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Blaming road works for Rivers tanker explosion is misleading – Umahi

The Minister of Public Works, David Umahi, has debunked claims that the ongoing rehabilitation of the Eleme stretch of the East-West Highway in Rivers State was responsible for last Friday’s carnage in the area.

This was when he asked the Federal Road Safety Corps to establish checkpoints aimed at monitoring drivers who use hard drugs and those who abuse substances, including alcohol.

The punch reports that five people were killed, while 120 vehicles were wiped out in what Rivers State Governor Siminalayi Fubara described as avoidable carnage.

Speaking to journalists, while leading a delegation of some officials of the Federal Ministry of Works on Wednesday afternoon to the accident site in Eleme, Umahi expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.

He also sympathized with the government and people of Rivers State over the incident which he described as unfortunate.

The minister, however, expressed dismay that some people were dismissive of the good intentions of President Bola Tinubu who approved the complete rehabilitation of the busy road, linking the rehabilitation works to the tragedy.

“I was informed of this unfortunate incident while I was working on the Lagos coastal route, so I decided to cut my trip short and be in Port Harcourt. Before coming, I received a report from the acting auditor of the Federal Ministry of Works, Rivers State.

“First, my deepest condolences to all the families of the victims for the unfortunate loss that cannot be recovered with the death of their loved ones and then to the people and government of Rivers State, I extend my deepest condolences.

“When someone dies, we don’t talk about who is right or who is wrong, because no loss can be recovered.

“But a funny person who claims to be the president of the Ogoni group or whatever made a very careless and inciting statement and again gave advice without knowing it.

“There is a bridge that we are rebuilding, very large, more than 16 meters wide from a detour we made last year and the vehicles continue there. The person made a very unpleasant statement, trying to blame the construction company and the federal government for the accident.

“He even boasted that he would take us to the International Court. He is a very funny human being. Every time people look for an opportunity to loot, I give credence to that useless and unfortunate statement.”

Umahi recalled that President Tinubu, upon assuming office, saw the deplorable state of the road and ordered that work be commenced, not as usual, but that the road be redesigned.

He added: “Apart from Warri to Benin and part of Lokoja, there is no other stretch of road in this country where this type of construction is taking place.

“The 15-kilometer dual-lane, six-lane highway is the busiest in the country. And since the earth is bad, we are digging about a meter, we are filling with clods about half a meter, we are filling with sharp sand about half a meter and then we are filling with a stone base, twenty centimeters.

“We are putting four inches and another stone base mixed with five percent cement and then now we are putting eight inches of reinforced concrete pavement on top. The President’s idea is that it last a minimum of 100 years, considering the load it carries.”

“The accident occurred, as I was informed, due to the carelessness of two drivers who were struggling, which as everyone knows is for the right of way because they were competing with their lives and collided with a trailer and a tanker truck that had fuel.

“I think the Federal Road Safety Corps should set up various checkpoints to screen people against ‘Mkpuru-mmiri’ (local hard substance) and hard drugs because it is only these that can make you use your life to compete and that is what happened and it’s unfortunate. .”

He regretted that the drivers caused the accident and the resulting losses.

“I am not even sure that the drivers who caused this accident lost their lives, but they did cause other law-abiding citizens of the country to lose their lives and various properties.

“My visit will ensure that they (the contractors) open the construction of the number of sections. The quality of the work they are doing is commendable and they should listen to us and open the construction.

“Whether they are running late or not has nothing to do with the accident. I will ask them to open more sections of the construction.

“It is in line with Mr President’s policy that contractors will not stay longer than two years on any road project and that is what we ensure happens, but not on coastal roads.”

Umahi said the coastal roads, Lagos-Calabar coastal highway and Badagry to Sokoto road will take more years to construct.

“The coastal roads are eight years and they are eight years of Mr. President’s two-term presidency, God willing,” he said.

Our correspondent, who covered the visit, reported that the minister later went to inspect the ongoing construction of the Enugu-Port Harcourt road, where he also expressed satisfaction with the quality and pace of the construction company’s work.