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Umahi denies ongoing road rehabilitation caused Rivers tanker explosion



Nigeria’s Minister of Works, David Umahi, has refuted claims in some quarters that the ongoing rehabilitation of the Eleme section of the East-West Road in Rivers State was responsible for last Friday’s tanker explosion which claimed five lives.

The Minister also called on the Federal Road Safety Commission to erect checkpoints aimed at monitoring drivers who are on hard drugs and those who abuse substances, including alcoholic liquor.

Umahi said this while speaking with reporters when he led a delegation of some officials of the Federal Ministry of Works to visit the scene of the tanker fire in Eleme on Wednesday evening.
> The explosion, according to Governor Siminalayi Fubara, claimed five lives with 120 vehicles burnt.

While expressing his condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones, Umahi also sympathised with the government and people of the state over the incident which he described as unfortunate.

Umahi, however, expressed dismay that some people were trying to abuse the good intentions of President Bola Tinubu who approved the rehabilitation of the heavily trafficked road by linking the rehabilitation work to the tragedy.

The Minister said: “I was informed of this unfortunate incident while I was at work in Lagos coastal route so I decided to cut short my journey and to be in Port Harcourt. Before coming I have gotten a report from the Acting Controller, Federal Ministry of Works in Rivers.

“First, my sympathy goes to all the families of the victims for the unfortunate loss which can’t be recovered by the death of their loved ones and then to the Rivers State people and government I extend my sympathy to them.

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“When somebody is dead we are not talking about who is right or who is wrong because no loss can be recovered. But one funny person who says he is the President of the Ogoni group or whatever made a very careless and inciting.

“There is a bridge there that we are reconstructing and they were very large, over 16 meters wide of a diversion we made in the past year and that’s where vehicles are following and he made a very nasty statement trying to blame the construction company and blame 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.”

Umahi recalled that President Tinubu on assumption of office saw the deplorable state of the road and directed that work should be started not as usual, but that the road should be redesigned.

“Apart from Warri to Benin and part of Lokoja there is no other section of the road in this country that this kind of construction is going on.

“The 15 kilometres road dualised for six lanes is about the heaviest traffic road in the country. And because the soil is bad we are digging about one meter, we are filling with lumps about half a meter, we are filling with sharp sand about half a meter, and we are filling with a stone base eight inches.

“We are putting four inches and another stone base mixed with 5 per cent cement and then we are now putting eight inches reinforced concrete pavement on top of it. The idea of Mr President is that it should last a minimum of 100 years considering the load that it’s carrying.

“The accident was caused as I was briefed by the carelessness of two drivers who were struggling who has the right of way they were competing with their lives and so collided with a trailer and a tanker that had fuel.

“I think that the Federal Road Safety Commission should mount several checkpoints to examine people against ‘ Mkpuru-mmiri’ (local hard substance’) and hard drugs because it’s only ‘Mkpuru-mmiri’ and hard drugs that can make you use your life to compete and that’s what happened and it’s unfortunate.

> “I’m not even sure that the drivers that caused this accident lost their lives but they caused other law-abiding citizens of the country to lose their lives and several properties”, Umahi said.
He also added that his visit would ensure that the contractors open the construction of some number of sections, adding that the quality of work that they are doing is commendable.

“Whether they are delaying or not it has nothing to do with the accident. I will be asking them to open more sections of the construction.

“It’s in line with the policy of Mr President that contractors will not stay beyond two years in any road project and that’s what we are making sure that it happens but not on coastal roads. Coastal roads are eight years and it’s eight years of Mr President’s two two-term presidency as God will have it,” he said.

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