By Simon Ebegbulem , Benin
“Do something, Oga, do something. I’ve been stranded on this Ore-Benin road for over five hours now. Please tell government to do something”, an angry traveller in an SOS phone call to Sunday Vanguard on Thursday evening.
The caller who chose to remain anonymous was one of the thousands who were caught in a traffic gridlock at the Ore end of the Lagos – Benin road which has defied solution for upwards of 10 years now.
So angry were the travellers that they almost attacked the Sunday Vanguard crew that went to assess the situation on Friday.
They accused the press of not putting enough pressure on government to fix the road.
Hundreds of craters now line the length and breath of the road, many of them so deep that trailers and other containers vehicles often fall on their side or get stuck, thus blocking the road.
Only last Sunday, the Minister of State for Works, Mr. Chris Ogienwoyi visited the bad spots at Ore and Ofusu. He was accompanied by officials of Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) which is handling part of the rehabilitation works and ministry officials.
He could only mutter: “Something must be done urgently”.
While there he put a call through to Abuja asking what could have been causing the neglect of the Ondo axis of the road.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that he was told that the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), had awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of Ofusu part to RCC but the project manager of the company there and then denied knowledge of any such contract.
The Minister who had now become visibly angry threatened to revoke the contract if the company failed to mobilize to site in the next one week, and asked all those concerned to come to Abuja with a view to sorting out the issue.
Ogienwoyi who spoke to newsmen shortly after the altercation with the RCC officials, said “It is very clear that this Ondo axis of the road has deteriorated this last four months so we are urging the contractor, RCC handling these projects, the Benin to Ofusu end to have two gangs.
One gang working from Ofusu to Benin then one gang working from Benin to Ofusu. The second one, the contract from Ofusu to kilometer 92 here in Ondo state which was awarded to RCC they must mobilize to site immediately otherwise FERMA should contract the job to another contractor with the same price. In terms of response to these problems, I think when people start seeing the dividends of what is coming out from the Jonathan administration they will marvel.
I was in Benin six weeks ago and I was told that there was a wash out between Auchi and Igarra and I drove straight to the site, I inspected the place and thereafter I went to pay a visit to the Otaru of Auchi, where he complained to me about the serious erosion issues around Auchi. And believe you me; on Tuesday that week, Mr President empowered me to ask Setraco to move to site.
I was there three weeks ago, that job is almost completed now. He (President Jonathan) just said Minister mobilize to Auchi now and let them move to site. And we are taking key projects. The Jebba bridge, the second Niger bridge, so we are taking all these key areas. But I equally assure you one thing, some of the contracts today people are complaining about that are failing because of poor execution, Ministry of Works has taken an inventory of all those contracts, we have taken inventory of the contractors.
We are summoning them to Ministry of Works Abuja to look at the jobs on one on one basis. And assure you that those that have a shortfall of our expectation we have the courage to terminate. And already the issue of bulletin to terminate some of these contracts is on the drawing board. Secondly, some of the Public Private Projects (PPP) we met on ground, like the Guto Bagrana bridge, where we equally realized that the contractor is performing below expectation, we had the courage to equally terminate it. So all I urge Nigerians is that by the end of the next dry season, you will see the improvement in our road sector. So by first quarter of next year, we will see an improvement in our road network”.
Some of the stranded commuters appealed to government to fix the entire Benin-Lagos road once and for all now.
Odinaka Chukwu, a transporter, said, “We are really suffering on this road particularly now that it is raining. The road is so bad, I wonder why government has not come to do any thing. The state of the road is so painful to us because we ply here every day.
And the problem is that those areas where you have the bad spots are where armed robbers always wait to rob people and many people have died. Every day we witness heavy duty vehicles falling and people stay in the traffic here from morning till night because of the bad road. And we are strongly appealing to government to come to our aid especially now that we are approaching Christmas and New Year celebrations.
We spend over ten hours from Ajebandele to Okada.
Jeremiah Igbokwe-Transporter: “The truth is that from Shagamu to the Ondo state by-pass, the road is very very bad. Like yesterday (Thursday) we spent over eight hours here in Ore and spent another five hours at Ofusu area. If you check our vehicles now, they have all broken down due to the bad road and traffic. So we will appreciate government’s quick response to this problem because Nigerians are suffering as a result of this road.
The same problem we have in Onitsha-Enugu express road, the road is too bad. Government should look into these roads and work on them because we transport are the victims since we will be repairing our vehicles every day. And again, you risk the lives of the passengers when they are stranded at night because of the bad road. So government should please come to our aid because this is the only business that we have.