By Samuel OYADONGHA
Unless urgent remedial steps are taken, the Okosi Bridge stretch of the East-West Road in Bayelsa State may be lost to the Okosi River. Already, more than two/ third of the width of the road around the failed portion have been eroded and is now part of the winding river.
Sadly, the East-West Road is the only road that straddles the six states of the oil rich Niger Delta region, the mainstay of the nation’s oil dependent economy. Two vehicles can no longer navigate the troubled spot simultaneously due to its narrow and delicate nature.
Our correspondent, who visited the area, observed that the failed spot may be completely washed away in the next couple of weeks due to the level of degradation being unleashed by the River and high volume of traffic, especially haulage trucks plying the area thereby exerting greater pressure on the already fragile road, and further accelerating the erosion process.
Such a scenario, if left unchecked, would effectively cut off Bayelsa, which economy to a large extent is dependent on the East-West Road from the rest of the country. The bulk of agricultural produce and consumer goods in Bayelsa comes from neighbouring Delta State through the ailing road.
Sadly, the situation on the road is worse in the night for motorists who are not familiar with the route, since the ‘dead spot’ does not have reflective tapes to warn road users of the danger ahead.
Though a heap of stones have long been dumped close to the eroded portion of the route by Setraco, the construction firm handling the rehabilitation and dualisation of the ailing road, ostensibly to save it from imminent collapse, but nothing tangible has been done to stem the erosion menace.
The precarious state of the erosion prone zone is now a source of grave concern to motorists plying the route. On a bad day, unlucky commuters may end up wasting as much as two hours navigating the less than 50 metres stretch of the failed portion leading to unnecessary man hour loss.
Some commuters who spoke to Sweetcrude expressed sadness over the deplorable condition of the road given its strategic importance to the nation’s oil and gas industry and the economy of the South- South region.
One of the oil workers who refused to identify himself lamented, “Virtually all the haulage trucks belonging to the oil industry, the mainstay of the nation’s economy pass through this route and most of the accidents recorded on this route could have been avoided if it were in good condition.
“It is high time the federal government takes drastic measures to address the ailing road especially the Okosi stretch given its dead end for road users who are not familiar with the route.”
Also, a Warri bound commercial driver, Thomas Efe, blamed the series of accidents around the Okosi Bridge area on the terrible state of the road. He said, “Most drivers who are not familiar with the route stand the risk of ramming into an on- coming vehicle or plunging into the river, because of the tricky nature of failed spot. That place is a waiting disaster. It is our prayer that the relevant authorities and construction firm will live up to their responsibilities to avert the looming danger.”
The Bayelsa State Government may once again be forced to intervene in the troubled Okosi Bridge axis of the ailing road, as witnessed during the recent deluge when it mobilized construction giant, Julius Berger to assist in making the failed Mbiama-Okogbe stretch of the East-West Road passable for motorists, thereby saving the state from being locked in the then ravaging floods.