Unending controversy over Kwara underpass

Date: 2023-12-08

The Geri-Alimi Split Diamond Underpass in Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State has become a subject of discussion and controversy due its state of disrepair not long after it was commissioned in 2019. BIOLA AZEEZ delves into the genesis and what has been done to end the controversy surrounding this project owned by the Kwara State government.

In September 2016, the Kwara State government started the construction of a N3.7 billion Geri-Alimi Split Diamond Underpass in Ilorin, the state capital.

The sitting governor of the state then, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, had said among other reasons that the construction of the underpass was part of efforts to decongest the hectic traffic situation in the Airport, Garin Alimi and Olorunsogo axis of Ilorin metropolis, especially during peak hours and the rainy season.

At the flag-off ceremony on September 29, 2016, Governor Ahmed said the project, to be funded through the Kwara State Infrastructure Development fund (IF-K), was expected to be completed in 18 months.

“Every morning and evening, movement in the area is usually difficult due to traffic jam. Most people in the state’s capital ply the route to their various destinations. Man-hours are lost to the situation daily.

“In order to ease the suffering of the populace due to constant traffic jam, the state government has decided to construct what it called Diamond Underpass Split in the area,” the former governor had said.

Ahmed had also said that the underpass, when completed, would not only ease flow of traffic, but add aesthetic value to the Geri-Alimi axis of the metropolis to make it a tourist attraction.

“The project will also give the state a new look, enhance commercial and investment activities and boost the inflow of goods and services into the state. Being a gateway to the northern part of Nigeria, the project was necessary to ease traffic situation in the area,” he had said.

About two and a half years later, precisely on May 28, 2019, a day to the handover of power to a new administration, Ahmed performed the opening of the long-awaited Geri Alimi Split Diamond Underpass.

“The Geri Alimi Split Diamond Underpass is a potent symbol of our vision of a more developed and aesthetically appealing state,” he said at the ceremony.

He noted that a Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) system was installed at strategic locations at the underpass and the roundabout to ensure security at the underpass while a standby automatic generating set was also installed to provide electricity at night and for the CCTV operation at Geri-Alimi area.

Ahmed, who said that government is a continuum, tasked the incoming government to build on the infrastructure development of his administration with a view to making the state more prosperous.

It is noteworthy that the former governor particularly made the above statement because construction of the underpass was in three phases, and knowing that he was handing over to a new government from a different political party, building on the project from where he had stopped could become unrealisable.

Less than three years after the commissioning of the underpass, structural defects were discovered in the project as some portions of the bridge started caving in.

Some civil engineers who spoke on the development said that some sections where asphalt had shown some cracks was because the project had reached the water table, adding that compaction to correct the faults was not properly done.

However, officials in the immediate past government argued that the present administration had not properly handled the maintenance of the project.

The chief press secretary to the immediate past governor, Alhaji Wahab Oba, blamed the failed portion of the project on lack of proper maintenance by the current administration in the state.

“For the record, the Garin Alimi Diamond Split and Underpass was completed in April 2019 by Duravil Construction Ltd. The underpass has two bridges and a roundabout, with an underground storm water drainage of 900 metres, security post, control room and CCTV monitors and cameras for security and surveillance, standby generator and dedicated transformer, solar streetlights, making the project first of its kind in Nigeria ahead of underpasses in Maryland, Lagos which has one head bridge, and Kano underpass.

“The second phase of the project and a maintenance contract were awarded to the same company at about N400 million and N1.5 million monthly, respectively. The maintenance contract covers May 2019 to May 2021 for the first phase. It is meant to maintain the storm underground drainage to forestall silting or blockages and its attendant damage to the underpass road. It also includes maintenance of security equipment in the control room, carrying out surveillance work, maintenance of street lights, transformer, lawns and fuelling of the generator,” Oba explained.

He claimed that the current state government stopped the maintenance contract in June 2019 without providing any alternative for the first-of-its-kind edifice.

“The result of this was the vandalisation of the control room, CCTV, generator, solar streetlights, and bushy roundabout lawn, blockages of storm underground drainage and consequently, the latest spill over damages to the underpass road,” he added.

He emphasised the need for works to commence on the second phase of the project to give access to storm underground water in the underpass to Odo-Okun stream.

Meanwhile, the situation of the bridge made a former works commissioner in the state, Rotimi Iliasu, to threaten that the state government would order the consultant and the contractor that handled the N3.7 billion Diamond Split Underpass flyover to site over the failed portion of the project.

Speaking with journalists when he inspected the failed portion of the project, the commissioner for works, Rotimi Iliasu, said that the state government would also explore what it could get back from those concerned.

“There are many projects like that. This is a job that was initially awarded at N2.5 billion and rose to N3.7 billion. The contract passed through the state executive council. It approved it and gave the contractor an approval. And those that did that did it on behalf of Kwarans,” he said.

The commissioner, who said that the state government would repair the bad road as part of its responsibility, added that the repair would remove the sufferings of the people plying the road.

“Government has everything to lose when we pursue legal option. People will suffer the effects of bad roads. So, we look at how to mediate by calling the contractor back to site, as well as the consultant on this job to ensure proper work was done.

“But in the interim, we have to do what we are supposed to do. That’s why we brought in stone base materials. We will also do some other bad sections of the road where asphalt has cracked. Compaction was not properly done, because it was a rushed job due to intention to hurriedly commission it.”

The commissioner, who also said that the project was not certified by the state Ministry of Works, added that materials used to construct the project were not adequate and that the development resulted in the quick failure of the project.

He also said that it was because the staff of the ministry saw that the work was poorly done that made them not to issue certificate of completion.

“I’ve looked through the files, the ministry did not certify the job as properly done. The stone base work was done on some portions of the road with grader rather than pavers because of the expected height you have to achieve; (100mm or 10 cm). What’s done here is not up to 2cm of stone basing.

“On this kind of road construction, experts use stone base as top material because that has better property to handle weight compared to clay used here. When you use clay for trunk ‘A’ road like this, you will see expansion and contraction whenever it rains and it gets hot. When people drive on it, you bounce and cracks later set in on the road as water is allowed to penetrate. Quality materials were not used here”.

The commissioner countered the past administrations on allegations of lack of maintenance by the present administration. He described the allegation as face saving, saying that the drainage was very free and not blocked.

However, despite the intervention of the present government to arrest the failed portion of the underpass, the problem has often resurfaced causing motorists to ply the road with caution.

Interestingly, rumours have gone round town that the present government has concluded plans to demolish the Diamond Split Underpass due to recurring defects and then go ahead to rebuild it.

Speaking on the development, Mallam Rafiu Ajakaye, who is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, enjoined members of the public to discountenance such talk, saying that the present administration is more preoccupied with provision of improved infrastructure development in all parts of the state.

“Kindly ignore it, my dear brother. There is no such thing,” he told Nigerian Tribune.

Meanwhile, motorists in the state, especially inter-state commercial drivers who ply the road almost on a daily basis, have called on the state government to find a lasting solution to the defects discovered in the project to prevent the loss of lives and property.

Mallam Olukayode Hamzat said the underpass is one of such structures that welcomes visitors to the state capital and such should be put in a proper working state.

“It’s the first place that visitors see when they enter Ilorin. Thus, they can go ahead to use it to assess efforts of the state government in the provision of quality road network in the state, especially in the state capital,” he said.

In separate interviews, other residents of the state capital called on the government to find a lasting remedy to the failed portion of the underpass to safeguard loss of lives and property.



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