By Chukwuemeka Opara
Onicha (Ebonyi) – Top Ebonyi Government officials and youths from Onicha Local Government Area (LGA) of the state on Wednesday protested the alleged shoddy road project being executed by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency in the area.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Correspondent who witnessed the protest reports that the officials, including senior aides of the state governor, joined the over 50 youths to protest FERMA’s work at the Okposi—Onicha section of the Okposi-Onicha-Isu-Nara federal highway.
The protesters carried placards with inscriptions: “FERMA Execute Good Job in Our Area” and “Ebonyi has High Road Execution Standard” among others as FERMA officials alleged that they were manhandled in the process.
Chief Itapa Azuobu, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor on Project Monitoring (South Senatorial Zone), said that the project was not being executed with specifications.
“Drainages are not constructed in Ebonyi for instance with ‘BRC-Mesh’-rods as our standard here is that a road ‘shoulder’ should be with 1.5m–2m apart to get 10.3m at the end.
“The FERMA’s state director’s claim that she and her staff were manhandled was false as she could not have survived if such number of youths attacked her,” he said.
Mr Felix Igboke, Chairman of Onicha LGA, said that the indigenes, who plied the road complained of its substandard state and the government decided to intervene.
“The FERMA state director admitted that the specifications used for the project was her choice, not even FERMA’s standard as the road project being executed by the council is of higher quality.
“We have consulted and decided that the road project should be suspended until she meets with the state commissioner for works, the SSA on project monitoring and other relevant officials,” he said.
He also denied the allegation of manhandling by the FERMA state director as unfounded, noting she admitted that some of youths only attempted to snatch her handbag.
Mr Mark Onu, the Special Assistant (SA) to the Governor on Youth Mobilisation, alleged that the FERMA director was rude to the government officials when she was approached for clarifications.
“I am the leader of youths in Ebonyi and if anybody should attack, I should give the order but I didn’t give such,” he said.
Mrs Eberechukwu Ogbuagu, FERMA’s state Director declared that the road had been neglected for long but was earmarked for maintenance in the agency’s 2017 capital project schedule.
“Two ‘box-culverts’ were awarded for construction—at kilometre ‘one plus 400’ and the other one at kilometre ‘eight plus 500’.
““For us to connect the culverts, I pushed for a road contract which was approved by the agency.
“There was provision for stone base of 160 cm asphalt of 40cm among others in the project’s specification as the standard for carriage-ways is 7.3m with a shoulder width of a 2.75m,” she said.
“During my discussion with the governor, I told him that it was impossible for FERMA as a maintenance outfit to work below standard having being monitors units from the zonal and headquarters,” she said.
She alleged that she alongside her driver and other staff were seriously manhandled by the protesting youths describing it as humiliating. (NAN)