THE pains of motorists and commuters who ply the popular East -West Road in the Niger Delta region of the country have been aggravated by the day. The reason for this is not far fetched. The road has been abandoned literally. AndÂ there appears no foreseeable solution in sight.
The East -West RoadÂ is the only road that links Warri in Delta State to Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa-Ibom States. The road which starts from the Dual Carriageway by Delta Steel Complex Roundabout and terminates at Oron in Akwa Ibom State,Â has been in terrible state of disrepairÂ for decades.
Vanguard Features, VF learnt that several times in the past, the road had been awarded to various contractors to rehabilitate with little or nothing to show for it. The non-existence of alternative routes made it inevitable forÂ motorists and commuters to contend with the deplorable condition of the highway.
The situation remained like this for several years until the creation of the Niger Delta Ministry by the late President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua. The road naturally fell under the supervision of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
As expected, the Ministry did not waste time to embark on the dualisation of the road to the admiration of the people of the region. In a bid to expedite action on the construction and completion of the multi-billion naira road project in the next ten years, it was divided into sections to be handled by different contractors.
These include construction giants, Messrs Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. But the work was not making progress due to activities of militants in the region. In fact, Julius Berger and other contractors had to abandon sites and refused to go back. This necessitated the Ministry to re-award the entire stretch ofÂ road to Setraco Nigeria Limited, an indigenous construction firm which has since commenced work.
However, concerned citizens of the region thoughÂ happy that work is going on,Â Â feel that the work is not as fast as it should be hence they want to know what the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is doing about the slow pace of work by Setraco. They told this much to a group of journalists who visited the area to assess the pace of work on the construction of the road.
Vanguard Features, VF observed that the road is partially motorable from the Warri end up to Ughelli. At Ughelli, the abandonment has paved way for street traders to take over hawking various wares. Recharge card vendors and other retailers are taking advantage of the deplorable condition of the road, as vehicles cannot pass through that section of the road.
There is nowÂ a mini market at the centre of the road in Afiesere Junction, Ughelli. The situation of the road becomes worse from Ughelli to Patani with craters taking over the entire road. This has been worsened with the advent of the rainy season.
The inspection tour actually revealed that Setraco has fully mobilised to site with their equipment and site camps located at several sections along the road. Several bridges have been completed while the earth work which the construction company is concentrating on now, is equally very visible at several sections.
But stakeholders believe that Niger Delta Ministry is not pushing the contractor enough to complete the job quickly. An Ughelli man who pleaded anonymity said: “The construction work is not as fast as it should be.
The road is important to every Deltan as well as Nigerians because it runs from Warri in Delta State to Beyelsa State, Rivers State and terminates at Oron in Akwa Ibom State. But with the slow pace at which it is going, it is possible that the project will not be completed before the end of Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s tenure as President.
This is the opportunity Mr. President and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs haveÂ to quickly complete this road. So, I appeal toÂ the President and the Minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to use their good offices to ensure speedy completion of the dualisation projectâ€.
An official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) at Otovwodo Motor Park, Ughelli, Mr. AsaboroÂ Arthur who noted that work on the road is now faster due to the intervention of the President, however noted that work is slow at the moment because of rainy season.
According to him, â€˜Several contractors have handled this job without any headway. Now, with Mr. President showing interest in the road, we can see progress. We hope the President will use his good offices to complete the road while in office because road development is pivotal to other developmentsâ€, Arthur who is the Auditor, NURTW, Otovwodo Park stated.
The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) staff operating along the road said its speedy completion will make their work easy. According to them, the poor state of theÂ road does not allow them enforce traffic rules along that route.
The Road Marshals who preferred to be anonymous said â€œthe traffic rules are difficult to comply with here, in most cases, due to the nature of the road. The roadÂ is so bad that motorists look for good portions to go through without regard for oncoming vehicles.
In this type of situation, a corps marshal becomes helpless. Our presence on the road is to ensure motorists slow down particularly when they are approaching bad portions of the road. In most cases, we apply human face in dealing with motorists becauseÂ the situation they find themselves is abnormalâ€™.
His Royal Majesty, the Odion-Ode of Uwheru Kingdom, Clifford Omo-Oyibo Adeda who commended the Federal Government for embarking on the road project, explainedÂ that they have no regret that the dualisation affected their houses. Part of the palace was also affected by the construction work.
Although the traditional ruler decried the non-payment of compensation for properties destroyed by the construction of the road, he explained that none of his subjects had at anytime obstructed the contractors from doing their.
The Octogenarian royal father who said he has been paidÂ his own compensation explained that he is using the money to build a new palace. He appealed to government to speedy up payment of the balance of his compensation, and also called on Setraco to speedy up the pace of work to complete the dualisation work in good time to relieve the people of theÂ region of the harrowing experience they are currently going through.