By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa
Though a predominantly civil servants state with no industries where everything revolves around the ‘Creek Haven’, the seat of power in Bayelsa State, Yenagoa, the serene capital city is fast losing its rural outlook.
In spite of its infamous past as the hotbed of crisis at the height of youth militancy in the Niger Delta, Bayelsa is now regarded as the “Jerusalem” of the Ijaw nation and its capital Yenagoa ranked as one of the most peaceful cities in the federation.
Interestingly, driving in the state capital until late last year was a luxury given the relative ease with which vehicles move from one point to another.
Most first time visitors to the state capital, especially from big cities like Lagos and Port Harcourt were fascinated by the free flow of traffic on the roads.
But with the commencement of the expansion of the existing major roads and construction of new internal roads across Yenagoa, life has not been the same again for residents many of whom are now forced to adjust their movement.
For a people who are used to the free flow of traffic on the roads driving, which hitherto was considered a worthwhile experience in the capital city, is now a source of pain to many due to the serious gridlock they are subjected to daily.
Expansion work is ongoing on Isaac Boro Expressway connecting Edepie roundabout linking Imiringi in Ogbia council area and Tombia-Amassoma university community in Southern Ijaw council area to mainland Yenagoa; Azikoro Road, Diete Spiff Road and Road Safety Road, dualisation of Opolo-Elebele road, Edepie-Imiringi road, Igbogene-Onopa Bye Pass linking the Gateway road to East-West, Elebele connecting roads linking the Elebele area to the Isaac Boro highway among others.
Also the ailing Swali Market road is being expanded while rehabilitation and expansion work is also ongoing on the Ikoli Bridge which was on the verge of collapse before the intervention of the present administration.
The bridge which was uncompleted by Julius Berger when the latter pulled out of the Niger Delta due to the problem of insecurity at the height of youth militancy was hurriedly commissioned and named Goodluck Jonathan Bridge by the immediate past administration of Chief Timipre Sylva ostensibly to warm its way to the heart of the former when he was the country’s Vice President.
Earth moving machines excavating muddy soil, heavy duty trucks carrying out sand filling and bulldozers clearing the swampy forests are working simultaneously making the state capital a huge construction yard.
The ongoing works have also resulted in broken water pipes in several areas with electricity poles being relocated thereby causing power outage in some areas.
In recent weeks, commuters and motorists, Vanguard Metro, VM, check revealed, have been subjected to hours of harrowing experiences caused by traffic gridlocks along the major highways within the city.
The development has forced some residents, especially the younger segment of the population, to resort to the use of bicycles in a city where Okada was the preferred means of transportation before its ban by the state government.
It was also discovered that the recent attempt by the government to manage the chaotic traffic situation by blocking some of the intersections on the major roads has not been fruitful because of the massive construction work in town.
Adowei, a civil servant, told VM of his experience and how he spent about four hours on a journey of less than 30 minutes to get to his office at the State Secretariat, last week.
He added that on his way back home same day, he faced another round of harrowing experience as the roads were again choked up.
Residents, however, noted that the current situation is worth enduring as according to them, it was a noble sacrifice they have to make for the capital city to outgrow its rural outlook.
Ebiowei, another resident, who lives at Polaku in the outskirts of Yenagoa, said: “I spend an average of three hours daily to get to town and sometimes more than that to come back home. It is really frightening going out but I have to go to work. The ongoing work is an indication that Yenagoa is gradually losing its innocence and toga of a glorified village.”
But the State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Lawrence Erudjakpor has pleaded with residents to be patient with the government, stressing that the current hiccup being experienced on the roads was temporary.
The commissioner who said government also intends to embark on the expansion of the Mbiama-Yenagoa road, which requires demolition of structures and compensation as planned assured that the ongoing expansion and opening up of new layouts would not only help accelerate development in the state but also add to the aesthetic beauty of the city.