We are proud of our achievement with Abuja- Keffi-Akwanga- Lafia- Makurdi road dualisation project – CHEC

The recently completed  expansion of the 5.4km Abuja-Keffi expressway and dualization of Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi road project has brought succor to road users and other stakeholders along the road corridor. In this interview with Blueprint correspondent, the project manager of China Habour Engineering Company (CHEC), Wang Jijun, speaks on the project and how the company was able to deliver the project within  contractual time frame irrespective of challenges.

Tell us about China Habour Engineering Company?

China Harbour Engineering Company Limited operates in the international engineering market, covering more than 100 countries and regions, mainly focusing on transportation infrastructure construction, including maritime engineering, dredging and reclamation, roads and bridges, rail transit, aviation hubs and related works, including complete equipment supply and installation. In addition, we also have rich resources and experience in the fields of housing construction, municipal environmental protection, water conservancy projects, power plants, resource development and other fields. CHEC entered Nigeria in 1994 and has been deeply involved in the Nigerian market for 30 years and has implemented a large number of infrastructure projects. 

The Lekki Deep Sea Port project was invested, constructed and operated by CHEC. The project was inaugurated on January 23 this year and has now entered the 45-year operation period of the project. The project will not only greatly increase Nigeria’s annual container  capacity, but also promote Nigeria’s foreign trade and economy. The development is expected to bring economic benefits of $361 billion to Nigeria and will create 200,000 direct and indirect jobs in the future. Similarly,   the Expansion of the 5.4km Abuja-Keffi Expressway and Dualization of Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi Road Project is expected to bring hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits to Nigeria and create thousands of direct and indirect jobs during the next 25-year concession period. In addition, CHEC has also participated in projects such as the Construction of Lafia Bypass Road and Dualization of 9th Mile (Enugu)-Otukpo-Makurdi Road Project, the Reconstruction and Expansion of Mararaba–Keffi Road (43.65KM) Project, the LNG Jetty of NLNG Train 7 Project located in Bonny Island, etc. CHEC evidently  is  becoming Nigeria’s largest and important enterprise in the field of engineering construction.

What were your major challenges during the construction of this and how did you overcome them?

For a project of this length, you have to agree that the duration is short, which increases the complexity and difficulty of the project to a certain extent. The project officially flagged off on April 1, 2019, coinciding with the COVID-19 epidemic, which brought unprecedented challenges to project management and execution, and also put higher requirements on the working methods and efficiency of the project implementation team.  The epidemic as you know led to a global shutdown,  many jobs were forced to stop. The epidemic  caused disruptions in global supply chains, and the supply of raw materials and construction equipment  was severely affected. The shortage of some key materials not only increased costs, but also further delayed our construction plan. 

What we did to overcome these challenges was to  optimize the project plan. We re-evaluated the project schedule to determine key milestones and priority tasks to ensure that resources were  allocated reasonably and the most critical tasks prioritised. 

Secondly, we increased resource investment. This we did by increasing  construction workers and construction equipment at the project site to support the completion of key tasks.  We also beefed up  procurement management and  Strengthened communication and cooperation with suppliers. We purchased required materials in advance  to ensure that project progress is not affected by material shortages. At the same time, given the uncertainty of the supply chain, the project team began looking for alternative suppliers, especially those that could provide materials locally or in nearby areas to reduce reliance on long-distance transportation.  

Despite the various challenges brought about by the COVID-19 epidemic, the project team worked hard to overcome many obstacles caused by the epidemic, so that the project was still completed within 4 years (note that it was within the contracted period), which is very remarkable for a 220-kilometer-long road expansion project. We are talking about  a two-lane dual carriageway to a four-lane dual carriageway, and it is also rare in Nigeria.

Some residents along the route initially thought the project was a joke and expected it would take a decade or more to complete, like so many other large projects in Nigeria, but they were surprised that the project was completed on schedule and the quality of our work speaks for itself. We are proud of what we were able to achieve with this project

What about land acquisition?

This was a major challenge we encountered. Structures on the road corridor needed to be demolished. As you know the project passes through three states: the FCT, Nasarawa and Benue states. The land acquisition and demolition involved was massive. Apart from land acquisition there were issues o, power lines, water supply pipelines and  crops, etc. A large number of complex acquisition and relocation affected the implementation of the project and caused  delays. However, we were able to   organize construction and production; establish an effective communication mechanism with relevant stakeholders and at the same time set up a relocation working group, which assumed many obligations in the contract that should not have been borne by the contractor. We did all these to get the job done expeditiously.

Also note that there are many urban sections along the route. Traffic is busy and commercial activities  are common. During the construction process, it was not only necessary to divert traffic and reduce the impact on the original traffic flow, but also actively communicate with  those obstructing construction work to cooperate with us. 

We had to  make many  traffic diversion plans, arrange a full-time traffic coordinator to assist in directing traffic; strengthen communication and coordination with local traffic authorities; do lots of community engagement  to gain the understanding and support of the affected people. Our focus was getting the job done and we were able to achieve our core objective.

What impact do you think this project would have on the social and economic lives of people living along the road corridor and other road users? 

The old road  was  in  use  for many years, and factors such as poor maintenance in the later period  led to various degrees of decay on the road which affected  vehicular flow. This poses certain levels of  hazard for road users. There was urgent  need of improvement. The implementation of the reconstruction and expansion project has significantly improved the road traffic capacity and service level, shortening travel time.  Originally it took 7 hours to travel from Abuja to Makurdi but now it takes about 4.5 hours. Travel on the road is now  more convenient for motorists. Travelling on the road is now smoother, connections between the states and towns along the route is now easier. This has significantly  reduce transportation costs, improve  efficiency and movement of goods and people along the route, commercial activities and trade development.

What about corporate social responsibility, what project did you undertake to improve on the social and economic condition of the lives of the people living on the road corridor?

We are committed to upholding high standards of corporate governance while actively participating in corporate social responsibility activities. We carry out social welfare activities such as donating water wells, donating cultural, sports and teaching supplies, sponsoring the Nigeria National Youth Basketball League, repairing local school classrooms, training local residents on construction knowledge, and visiting military and police checkpoints along the route. Many communities along the road corridor benefited from our CSR project. We created employment opportunities directly and indirectly. 

The  project created more than 3,000 jobs for Nigerians  at its peak and  CHEC trained a large number of engineering and technical talents for Nigeria free.  At China Habour we always adhere to the values of corporate  social responsibility, high-quality returns, and win-win cooperation We. actively integrate into the local community with practical actions, strengthen communication and interaction with the people, contribute to Nigeria’s infrastructure and economic development that benefit the  people.