Kenya is set to make history as an oil producer on Sunday after infrastructural challenges on the Kitale-Lodwar highway were addressed to clear way for lorries to ferry the crude.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development James Macharia was at Kainuk in Turkana County yesterday morning to inspect the Kainuk bridge ahead of the flagging off of the oil trucks by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Mr Macharia said he had to make the trip to confirm the status of the critical Kitale-Lodwar highway. This is after heavy rains washed away the temporary Kainuk bridge, paralysing transport on the road that links Kenya and South Sudan for more than two months.
During that time, the bridge was used only by light vehicles.
“Our engineers from KeNHA have put up a bailey bridge to ensure that heavy vehicles use the road. We came to inspect the bridge and I’m satisfied with the work done,” he said.
FLAG OFF TRUCKS
He said that Turkana County is one of the prospective regions of the country because of the planned Early Oil Pilot Scheme that will begin after President Kenyatta flags off four trucks to transport 600 barrels of oil to Mombasa at Ngamia 8.
“This is a turning point in the history of our country. For the first time, we will export oil. For us in the Ministry of Infrastructure, we had to make sure we facilitate this achievement,” Mr Macharia said.
He said there was no point of producing oil when you cannot move it due to poor infrastructure. That is why engineers were on the ground to ensure that Kainuk bridge and sections of the road from Lokichar to Eldoret are usable.
He said the benefits to the country will be enormous. “I will this evening (yesterday) call the President to assure him that all is well for the flagging off of the oil trucks because tankers as heavy are crossing the bridge. We look forward to complete a permanent new bridge in the next 10 months,” he said.
This will entail construction of a new bridge at a cost of Sh1.2 billion, to be ready by March next year.
The Cabinet Secretary said they have had various challenges at Kainuk bridge, which was damaged by heavy rains, adding that KeNHA engineers and the contractor have been working tirelessly to ensure that an alternative bridge is in place.
He said heavy rains in the country have impacted negatively on infrastructure, with heavy vehicles being swept away on Kainuk bridge.
“We hope that next time we have heavy rains, the bridge will not collapse. Transport services should not be paralysed again, exposing traders to huge losses,” he said.
He added that the Kitale-Lodwar Road will have weighbridges to guard against overloading, which contributed to dilapidation and frequent collapse of Kainuk bridge.
Meanwhile, the ministry has been assessing the damage caused by heavy rains to roads and bridges across the country.
Mr Macharia said Sh20 billion would be required for repairs, with emergency work already ongoing in Nairobi.