The seventeen (17) kilometers Okuni/Nsofang Road that leads to Nsofang, a community in Etung Local Government Area of central Cross River State, has been funded three times by the federal government. Yet, it is still in very bad shape.
Commuters that use the road are constantly exposed to grave dangers due to its impassibility despite gulping over N113 million.
The Nsofang/Okuni Road starts from Okuni in Ikom and terminates at Ekang in the Akamkpa Local Government Area. It links Okuni, Okokoma, Agbor-etai, and Nsofang communities to Akamkpa Local Government Area. It is also referred to as Okuni/Okoroba/Ekang Road. However, the seventeen-kilometre Okuni/Nsofang axis of the road contracted to Ghost Zee Limited is the stretch from Okuni to Nsofang axis only.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is the implementing agency while Ghost Zee Limited is the contractor. The first funds released for the project was N99.6 million while the second was N7.9 million, as well as N6.3 million in the third tranche.
According to the project specification as awarded by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, funding was approved for 17 17-kilometer stretch, but the contractor indicated 9 kilometers for execution on their signpost.
Meanwhile, members of the Nsofang community where the road actually leads, says the contractor worked on only 1.4 kilometers of the entire stretch of the road and that the job was poorly done.
The road was graded, but asphalting was done haphazardly and without a stone base. Members of the community who spoke to CrossRiverWatch said the job was done at just a 1.4-kilometer stretch and that the contractor at some point complained that there were no funds to continue the project.
“They worked on some bad spots on the road only, and left the rest,” said Mr. Emmanuel Ichor, a youth from the community. “They were asked to work on the whole stretch of the road, but they abandoned some parts.”
Community representative, Ogar Emumu, who was assigned by the community to work directly with the contractor confirmed that only 1.4 kilometers of the road were fixed.
“They worked some parts of the road around the Abijang community,” Emumu said. “But even the spots they worked were not solid, it wasn’t too good; I asked the contractor if the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development did not include the pouring of the stone base on the road, because even the area they poured asphalt on was broken. The road did not solidify and did not last. Later, another contractor was supposed to come, but when I called him, he said there was no money, and that he couldn’t use his money to come down.”
He added: “All I know is the contractor worked on just 1.4 kilometers, but there was no stone base. There is no other work done on the road. All I know is 1.4 kilometers and nothing more.”
The Okuni, Okokoma, Agbor-etai, Abijang, and Nsofang communities who are all beneficiaries of the Okuni/Nsofang road are agrarian; these communities produce cocoa, banana, plantain, oil palm, and cassava traders, in large-quality. The bad state of the road has made it very difficult for these farm produce to sell well. Traders who patronize these farmers have also found it difficult to get access to the communities.
Patrick Manyor, who supplies bread from Okuni to Nsofang, shares his experience. “You can see that the road is in a sorry state,” he said. Adding: “I am appealing because this road is too bad as you can see; the government should repair this road for us. I pass here every day. I saw some people in 2021 working here but the work they did was not good enough. Potholes and erosion are eating up the road. Sometimes we take back our goods halfway because of the road, we can not access the communities. It’s hindering business.”
A farmer from Abijang Community, Edim Nsor has the same thing to say: “They cleared the road up to Nsofang, then were asphalting, but it was done in no particular order, not too long after they left. They did a poor job here.”
“This is the heart of the tropical rainforest, and anything agriculture thrives here. This is a virgin land; but the challenge is the road, which if we can get this community will be the food basket of Cross River State. The road is our challenge, if you can follow it to a logical conclusion, it will save us a great deal. If it had rained today, you wouldn’t have passed.
A top management staff of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, who pleaded anonymity revealed that the Ministry has never made any budget to fund the Okuni/Nsofang road project. The staff claimed to about any funding for the project. They added that the earth road and asphalting work was a constituency project funded by the then Senator representing Cross River Central, Sandy Onor.
“That road is a constituency project facilitated by Senator Sandy Onor. After that year, the next year, he came again and upgraded it by asphalting 1.4 kilometers of the road. The asphalting was to capture a particularly bad spot on the road. Is not that the Ministry awarded it directly,” he said.
“The community also helped to destroy the road because while the contractor was working on the road, trucks loaded with timber were driving past the asphalt work, to the extent it resulted in a serious problem between the contractor and the truck drivers. You know, these constituency projects pass through ministries for supervision and guidance. The ministry has never funded any award of contracts on that road.”
After several efforts to reach the contractor Ghost Zee Limited on the project without any result, the Instagram account of the Company’s director, Kenneth Zotaobi Okafor was contacted. In his response, Okafor noted that the company did not have any 17km road contract in Cross River but did not give further clarifications.
” I don’t have any 17 km Road in Cross River,” he said.
There Should Be A Probe
Meanwhile, the Country Director of Citizens Solution Network, Mr. Richard Inoyo in his reaction called for concerted efforts to get the Okuni/ Nsofang road in good shape.
“First, the mere fact that over 113 million has been disbursed to Ghost Zee Limited, shows failure on the part of the contractor, and is a clear case of corruption and social injustice to the people of Okuni and Nsofang communities,” he said.
“The way to go is to write to the ministry to look into the issues, and that less than 2 kilometers have been done. The contractor should attend to questions asked by the people of Okuni/Nsofang.
“There is a need to involve the Nigerian Police in this issue, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should look into the issue. The federal ministry should ensure that, when money is released for projects, the projects for which the money is meant for are done.”
This investigation was produced with support from Civic Media Lab.