Concerned people of Anambra have been 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 the following reasons.
While taking a course, Design of Structures, over two and a half decades ago, one of the most erudite lecturers I passed through imprinted in me an everlasting image that summed up a civil engineer.
Professor Nwokoye (I have forgotten the first name, poor me), then on a sabbatical from University of Benin, took the third-year class of 40 students in the famed Anambra State University of Technology that later metamorphosed into today’s ESUT and Unizik.
In a successful attempt to drum into us the importance of the journey into structural design, the man we later nicknamed ‘Dean of Structures’ because of his mastery of the subject that spanned two eventful semesters, delivered a message that read thus;
‘’Whereas a medical doctor buries his mistakes six feet beneath the earth’s surface in 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.
Furthermore, 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 in-situ 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, IDC have enough pedigree and experience to shun playing overnight amateurism.
Besides, technology has so much simplified structural designs. Whereas we cracked our brains with endless calculus and differentials to design just one column, punching and re-punching digits of our calculators, today’s design dwells on just feeding the span of your intended structure into the computer and the design software gives you all possible options of the physical measurements and reinforcements of your structural components.
However, cracks are signs of structural defects that could occur owing to some carelessness in construction. A reinforcement kicking the board is the commonest course of cracks. No matter how you attempt to hide such iron reinforcements with plastering mortar, a crack would be the end product. A poor screed mix is another course of construction cracks. In the bridges in question, a hastily asphalted surface without proper laying and smoothening of the underneath bridge components could cause shift and sever displacement with the sort of resultant cracks witnessed here. It will easily be corrected by getting to the source, scrapping off and replacing surfaces that were hurriedly done to evidently make Anambra State Silver Jubilee celebrations appear spic and span.
Believing there was no danger of collapse my thoughts centred on other aspects of the ‘signature projects’, which is professional ethics of construction – Highway Rules.
Another lecturer, Dr Onuobia (first name forgotten again) was taking us in Highway Design & 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.
Unless in very special cases, sub-grade intersections all over the world follow this ‘rule of thumb’ design and construction. The commonest sub-grade intersections is the Cloverleaf sub-grade intersection – the type at Upper Iweka.
One special consideration – because of the market, the main highway of the ‘fly over’ at Nkpor has every reason to ‘fly’ on top.
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 knew 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 and commissioned, Arch Calistus Ilozumba should tell us:
1. Why the three ‘fly overs’ in Awka and Amawbia were designed for the major high-way to fly on top.
2. Why 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 approve such antiquated design in these modern times?
5. Why did he permit 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 was a contract reportedly originally valued at N5 billion suddenly reported to be re-valued at stunning N15 billion within a year?
7. Why was everything relating to these monuments deliberately structured towards huge wastes?
There certainly will be more questions for ex-works commissioner, who should have resigned before the ‘flyovers’ were flagged off instead of adding those bizarre monuments to his otherwise immaculate resume.
Left to suggest, I would have said that just one ‘flyover’ at Regina Celi/INEC Road was appropriate. If an exact cloverleaf like the Upper Iweka model was replicated at this spot, I’m sure we would have done more to Awka’s aesthetics as well as saved about N12 billion.
The questions continue to come up – were these ‘flyovers’ hastily initiated to ‘beautify’ Awka or to create a conduit pipe to drain away Mr Peter Obi’s hard-saved N15 billion?
We were waiting for these answers as November 18, 2017 drawing nearer.
But while we were waiting 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, expectation s 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 IDC should know as well.
So, questions for IDC:
1. Why should such first class project have barricades?
2. Do those barricades truly mean those structures are in danger of collapse?
3. What structural defects are we truly faced with? For if heavy-duty vehicles could make it collapse, what guarantee are you giving the people that it won’t one day cave in even with mere ‘okada’ motorcycles plying the N15 billion monuments?
4. Can you make a public statement about these scary structures? Ndi Anambra need to be re-assured.
5. What manner of contract agreement will make a reputable construction company like IDC make a valuation of N10 billion in a contract initially worth N5billion within a space of eight months?
6. Finally, what manner of inducement would make you stamp your imprimatur on such antiquated design in these modern times?
And form IDC we can now ask His Excellency some direct questions.
1. Did you understand anything about engineering designs before you endorsed such brand for your dear state in pursuit of so-called signature projects?
2. Were you at any time advised against such design by your Commissioner for Works or by your numerous advisers?
3. What economic sense, as a seasoned accountant, was involved while considering such projects within a distance of about 1 km in these recession times?
4. At what point in this massive construction were you aware that those atrocious barricades would be involved?
5. What were you really thinking approving such monstrous variation from N5 billion to N15 billion? As an ex-banker one would imagine you truly appreciate the value of money.
6. Why would you involve dear state in such bazaar on a Federal Highway without getting approval from the Federal Government, meaning such whooping sum wouldn’t be refunded poor state?
7. Can the answer to 6. above be that your team didn’t want the FG involved because they wouldn’t approve such waste-induced design or that they would involve their contract valuers for the real contract sum? Whichever is the answer, poor masses of Anambra State are the ultimate losers.
There truly could be more questions particularly as November 18 is here with us. And the voting masses of ndi Anambra need answers.
By Chief Tai Emeka Obasi