On a Saturday morning in Ilorin, a city in Nigeria’s North-Central, this reporter embarked on a journey to the Coca-Cola Road in Ilorin West Local Government of Kwara State to check the status of the five-kilometre road billed for rehabilitation.
As it recently rained, the journey on the road was tumultuous; most parts of the road had potholes. However, towards the end, the road became smoother.
“When we divide this road into four, they didn’t even rehabilitate up to one. If you check from that bridge where they stopped the project to that Coca-Cola company and continue till the end of the road, you will see how terrible the road is,” Clement Ajayi, a commercial tricycle driver in the community, said.
In 2020, through nomination by a federal lawmaker representing Asa/Ilorin West Constituency, Abdulyekeen Sadiq, the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority (LNRBDA) awarded the rehabilitation of the road to Ibyets International Ltd at N88,716,787.97. N50 million was paid to the contractor, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) response from LNRBDA.
However, less than one kilometre of the road was rehabilitated, leaving a considerable part unrehabilitated and now appearing as a gallery of stagnant ponds.
The road wasn’t only abandoned, but the rehabilitated part was also poorly executed as it’s now peeling off, revealing the old underlay asphalt.
A nightmare of a road
The road houses some commercial entities, including the Seven-Up Bottling Company Limited and Nigeria Bottling Company. It also serves as an alternative route for some areas like Osin, Geri-Alimi, Unity Roundabout, and Post Office in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Residents said the road before rehabilitation work started had long caused commuters problems, but the project’s abandonment makes it even worse.
The contractor was said to have started work in November 2020, and barely a few months later, the project was stopped and abandoned at Babaode bridge, leaving other parts untouched and filled with terrible potholes.
This had kept residents, and users of the road worried about when the distress of the road would finally become history.
“You know this project would not have been left uncompleted if there was adequate monitoring and follow-up,” Mr Ajayi, echoing the worries of other tricycle riders, said.
Habeebat Abdulmuheez, who owns a provision store in the community, said a smooth ride could only be taken on the rehabilitated part. She added that the bad portion of the road makes commuting difficult, especially during the rainy season when the road would be flooded and become almost impassable.
“See how the road has gotten worse. We suffer most when it is raining. When the rain sets in, maybe at 5 pm, we have to close our shops and leave for our houses early because if we stayed and waited for the rain to stop, the road would be flooded and clogged that we wouldn’t even find our legs on the road,” Mrs Abdulmuheez said.
Industries Recount Loss
Owners and staff of industries located in the community bemoan the hardship while recounting losses and describing the challenges they face, especially during the rainy season.
Bolaji Olufade, who owns a block production firm, describes the damage the road has done to his business.
“When you get to the rehabilitated part is when you will only enjoy a smooth ride. Our blocks are just breaking, falling from vehicles while transporting them out for sales through the road. Once it’s raining like this, it’s a misfortune for us. We’ve accepted that we don’t have a government in this country,” Mr Olufade said.
Mr Olufade said they were happy at the contractor’s first presence and hoped the project would forbid more loss, but that hope was dashed soon after the project was abandoned.
Also, a staff of Coca-Cola company, Umar Olajide, decried the project’s abandonment and how the deplorable state of the road is affecting their business. He said if attention is given to the other part of the road, it will bring relief to the community.
As it rained that morning of this reporter’s visit, one of the Seven-Up company’s vehicles was spotted in front of the factory loaded with broken asphalt concrete to fill in the potholes, but some youth were seen taking pleasure by extorting money from cars plying the road, claiming to be maintaining the dilapidated parts of the road.
“The facilitator has ceased to finance the project,” — Agency Reacts
UDEME wrote the LNRBDA to seek information on the project and answers on its abandonment. The agency said the rehabilitated portion is even beyond what the 2020 budget release covers.
LNRBDA disclosed that the contract was awarded at N88 million, but only N50 million has been released to the contractor. The response described the project as ‘100% completed.’
“The rehabilitation work could not be extended to other parts of the road because the year 2020 appropriation of N50,000,000 for the project was inadequate to complete the [entire] road.
“In order to derive maximum values for Government money, the authority, during feasibility studies, decided to construct the road and drainage to the minimum safe discharge point; that is, the bridge at Babaode. Hence, the project was awarded beyond the appropriation to a value of N88,716,787.97.
“The Authority is still sourcing from its capital vote to pay the balance because the facilitator has ceased to finance the project,” part of the response reads.
Lawmaker, contractor reacts
Mr Sadiq could not be reached for comments. His aide, Tajudeen Akande, said the constituency office was kept in the dark and knew nothing about how the project was executed.
“In the whole project, they put our office in darkness. The person it was awarded to, how the payment was made, and other things, the constituency didn’t know anything about it,” Mr Akande said.
Meanwhile, the contractor, Ibrahim Mudashiru, of Ibyets International Ltd., stated that inadequate funding was the reason the project was halted at Babaode bridge
Mr Mudashiru said he spoke with the project’s facilitator in 2020, but he was told that he (the lawmaker) would nominate the rehabilitation in subsequent years’ budgets to complete other parts of the road, but nothing has been done yet for almost two-year.
He said more than N400 million is still required to finish the road rehabilitation stating that a kilometre costs N150 million and that the road still has more than three kilometres to be completed.
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