*Bridge submerged, road cut-off
*Travellers use canoe
*Villagers engage in quick business, pray for more occurrences
By Ike Uchechukwu
EKENKPON—COMMUTERS voyaged with canoes on the East-West Road, a neglected federal highway, in Niger –Delta, weekend, as raging flood waters submerged a bridge and a segment of the public road at Ekenkpon community in Cross River State. The latest incident is coming three years after an analogous natural disaster in which flood swamped a different section of the East-West road, 2012, in Delta state.
Niger Delta Voice saw trapped commuters desperate to continue their trips boarding canoes to cross the submerged portion at Calabar-Itu segment of the highway, the line between Cross River and Akwa Ibom State.
The disorderly situation at the flooded portion, however, opened a hurried business opportunity for locals, who saw the disaster and attendant gridlock as God-ordained. It is a lucrative deal for canoe owners and motorcyclists. The canoes ferry travelers from the point where vehicles could not proceed further and the motor cyclists take them to another point where vehicles on the opposite section of the cut-off road were waiting.
One of the locals, Effiom Bassey, told Niger Delta Voice that he makes about N12, 000 daily because of the traffic congestion, heavy down pour and flood that have submerged the road, making driving difficult. According to him, some small vehicles like cars cannot pass through the place. The passengers have no choice but to alight from and take canoe across, pending when the cars could make it through to the other side or they take motorcycle.
He said: “It actually got worse in the last week of October, whenever the bridge is submerged like this, we know that the raining season is coming to an end, but this year’s own is quite unusual.” “The reason being that the water has been very heavy, as you can see the bridge has been covered ,also it is an old bridge with old design we pray it does not collapse ,we just pray it does not collapse any time soon,” he lamented.
Besides motor cyclists and river transporters, hawkers of food items, especially cold drinks, water, sausage roll, meat pie, bread, banana, groundnut and biscuit were also smiling. Ekpeyong Monday, who spoke in Pidgin English, corroborated Bassey’s claim that there has been a business boom since October compared to eight months ago, because of the traffic jam.
He asserted: “Before, I been dey sell like 4,500, or 5,000, but since when road block, I dey sell up to N8, 000, sometimes, it is only water, mineral no dey inside oo. “Well, I really pray make the thing no end because na Christmas we dey enter so. Whether u be big man or poor man,u no go fly na, u must buy something from us, at least dey must buy water.”
Niger Delta Voice reporter, who set out on a 45-minute journey to a community in the state, was for six hours stranded at Okurikang Junction. He spent another four hours to get to Calabar.
Mourners also trapped
Some of the travelers, who were conveying corpses of their loved ones to their homelands had a rough time on road because they could neither go forward nor backward. Some of them had to pay commercial motor cyclists as high as N5, 000 to take them out of the troubled spot to Itu, where they made fresh arrangements.
One of them, Chief Imoh Akan Idoreyen, said he had informed his relatives in the village to prepare for the worst because the entourage would not get to Etim Ekpo as scheduled. He asserted: “I have called my brothers because my mother came to Calabar for treatment. Unfortunately, she died here (Calabar); they have been waiting since 11a.m. because she will be buried tomorrow (Saturday), but as you can see, the ambulance cannot move faster than this.
“We have been on this road since 10.00 am, this is almost 3.00 pm, yet there is no headway, I am just confused,” he bemoaned. Another bereaved commuter, Mr. Ekere Williams, who said he was heading to Etinan with his wife’s corpse for interment, disclosed that the programme has changed because of the gridlock.
“I have already called a local mortician to be on standby because with what I am witnessing here, it will take another three hours before we get to our destination. I have been on this road since 7: 30 am, we lost a tire earlier which we had to fix just before the power plant, but on getting to the power plant, I was shocked at the holdup here.”
“I had no choice but to call my people at home, it is really pathetic,” he added. Mr. Princewill Onoriode , who was also transporting his mother’s corpse to Ughelli in Delta state, said the road was a living hell fire, adding that if he had another alternative, he would have asked the ambulance to use it because he projected that he would be at Ughelli at least by 5.00 pm.
“I am perplexed and deeply disturbed because of my mother’s corpse, she is a Catholic, the funeral and every other arrangement had been made and we left Calabar very early to be able to meet up, yet we have been held here for hours.
Appeal to FG
“I do not really know where to start from because I cannot think straight anymore because of this, the Federal government really needs to do something about this road,” he said.
He voiced, “We know that Buhari was in Cross River state recently for the groundbreaking of 270- kilometer road, but this road really needs attention. I even learned that some people have been here since yesterday (Thursday), it is not fair, is south –South not part of Nigeria, we still live like people in the medieval. This is unfair; something must be done immediately to alleviate the suffering of the masses plying this route after all we all voted for change.”
We’re on ground—FRSC
When Niger Delta Voice contacted the Head of Operations (Cars), Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, in the state, Kabir Nadabor, he said the traffic jam was because of natural disaster, which no man has control over. Nadabor, who spoke with Niger Delta Voice on telephone, stated that they have informed the governor, State Emergency Management Agency and Ministry of Works and they were trying to ensure that people do not take laws into their hands.
He said, “As you saw, we have been on ground to make sure we ease the pain of the people, we and other law enforcement agencies are here to control the situation because the cause is natural, but we will ensure that the situation is brought under absolute control.”