Opnion: Many unanswered questions about Anambra’s controversial flyovers – By TAI EMEKA OBASI
CONCERNED people of Anambra are disturbed, and rightly so, about the state of the sub-grade intersections, otherwise unprofessionally christened Flyovers in Aroma, Kwata and Amawbia Junctions within the Capital Territory. Before I go further, I want to say this … I had believed those bridges were never going to collapse in this generation. And I drew my strong conviction based on some strong reasons. While taking a course, Design of Structures, many years ago, Professor Nwokoye (I have forgotten the first name, poor me), whom we called “Dean of structures” had this to say
‘’Whereas a medical doctor buries his mistakes six feet beneath the earth’s surface in the name of graves and the lawyer hides his behind bars in the name of prisons, a structural engineer has nowhere to hide his mistakes. He is branded negatively for life if his structure ever fails. If he survives the legal battle, and that is only if, he certainly will lose his practising license.”
With that, I understood pointedly that there’s no margin of error in any form of structural design. That knowledge guided me to assume the three sub-grade intersections, alias Flyovers, in Aroma, Kwata and Amawbia were not going to collapse for any reason. More so when bridges, particularly at sub-grade highways, are designed to withstand an airplane crashing on them. Not to now assume that a mere trailer on reverse scratching a side of the pavement will precipitate collapse. I witnessed construction of the three ‘flyovers.’ Most of the components of the bridge – including columns, beams and slabs were pre-cast. Other such constructions, mostly retaining walls, were done with observed professionalism. Though I had no access to soil and material tests results,
I was confident that the contractors have enough pedigree and experience to shun playing overnight amateurism. An alarm was raised about the bridges developing cracks. Cracks are signs of structural defects that could occur owing to some carelessness in construction. Another lecturer, Dr. Onuobia (first name forgotten again) took us in Highway Design and Construction the same period Prof. Nwokoye was handling Design of Structures. One of the lessons I’ve never forgotten from Dr. Onuobia’s cumbersome lengthy notes is that during any sub-grade highway design, the major highway passes under.
There are basic engineering reasons for such rules of thumb, which major is – Angle of ascent/descent, which is a huge determinant of the cost of project. Engineering rules have angles vehicles on highways should ascend any sub-grade. The higher the anticipated design speed, the lower the angle and subsequently the longer the Bridge Span. Whoever designed the three bridges should have known it would have come far cheaper if the major highway, Enugu-Onitsha had gone under. As the Commissioner For Works when these bridges were designed, Arch Calistus Ilozumba should tell us:
- Why the three ‘fly overs’ in Awka and Amawbia were designed for the major high-way to fly on top? 2. Why were the projects were flagged off without approval from the Federal Ministry of Works ? 3. Why have three such ‘flyovers’ within a distance of about a kilometre? . 4. Why did he approved such an antiquated design in these modern times? 5. Why he permitted those towers that were not only constituting structural burdens (as I’m sure they were not part of the original design) but also a hugely childish show of vanity in an extravagant infusion of huge cost to that of operating the bridge amidst added traffic lights? 6. Under what practise the contract reportedly originally valued at N5 billion suddenly reported to be re-valued at stunning N15 billion within a year?
The questions continue to come up – were these ‘flyovers’ hastily initiated to ‘beautify’ Awka or to create a conduit pipe to drain away part of Mr. Peter Obi’s hard-saved N75 billion? While we wait for the answers something bizarre jolted my professional appraisal – THE BARRICADES! In Highway designs, the major factor of consideration is the expected volume of traffic. The Enugu-Onitsha Express should have been designed with the maximum traffic flow of any other highway in the country.
Whereas traffic’s factor of safety should be approximately 15 cars to one truck. Having made the main traffic to unprofessionally go on top, expectations should be that the trucks and heavy duty vehicles should seamlessly ‘fly’ through the top, if the aim of the project would not be completely shattered. I know that the common man in the street knows that. And one sincerely believes that engineers in the Ministry of Works should know. So the questions for them are: Why should such first class project have barricades? Do those barricades truly mean those structures are in danger of collapse? What structural defects are we truly faced with?
For if heavy-duty vehicles could make it collapse, what guarantee do the people have that it won’t some day cave in even with mere ‘okada’ motorcycles plying the N15 billion monuments? Can the state government make a public statement about these scary structures? Ndi Anambra need to be re-assured. What manner of contract agreement will make a reputable construction company make a valuation of N10 billion in a contract initially worth N5billion within a space of eight months? Finally, what manner of inducement would make the construction company stamp its imprimatur on such antiquated design in these modern times? Perhaps, now more than ever, it becomes necessary to ask His Excellency some direct questions.
Does he understand anything about engineering designs before he endorsed such brand for his state in pursuit of his so-called signature projects? Was he at any time advised against such design by his Commissioner for Works or by any of numerous advisers? What economic sense, as a seasoned accountant, was involved while considering such projects within a distance of about one km in this time of recession? At what point during the construction work did it become necessary for barricades to be introduced into the project?
What was he thinking of by approving such monstrous variation from N5 billion to N15 billion? Why involve the state in such a bazaar on a Federal Highway without getting approval from the Federal Government, meaning such whooping sum wouldn’t be refunded tothe state? The foregoing questions are aimed at providing answers to myriad of questions that have continued to be raise about the flyover by concerned parties.
Tai Emeka Obasi sent this piece from Ozubulu