Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State on Friday gave contractors handling the rehabilitation of federal roads in the state a November 28 deadline to return to site or the state government would take over the projects.
Ikpeazu issued the ultimatum during an interactive session with newsmen at the Government House, Umuahia, saying the measure was to ensure the timely completion of the projects.
He said his administration would no longer fold its arms and watch the people suffer untold hardship as a result of the complete dilapidation of the roads.
The governor listed the roads to include Aba-Port Harcourt Expressway (awarded during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan), Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road and Umuahia Ikot Ekpene Road, awarded in 2018 and 2013 respectively.
Others are the Umuahia-Uzuakoli-Ohafia Road and Ohafia-Bende-Umuahia, Road which were both awarded about four years ago.
The rehabilitation of the Ohafia-Arochukwu Road, which commenced about two years ago, and Port Harcourt Road in Aba had reportedly suffered a setback.
Ikpeazu said: “We are calling on all the contractors handling federal roads in Abia to redouble their efforts.
“They should return to site on or before November 28 otherwise we will be forced to takeover the projects because we cannot continue to watch our people suffer.”
He noted that many lives and valuable property had also been lost due to the deplorable conditions of the roads.
The governor expressed concern that trade and commerce in Aba had suffered a major drawback because traders from other parts of the country could no longer access the commercial town.
Ikpeazu said his administration would take over the rehabilitation of the roads “with or without a refund from the Federal Government”.
He said the government’s recent experience with the Federal Ministry of Works over the construction of the road leading to Osisioma depot did not suggest Abia State would get a refund.
He said government had also initiated measures to ensure the speedy completion of state roads, adding that only contractors with proven performance would be paid.
Ikpeazu announced plans by the government to provide bailout “for the last time” to Abia Polytechnic, Aba to offset the backlog of unpaid salaries to its workers between now and January 30, 2021.
He said similar gesture would also be extended to Abia State University, Uturu; Health Management Board; College of Health Technology, Aba and others with arrears of unpaid salaries.
Ikpeazu also spoke on the devastation caused by the #EndSARS protesters in the state, which included the destruction of lives and property.
He blamed the protest on the rising unemployment rate and the non-conducive environment for creativity among the nation’s youth.
He described the proposed Enyimba Economic City, which would provide 6,500 jobs, and government’s focus on the development of the small and medium enterprise in Aba as some of his administration’s job creation initiatives.
The governor also spoke on the health and socio-economic challenges thrown up by COVID-19 and the state government’s response in tackling the pandemic and positive fallout from it.
According to him, the pandemic exposed the huge deficit in the nation’s health facilities and challenged the government “to step up its game in the provision of medical facilities”.
He said the state government, in collaboration with Abia indigenes in the diaspora, was at the final stage of establishing a Mother and Child Hospital in Umuahia.
He said already three containers of modern medical equipment had been shipped by them for the proposed facility.
Ikpeazu also said government had purchased additional dialysis machines to support the ones at the Me Cure Dialysis Centre in Umuahia, with plans for another facility in Aba for all kinds of ailments.
He said part of the steps taken to combat COVID-19 in the state was the setting up of isolation centres in Aba and Umuahia.
He said Abia State has isolation centres with more than 150 beds and state-of-the-art equipment.
The governor also said the state had two functional molecular labs with additional facilities for testing across the 17 local government areas of the state.
He expressed satisfaction with the commitment of the frontline medical personnel in the fight against the spread of the pandemic, “which made fatality rate very low”.
“Abia recorded 92 per cent success in the management of COVID-19 patients, one of the best records in the country,” he said.
The governor, who is a survivor of the pandemic, added: “With early diagnosis and proper clinical management, COVID-19 is not a death sentence.”