Split Diamond Underpass: Ahmed's innovation for a fast growing city?. By AHMED 'LATEEF?

Date: 2018-02-12

AHMED 'LATEEF, in this report, takes a cursory look at the rationale behind the ongoing Diamond Split Underpass in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital and the journey so far.

Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State is arguably experiencing population explosion almost on daily basis. This is believed to have been triggered by upsurge in the number of people, who migrated from other parts of the country into the town to either live permanently or in passing.

The influx of people, both natives and strangers into the ancient city, which is fast assuming a mega status in the outlook, is in itself a cause for concern in view of the attendant effect of such development. The idea of settling down in the city, apart from being touted as peaceful and harmonious, cannot be divorced from the fact that Ilorin, being the capital city, is the face of Kwara.

Going by the 2006 enumeration the National Population Commission (NPC) undertook, the population figures of the state was put at 2,365,353 and almost 12 years after, the figures would have expectedly and naturally risen into a larger proportion.

In the geopolitical basis, Kwara is consigned to the North Central zone, the then Middle Belt, thus seen as a gateway to the northern and southern parts of the country. On account of this alone, the state would not but play host to both migrants and settlers, who by circumstance or natural occurrences, decided to relocate to safer areas.

Series of incidences in parts of the country ranging from unemployment syndrome, youth restiveness and the latest being the recurring clashes between herdsmen and farmers made it expedient for people to change their natural habitats and look for where their lives and property can be preserved and protected.

In trying to seek greener pasture and protecting own lives, places considered to be safer would readily come to mind, and the influx of people into Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State is apparently not unconnected with the above assertion. Over the years, the state has always turned an haven for people, who were forcibly dislodged by one form of crisis or the other. This is adding to the population expansion that the state is witnessing like a recurring decimal.

It is therefore not controvertible that the existing infrastructure in the state would be overstretched and consequently compelled the government to conceive and design policies and programmes to mitigate the effect of the explosion on one hand and provide new amenities or infrastructure to meet the rising demand on another hand.

This appears to have informed the decision of the Kwara State government to swiftly rise to the occasion in terms of provision of infrastructure to neutralise the fall back the expansion or growth in population would have had on the state if nothing was done.

Movement of people into the state in recent times has made it imperative for government to reappraise and re-strategise on what it should do or initiate new ones to cater other pressing needs in the future.

Although the government of Abdulfatah Ahmed led administration in the state, in spite of umbrage and vituperation to demystify its performance over the last six years, considered provision of infrastructure as a fulcrum to endear itself into the warmth heart of the electorate.

From massive road projects to other basic amenities, which spread across the three Senatorial Districts of the state, there came also world class edifices including Engineering Complex at Kwara State University, Malete and International Vocational and Technology Centre (IVTEC) commissioned recently by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. There are many other completed and ongoing projects across the state.

In the face of wobbling economy however, a first term visitor to the state would have been taken aback and curiously ask why is the government desirous to meet the infrastructural needs of the people with little or no recourse to the lean purse.

The answer to such curiosity is not far fetched. Thanks to the Kwara Infrastructure Fund (IF-K) purposely designed as a funding window to cushion the effect of dwindling fund from the federation purse. Through the funding platform partly sourced from the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), Kwara is able to put in place a mechanism to address the infrastructure needs.

As previously alluded, the tendency for the state to expand in terms of population growth is overwhelmingly high with the present influx of people and vehicles into the state, particularly the capital city.

In its wisdom to cater for the ever increasing future needs, the state government initiated Split Diamond Underpass at Geri-Alimi, an unassailable entry and exit point into the heart of the city of Ilorin. The government exhibited its desire and seriousness when, in the first instance, collapsed the Roundabouts, which initially occupied the spot and began major earth work preparatory for the multi million naira construction project.

The project, beside addressing the problem of upsurge in population with additional space for vehicular movement and the likes, would also add to the aesthetics of the city. A cursory look at the prototype of the project showed that the project, if completed as scheduled, would no doubt make Kwara cynosure of all eyes.

It would be recalled that the interchange project was formally flagged off late 2016 by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, in company of other top government functionaries, and what followed was the earth work, which served as preliminary stage of the entire after which construction work would follow.

Independent findings at the site, revealed that work is moving at fast pace, although workers were off the site late December, the reason the Consultant in charge of the project, Engineer Bashiru Atunde Lawal, attributed to a routine annual break.

Upon completion, the project would open up spaces for vehicular movement through and fro Odota, Asa-Dam, Yebumot and Sawmill areas unlike presently when the areas confluent by Geri-Alimi are jam-packed and crowded, which often inhibit movement of people and vehicles.

Despite the foresight of the government, there were scepticisms that the project was being glossed over and not moving as expected owing to the completion period.

But the project consultant allayed the fear, saying the project was at more than 70 percent completion.

Lawal, the Chief Executive Officer of Bal Engineering Limited, informed yesterday that the project was slow-paced initially due to water pipe across the road, which directly affected the earth works on the project.

He added that the retaining walls of the Underpass were near completion, assuring that the pace of work would be increased so as to meet the delivery period. "As at today, we have been able to move fast than used to. We are about 70.5 percent completion now. We couldn't move faster as this because of the water pipe that was across the earth works, and for almost for one year, we have to contend with the pipe.

"But when it was very obvious and necessary that the pipe has to be relocated, we have done that, of recent. And we are moving very fast so that we can finish the bridge two, which is very close to Sawmill and relay the pipe, because invariably the two bridges will carry the two pipes.

"So, if you go to the site now, you will discover that the bridge on the Sawmill axis is at advanced stage; some of the things needed are almost being completed after the maturity stage, we will just launch the beam, cast the deck and then put the pipes back to that place.

"Nevertheless, the retaining walls left are minute; out of about 1.4kilometre retaining walls in both sides, we have less than 100metres to contend with. After the completion of that, what we would do is to go on the shaping and finishing of the Underpass. I believe by the end of this month, something reasonable and tangible would have been achieved. Once the underpass is completed up to minus the finishing level, I think the whole job is gone", he said.

On the allegation that the project was abandoned some weeks ago, Lawal said, "Naturally, people don't know the way company works. All over the whole world, mostly, we normally have December break; some companies take a month, some take two weeks.

"Between December 22 and January, the contractor and ourselves went on December break and everything has to be at standstill. That is when people thought there was an abandonment and it wasn't. You can see that we have already gone back to site; the contractor and ourselves resumed January 7 (2018) and since then, things have been moving very fast".

The Bal Engineering boss said the government has been consistent in funding the project, adding that the contractor would have abandoned the site if the government failed to honour its part of agreement on the project.

"The fact that the contractor is working is a sign that the government is fulfilling their part and it means that the government has been continuously funding the project or else the contractor would have left the site.

"People should not be apprehensive about the completion of the project because the last lap is where we are now. By the time the bridges are completed, what is left is mostly finishing touches and tidying up here and there. Like I said, the bridges are at advanced stage, they have finished all the pilings for the second bridge. They want to commence the pile caps and other ancillaries so that the second bridge will come up soon", he said.

Blaming the dust emanating from the project site to routine occurrence, Lawal said the state just like others was at the peak of dry season and empathised with the residents over the development.

He stated that the contractor handling the project had been directed to always carry out wetting of the site to ensure that people are not unnecessarily burdened by the side effects of the ongoing project.

The Bal Engineering boss called on the motorists and other road users to drive with ease while in the area, saying reckless driving could aggravate the case of reported dust all over the area mapped out for the project.

Lawal added, "When there is road-speeding by motorists and Keke NAPEP to outsmart themselves, definitely, there will be dust. So, we have tried to put in some measures in form of laterite but you will find out that some of the residents would also go and remove. So, we are contending with lawlessness of our people, unruly behaviour of those around that place. That is the basic thing.

"But right now, we have already ordered the contractor to increase the number of wetting, at least to three times a day and we put law enforcement agents to ensure that, at least, people obey traffic rules, as regard to the movement pattern, that is feasible right now".

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