BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME, PORT HARCOURT
THE rainy season is a period most travellers on the East- West road in the Niger Delta region wish should never be.
This is due to the nightmare and bitter experience they go through on the road during the rainy season . For many years now, the road has been in a very deplorable state and the situation becomes worse for travellers whenever the rains set in.
These travellers could be trapped at a particular bad spot for the whole day. The foregoing bitter experience played up again Wednesday and Thursday last week when hundreds of travellers were stranded for two days at the Ahoada West end of the road.
The distraught passengers rained abuses on the Federal Government and Setraco, the construction company handling the expansion of the road. They blamed them for the pain they went through.
One of the passengers who identified himself as Mr. Olumide said he left Omoku, in Rivers State for Lagos that Wednesday and got to the bad spot at about 9am. After several hours at the spot, he said he had to cancel his trip when it dawned on him that there was nothing he could do to wriggle out of the long traffic caused by the bad spot. “I had to call my wife that I was coming back home, so they could prepare food for me,” he told the Vanguard Features. He was not alone in the pensive mood.
Hundreds of Edo, Lagos and Delta-bound passengers who could not make it through the bad spot after spending a whole day at the long stretch of vehicular traffic, also cancelled their trips and returned to Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
They looked exhausted as they spoke to the VF at one of the motor parks located along the Waterlines area of the state capital. According to them, they slept at a spot on the traffic and when it became very clear that there was no hope of meandering through, they had to come back to Port Harcourt. They urged the Federal Government to take urgent steps to reduce the pain of travellers on the road. The stranded commuters said they got to the spot on Wednesday morning and were trapped there the entire day.
Some said they slept at various hotels in Okogbe and other neighboring villages on Wednesday night. They said they woke very early the following day, being Thursday, to continue the trip only to be trapped again at the same spot for the whole day. Frustrated they had to cancel their trips.
VF was told that two trailers broke down at the bad spot close to the Mbiama bridge. Describing their experience as very bitter, Mr Charles said it had become a re-occurring one on the road. He said it was really disturbing that the Federal Government was yet to fix the road.
He said he had been trapped about five different times at several bad spots on the road on many occasions.
A mother of five said she had to come back to Port Harcourt when she could not stand the long wait at the spot with her five children.
She said they were travelling to Edo State ahead of the resumption of their school. According to the lady who simply gave her name as Patience, some of the passengers in the commercial bus she boarded had to disembark to trek several kilometres to board another vehicle at the other end of the road
She said she could not do same because of her little children, stressing that the only option was to lose the transport fare they paid and return to Port Harcourt.
FG, SETRACO toying with our patience
Some of the passengers criticised President Goodluck Jonathan for not doing much to fix the roads. Another stranded passenger who gave his name as Mr Paul said: “We can’t understand why this road is still in this state when the President is from this region. The area has Niger Delta Ministry, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. Mr President should reward the electoral support he got from this region by fixing this road urgently”.
Also a female student of the University of Port Harcourt who simply identified herself as Cindy, could not understand why the firm handling the expansion of the road and the Federal Government allowed travellers to go through such a harrowing experience.
Failure of governance
Mr.David said the state of the road was a clear indication that governance had failed in the country. “You can see that Setraco and the Federal Government are just toying with our patience in this country. Is the country at war for us to have this kind of ugly situation”? he queried.
Dave stated that it is only a country in crisis that could allow its road to deteriorate at such an alarming rate. “There is no justification for government’s failure to take care of its basic responsibility such as fixing of this road,” he cried.
Some little children who slept on the road on Wednesday night could not understand why they should. According to Mrs Vero, her nine-year-old daughter kept asking if President Jonathan is aware that the road is that bad.
Mr Paul said there was also another bad spot before Ahoada when coming from the Warri end of the road. He said the spot, if not taken care of immediately, could cause problems for travellers soon. He further drew the attention of Setraco to a bad spot in front of the company’s camp on the road and appealed to them to urgently address it before it creates another round of problem for travellers.
Some of the travellers pleaded passionately with government to prevail on the construction company to repair all bad spots as it carries out the expansion of the road.
It would be recalled that about four months ago, a petrol tanker veered off its lane on the East-West road and landed on its back, spilling its content and later burst into flames. About one 190 persons were allegedly consumed in the inferno. The deplorable state of the road was largely blamed for the sad incident.