By Alva M. Wolokolie
The government of Liberia through the Ministry of Public Works along with a Chinese construction company China Henan International Cooperation Group Ltd, (CHICO) Wednesday signed a US$70,934,679.18 agreement for the construction and pavement of the Gbarnga-Ganta-Guinea Border road.
The signing ceremony took place at the Administrative Building in Sanniquellie, Nimba County with the participation of the residents, county officials including lawmakers and the Minister of Public Works, Samuel Kofi Woods.
When completed, the road which is expected to be ready in 18 months will make business and travel easier for citizens and business people from neighboring Guinea and Liberia.
Minister Woods told the residents of the county that the people of Liberia will need nothing less than a quality and durable road. He told the people of Nimba County that President Sirleaf’s intention is to ensure that the roads meet all international standards and to ensure that the people of Liberia have access to the roads.
Woods, a former student activist at the University of Liberia (UL) and Human Rights lawyer of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) said roads are an important vehicle for development and as such it was important that the Ministry announced about the feeder roads which are the beginning of more to come in Nimba County.
He recalled that the signing marked the first historic contract signed outside of Monrovia and that Public Works has to work with the Superintendent to ensure that the county is accessible by all the residents and visitors to the county.
‘At Public Works we have made this decision to put ownership in the hands of our people. Our people need to know what kinds of development come to them, how they can own it, how they can participate and how they can feel very close and a part of government’s agenda. So Sanniquellie has made history again,’ Minister Woods assured.
Rep. George Mulbah, Chair of the Bong County Caucus agreed that no development can come to Liberia when the issue of road is not addressed.
Rep. Mulbah recalled that he once started a debate sometime ago for government to borrow five billion dollars to fix the roads and although it generated a lot of controversies, the fact about it he noted, is that no development will come to this country if the road networks are not built.
The Bong County lawmaker praised Minister Woods for his innovation and farsightedness in leading the restoration of key feeder and city roads in post-war Liberia.
He told the residents that when Minister Kofi Woods took over the Ministry of Public Works after Loseni Dunzo who had a long history of working in that sector, but saw many of the roads he oversaw becoming a laughing stock; he and others questioned the appointment of Minister Woods and wondered whether the President knew what she was doing by taking a man who did not have the technical know-how to replace a man who had a long history in the field. But for the few times and projects undertaken, Mulbah indicated that Minister Woods and the Ministry have proven that he is a good administrator.
The project is being undertaken through a grant from the International Development Association (IDA) and the Liberia Reconstruction Trust Fund toward the cost of the Liberia Road Asset Management Project (LIBRAMP). It intends to apply part of the proceeds of the grant payment for a package consisting of two lots of output and Performance-based Road Contracts (OPRC).
According to the Ministry, the government through the Ministry of Public Works and the Infrastructure Implementation Unit (MPW/IIU) intends to combine well-known and traditional methods of road rehabilitation and reconstruction with new concepts and instruments for the management and maintenance of a part of the road network.
This, according to the Minister would avoid a premature deterioration of road assets in general, and assured that the road users can count on a level of service, which is adequate for their needs, and at the same time keeping the cost down for providing those service levels and shifting the associating risks from the Government to the private sector.
The works will include the entire cycle of interventions required in the given period of time depending on the type of facility. These basically include: rehabilitation, reconstruction, upgrading and maintenance-periodic and routine as well as control of the Road’s Right of Way.
The consultant with the government of Liberia has defined the two road packages included in the implementation of the OPRC of the main roads in the country as “Cotton Tree Buchanan” and Red Light-Gate 15-Gbarnga-Ganta-Guinea Border.
The first road was selected for Design, Build and Transfer type of project(two years) and the last one selected design, build, maintain and Transfer type of project (10 years) divided into two lots, Lot 1: from Red Light to Gbarnga (180.36km) and Lot 2: Gbarnga-Ganta-Guinea Border.(68.6km).