P/Harcourt monorail as Amaechi’s joker against traffic gridlock

| February 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

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In response to the perpetually chaotic traffic situation in Port Harcourt, the River State capital, the Chibuike Amaechi administration has been making efforts in the city. In this piece, BOLAJI OGUNDELE writes about the project and the several concerns that had been so far expressed.

THE monorail project of the Rivers State government is one that has, right from its inauguration in October 2009, been criticised by people, especially those politically opposed to the man who believe the project does not have the capability to arrest the maddening road traffic system in the city of Port Harcourt. Critics, indeed, waited for the project to be initiated and allowed it to move a distance before starting a scathing campaign against it. To them, the pace of work on it has been a major concern. Those not disposed to the monorail project have been describing it in all manner of adjectives and by extension, castigating its initiator, the state governor.

The project, valued at $318 million and spanning a stretch of almost 20 kilometres; from Aggrey Road in the Old Town axis of the city to the Eleme Junction terminus, was signed as a Public/Private Partnership (PPP) agreement between the Rivers state government and the management of TSI Property and Investment Holding Limited. The agreement stated that the contract sum was to be shared in the ration of 85 per cent by the company and 15 per cent by the government and that the company would manage the day-to-day administration of the firm that would run the operations of the completed project.

A snag, however, snailed its way into the contract when TSI, for some unexplained reasons, backed out of the agreement, leaving the contract to either die or be solely shouldered by the government. The government did not make the new development open to the public and the pace of work on the project left the people, the opposition especially, to conjecture all sorts of ideas about what might have happened to it. This opened an avenue for those who wished to ‘seize’ power in the state to constantly attack the governor during the campaign season, which preceded the 2011 election.

The questions raised by the opposition, spearheaded by the spokesman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state, Jerry Needam, has not rested since, just as the governor as well as other members of his administration have continued to enlighten all on what has been happening to the project, even as works continue to go on with the first phase which the governor has said would be delivered before the end of 2013.

The questions have hung around whether the government is still in the project and whether the objective for which it was conceived in the first place is still valid. The governor, Amaechi, at various points, had not failed to inform the world that the project was still running, trying to convince residents of the city not to mind ‘the propaganda of the opposition’ against his programmes and projects.

He once said, “The monorail is under construction, but some people are bent on criticising us. Even though they see people working, they still say it has been abandoned. It takes one month to build three of those columns. The construction is very slow and that’s because they don’t want any mistake; it’s a very technical thing.”     

While presenting the 2013 budget to the state House of Assembly towards the close of December 2012, the governor categorically noted that the project was still in progress, giving a detailed progress report on the work done, being done and expected to be done. According to him, everything needed in delivering the first phase of the project, including the tracks and the stations had been taken care of. He added, “With regards to our rail transport, the monorail construction continued unhindered in the year 2012. All components of the project, design, installation and construction were on schedule during the year.”  

If that is considered enough of explanations on the state of the project, how then do the people view it in itself; the objective of its conception, its acceptability and the sincerity of government? Here, the government’s motive should first be taken. Some have suggested that the character of the initiator should be considered in this regard. Burabari Godwin, a Port Harcourt based technician describes Amaechi as dogged and always sincere. To him, the traffic difficulty in Port Harcourt pains the governor as it pains every other person, citing instances when the governor, despite possessing the powers and rights to beat traffic rules whenever his convoy runs into gridlocks, wades through until it clears out.

“That alone gives me the confidence that our governor is serious about this project. I stay in Diobu and as it stands now, it doesn’t look like the project is going to benefit me much because all I can see are long pillars coming from the town till UTC Junction. But if Amaechi says he will take it to Waterlines before he lives office, I can bet with my money on his promise because he doesn’t just promise, he has his pride and he weighs his words,” Godwin said.

Another question that has always been on debate is whether the project holds any key to solving the traffic crisis in the Port Harcourt. When the administration started it, the objective was to reduce the number of people plying roads within the city. For instance, the monorail is considered a fast and effective mode of transportation, and considering how it has worked in other parts of the world where it has been in use for years, the mode of transportation allows passengers to plan their movement with time. According to the project design, the monorail is meant to run through the heavily congested areas of the city; from Old Town through Diobu, back to Aba Road until it terminates at the city exit port at Oyigbo, carrying not less than 210 persons at once.

The source of concern for Port Harcourt residents now is to on the ability of the government to deliver on the project. Amaechi has continued to assure that the project was on course and that the phase his administration plans on complete would be delivered by the end of 2013. But the financial capability of the administration to deliver on the project is ‘bugging’ many, considering the financial concerns the government might be having currently along with huge ongoing projects it has to deliver before it finally winds down in 2015.     

Culled from :Here

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