Lira- Dozens of business owners in Lira Town are up in arms over the construction of Obote Avenue, claiming the World Bank-funded project must be reviewed.
The protesters claim there are no car turning points, which limits accessibility to their business premises besides other crucial elements required for such the multi-billion project.
Obote Avenue is currently being constructed under the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) project.
Lira Municipality has received Shs18b for the construction of Obote Avenue and beautification of Coronation Park. The work on the two sites being undertaken by CICO, a Chinese company, commenced on August 14, 2017 and is expected to be completed in September 2018.
However, even before the two sites are handed over to Lira Municipal Council, some business owners have started complaining of lack of accessibility and vehicle turning points.
Mr Benard Ekwang, the station manager at Gaz fuel station, says there is no car turning point provided between Gaz and Total fuel stations. If created, he says, it would help reduce accidents.
“We are seeing the road is a one-way, which will not favour our fuel trucks to turn in and out of the station easily and this would likely cause some of these pavements to be destroyed in the near future,” he says.
The manager of Total Fuel Station, Mr Oscar Karugaba, says the construction of the road has hindered vehicles coming from Lira Town from accessing their station while giving a complete free way for those vehicles to access their competitors’ premises.
“The aforementioned challenge creates an inequality in our business environment, which translates into a drop in sales of my company products,” he says.
Mr Samuel Engola, a civil engineering student, notes that three aspects must be taken into consideration when constructing a road, including safety, environment and economic cost.
“Up to now, we have not seen the artistic impression of this road and yet this is supposed to be a public document,” he says.
According to Mr Engola, the Road Design Manual of Uganda suggests that as you construct a road, it must be to the extreme comfort of the user.
He says the cost of using Obote Avenue has indirectly been increased because drivers and cyclists have to move about 1km to access a fuel station within the area.
But Lira District leaders say the people who are complaining neither own vehicles nor business in Lira Town, describing them as “enemies of progress”.
“They (protesters) are not clear-headed Ugandans,” Mr Robert Abak, the Lira resident district commissioner, said.
The Lira Municipality engineer, Mr Fred Owiny, assured the business community that business will normalise after the completion of the project.
The Lira deputy town clerk, Mr Patrick Ogweng, told this newspaper that their doors are always open to those with complaints and advice from the public, adding that a complaint handling desk has been established at Lira Municipal Council in respect to the on-going USMID projects.
“We have never at any one point ignored any complaint raised to us by the community,” Mr Ogweng said in an interview with this newspaper on Monday. He also dismissed claims that the design for the road has not been made public.
“What is surprising is that the people who are appearing to be more knowledgeable than even the people who are handling the work have never attended any of our review meetings,” he added.
The deputy town clerk clarified that USMID is constructing the road for the community, not for an individual.
“But there are individuals who are trying to push for their interests and not necessarily that of the community,” Mr Ogweng said.
The project supervisor, Mr Hillary Yao, decline to comment on the matter.
“I do not work with World Bank directly. I do supervision on behalf of Lira Municipal Council and if you heard from them, that is enough for you for now,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
The contractor, China Chongqing International Construction Corporation (also known as CICO), was a little reluctant to comment on the matter.
However, an employee attached to CICO Lira office at Senior Quarters, Central Division, who only identified himself as Moses, invited this newspaper to their offices to give their side of the story. However, on arrival, this reporter did not find him at the office.
An administrator in the same office, who also declined to reveal his identity, showed unwillingness to comment.
“My desk has not received any complaint and Moses has just left. First deal with him,” he said.