By Praise Necherem
The Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has recorded another giant landmark following the completion of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Mausoleum. The project initiated by the federal government twenty-two years ago, was awarded by the late Sani Abacha regime shortly after the death of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Owelle of Onitsha and the first president of Nigeria.
The project, as it were, was targeted at honouring the first Premier of Eastern Nigeria and founder of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), in recognition of his immense contributions to national development and the country’s independence.
Located at the heart of Onitsha, commercial city of Anambra state, the mausoleum, regrettably, had suffered series of neglect and abandonment by previous administrations. It also underwent various reviews of the contract sum until it was taken over by the Buhari‘s administration to see to its completion.
Minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, had during his visit to the state in May, told the contractor to ensure the completion of the project before the end of October.
Fashola had expressed dissatisfaction over the slow pace of work and threatened to revoke the contract, if the contractor failed to deliver on schedule.
The chairman, Anambra State Traditional Rulers’ Council and Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, had, during the minister’s visit, described as an embarrassment, the delay in the completion of the project after decades. He called for the speedy completion of the mausoleum.
The project, however, finally came to completion, 22 years after its initial commencement and is ready for commissioning soonest.
Bouygues Construction Nigeria Limited (BNL) the firm handling the project, assured that work has been completed on the project and ready for handover.
Speaking to Orient Daily, the project manager of the firm, John Ameh, said the project was actually completed towards the end of September. “We met the minister’s deadline of October ending, but because the client has not taken over, we cannot just lock up the place and leave for security reasons. We wrote on October 11, notifying them to come and take over the project.
They are likely to visit this week,” he said.
Ameh described the mausoleum as a “land mark project’’ for the people of South-East and the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. According to him, “it is a project that has spanned so many administrations before it was awarded to BNL in 2014 while work started in 2015.
“This administration was courageous enough to take it to completion and should be commended.”
Also speaking, the site engineer Mr. Paul Odigie, said the mausoleum is made up of the main building, administrative block and a residential house.
“We took over this project in 2013 as the last contractor. We were neither the first or the second. I believe the work started twenty years ago.
“Actually, we’re through with the project. We’re just waiting for the commissioning which will take place any moment from now,” he said.
The building is uniquely positioned to serve as a tourist site as the structure has a central tower. There is jubilation and excitement among residents and visitors alike to the commercial city of the state as the mausoleum is now wearing a new look with assorted paintings and art works waiting its formal commissioning.
Residents, particularly indigenes of the town have continued to express appreciation to the federal government for completing the mausoleum.
They commended President Muhammadu Buhari for honouring late Azikiwe who championed Nigeria‘s independence and ensured the unity of the country throughout his hay days before his demise in 1996.
A prominent indigene of Onitsha, Chinyelugo Osita Anionwu captures the aesthetic outlook and general environment of the project. He said, “The man Zik was a legend. That’s why he wanted a monument that will outlive him. We are happy we have a place where the remains of the first premier of Nigeria rests. It is a hallowed place and mark of nobility.”
Another resident, Mr. Sylvester Anyigbo expressed happiness with the completion of the monument after several delays. “The idea of the place is to serve as a place where the younger generation will learn about personalities who worked for this country.
“I’m happy this job is finally completed but I’ll be happier if the government is making full use of it,” he said.