Piqued by the total collapse of federal roads in the country’s Southeast region, founder of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) and Secretary, Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA), Evang Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, has called on the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC) to investigate contractors handling the roads and government officials who awarded the contracts with a view to ascertaining their level of culpability.
Uko’s appeal comes amid total breakdown of portions of strategic federal roads in the region, including Enugu-Onitsha road, Onitsha-Owerri road, Aba-Ikot Ekpene road, Enugu-Port Harcourt road, among others.
The activist who made the appeal in a statement on Friday, noted that the state of roads in the Southeast “is embarrassing, to say the least.”
According to him, “Enugu/Onitsha, one hour journey, now takes five hours. Trade and commerce suffers. Distribution of farm produce is greatly hampered. Travel becomes a nightmare.
“The management of the construction companies responsible for some of the roads and their directors are sacred cows that cannot be called out.
“We think the time has come for companies to be proud of the roads they deliver. We think it’s time to investigate why roads suddenly collapse, split in two, break in the middle or suddenly turn into craters and huge potholes. Some turn into swimming pools. Who built them and why the sudden collapse?”
Uko tasked the anti corruption agency to use the same zeal it uses to trace and arrest internet fraudsters to also pursue contractors who deliver substandard jobs and public office holders who divert funds meant for such projects.
He said, “EFCC visits hotels and homes picking up suspected fraudsters a.k.a. Yahoo boys. They are paraded, their Laptops and other telecommunication devices seized and displayed. They are detained, investigated and arraigned for trial.
“Aside the complaints that sometimes Innocent folks are picked up and their school projects delayed as their Laptops are seized, the nation has actually seen several convictions and even confessions and refunds.
“But we wonder how come, same EFCC finds it difficult to investigate failed road projects. We hope it’s not just a situation of finding it very convenient to raid hotels in search of youngsters, but inconvenient and inpolitik to investigate shady road contracts because of the calibre of people involved. It would have been much better if the two areas were addressed simultaneously, thereby carrying the people along in the process.
“Since anyone who embezzles public funds without properly discharging his side of the bargain, certainly committed economic crime against the people. There’s need for a thorough investigation into the causes of many failed roads.
“In my region, many federal roads have collapsed. So many lives have been lost, so many businesses destroyed as a result of impassable roads. Many are death traps. Some due to low quality and substandard construction.
“Some are reported to have been budgeted for, in some cases, contracts actually awarded and payment made. When will EFCC look into the cases of contracts awarded and jobs either poorly executed or not done at all.
“If Mr. Integrity’s administration truly wants to earn the trust and respect of the masses of my region, EFCC search light should be beamed on the records of the many contracts awarded in respect of these many failed roads.
“Who did what road? Which companies were paid? Who supervised the shabily done jobs? Who approved payments? Where the jobs done properly and satisfactorily?
“If a culture of probity and accountability is not established, the profligacy that crippled the country will not only continue, but grow worse.
“These terribly failed roads were done by humans who believe they are untouchable. The reluctance of EFCC to look into this very important issue, does not speak well of the reputation of the institution.
“Going after students and youngsters in night clubs and hotel rooms, while the remorseless and conscienceless big fishes who destroyed the land by their greed and their mindless looting strut freely about as if they are above the law, does not enhance the credibility of the EFCC.
“These horrible roads hinder economic growth, retard agricultural activities, negatively impact on social life and cripple transportation of goods and people.
“The much oppressed and abused masses are praying and waiting to see the day the EFCC will begin to do the needful. There’s no better way to earn respect of the aggieved masses, than to go after the hyenas and the foxes who ate up the people’s commonwealth.
“EFCC digging into the contract awards, job supervision and project delivery, would help sanitize the system.
“The spate of broken and collapsed roads, with some splitting right into two, suggests serious investigations be carried out in order to ascertain the materials used in the construction of the roads.
“This measure will ensure better quality roads. The current situation does not speak well about our government. EFCC should take a look at the books now.”