By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
Thousands of people travelling to the eastern part of Nigeria through Ore in Ondo State have continued to rainÂ curses on the powers – that-be over the continued neglect of Lagos-Benin RoadÂ to the detriment of both commuters and motorists.
This is as a result of the continued deterioration of the road which has made it almost impossible for vehiclesÂ to pass.
Vanguard investigations showed that a journey to Benin City, which normally takes just three hours from Lagos, now takes almost nine hours while a journey to Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu and other adjoining towns takes virtually a day.
Worst hit by theÂ situation are those travelling toÂ Owerri, Nsukka, Aba, Port Harcourt, Markurdi. Calabar etc, as they now spend two days on the road before getting to their respective destinations.
The situation isÂ made worse by incessant robbery attacks on motorists and their passengers at the bad spots on the road leading to the loss of lives, money and properties which value runs into trillions of naira.
Most of the motorists and passengers saidÂ the state of theÂ roads to the east, particularly Ore, has turned their trips into a nightmare.Â Â It was gathered that in the past two weeks, it has become almost impossible to pass through the craters, gullies and holes created on both sides of the highway in Ore 1,2 and 3.
One of the stranded passengers lamented, â€œGod in His infinite mercy will punish those leaders who are subjecting us to this hardship.Â Â Â I left Lagos 7.30am last Sunday for Onitsha.Â Â It is now 12midnight, we are justÂ approaching Ore 1. When then are we going to get to Onitsha?.Â Has it not turned into two days journey.â€
Another passenger in a smaller bus said they manovered through the thick bush before they got out near Ore 1 around 5p.m.Â Â â€œOrdinarily, one should have been happy for escaping the heavy traffic build up inside Ore but we got out through the bushes in pieces.
While we were manorvering our way inside the thick bushes around Ore, some heavily armed youths whom we thought were just out to collect tolls attacked the long convoy of small buses.Â Many of us were wounded while we lost all our money and valuablesâ€, he explained.
One of the luxury bus drivers told Vanguard that truck drivers wereÂ not helping matters either on the road.Â â€œThey block all the spaces with their trucks and they also ply both sides of the road.
The situation is so bad that even traffic wardens, policemen and men of the Federal Road Safety Commission seem helpless.Â Â What all of them do now is to extort money from motorists in one way or the other leaving thousands of people to their fate.Â Many passengers are still stranded here as a result of the bad roads,â€ he stated.
A youth, who claimed he was going to Enugu for job interview, said he lost the opportunity because by the time he got out of Ore, he was a day behind the date for the interview and he had no option than to return to Lagos.Â â€œHow would those who will go home for nextÂ Christmas cope?â€, he asked.
Ironically, while thousands are groaning in pains, lamenting the poor state of the major highway that leads to the east, traders in Ore are smiling to the banks.Â A female hawker of fruits said, â€œBusiness has not been as good as this.
We now make sales twenty four hours of the day because there is no time you will not see buyers. Initially, we just hawkedÂ fruits but now, most of us have gone into selling hot rice and other edible foods.
Though, I sympathize with these stranded passengers and drivers, I am happy that we are making profitâ€.
A security expert, who was also stranded at Ore 1, Chief Austin Nwabuko,Â told Sunday Vanguard that what is happening presently in Ore is enough to trigger offÂ violence.Â Â â€œIt is very painful that people are left to suffer like this in an oil rich country like Nigeria.
I challenge President Yarâ€˜Adua to take a trip by road from Abuja to Lagos and Lagos to the east and see whether he would still continue being in office, if he is a man of conscience.
The annoying aspect of the sordid scenario is that all the security agencies are not doing anything to safeguard the lives and properties of millions of Nigerians and even expatriates stranded in Ore.
Rather, what they do is to driveÂ to safe and motorable points on the road and create road blocks where they extort money from stranded passengers and motorists.
Except those trapped inside the busy areas in Ore, those that unfortunately found themselves in isolated areas get robbed and even the females raped without protection from the police.Â Are these not signs of a failed state?â€.