what we are going to do because my target is to leave a legacy of quality projects in Ebonyi State.
This Edda hill flyover is a capital intensive project and the state has cut down its 2020 budget because of coronavirus pandemic. Where will the money for the project come from and will you complete it before the end of your administration which is far spent?
Two years and 10 months is still a lot of time for me and God. This project is not going to be completed in one year, the important thing is to start and God will have His way. We are bringing all our projects together, we are not starting new projects as such; we have to conclude all we are doing. But the local government has to start and they have to start with the abutment and then next year, we will come and do the pilling and then we will continue. We will achieve this project.
In the health sector, you are constructing an ultra-modern medical school. What is the situation of things there?
Right now, we have a lot of finishing materials that are available there. In terms of the building, we have attained about 80 percent completion, in terms of equipment; we have paid about 40 per cent for medical school. We have an eye centre there which is going to be the best in the whole of West Africa, we have cancer centre there, we have kidney transplant centre, we have dialysis centre also there, we have a factory that produces dialyzers. Dialyzer is a disposable component of dialysis operation which is the most expensive of that dialysis operation and it is not produced anywhere in Africa. So, we have taken that technology from Switzerland and we have already made part payment of 40 percent and it is going on very well. We have also specialized pediatricians who will handle very small little babies, we have two hostels for male and female, we have eight buildings dedicated for junior and senior staff, we have a secondary school there that is dedicated for the community and a primary school is coming.
You also inspected works at the Ebonyi Airport site; what is the situation in terms of time of expected delivery?
This is 2020; we are looking at 2022 unfailingly to complete the airport project. Some of the important projects we are passionate about completing are the airport, the college of medicine, dualisation of Abakaliki-Afikpo Road, dualisation of Abakaliki-Enugu Road and the stadium, these are the major projects we have.
The Bible says when men say there’s a casting down, we will say there’s a lifting up. Abraham followed God when He asked him to follow Him to show him a land, he believed God. When God sends you on a mission and you have a passion, He gives you a vision which you pursue with passion. Everything is possible to those who believe. You have to have the passion then, God will make a way for you.
The terminal building for the airport is like two and a half size of our shopping mall, if you can trace the mall; this is like two and a half size of the mall. It is going to be the biggest terminal building in the country. We have done almost 90 per cent of the pilling, and that’s the real work and it is the work that costs more money, what’s in the ground is more than what is coming up.
The tarmac is hundred metres width; it’s like ten-lane by 4 kilometres. Tarmac is a different thing because there’s impact load, there’s traction load and also there’s dynamic load, there is a special design, but the earthwork is very challenging, we are going through valleys and hills and we are on it. You can see the airport road, it’s about 4 kilometres. The airport flyover is being set out.
THE SUN, NIGERIA