By CHIOMA ONUEGBU
UYO—RESIDENTS of Akwa Ibom States have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and bring to an end their perennial nightmares traveling on the East-West Road and other federal roads that link contiguous states in the South-South and South East regions. Citizens, especially drivers, commuters and businesspersons, who spoke to Niger Delta Voice, lamented the deplorable condition of the federal roads, saying they have their hearts in their mouths when traveling to Abia and Cross River States.
They said the government has been shouting change but they want to feel and experience it on the federal roads in the two regions, especially Ikot-Ekpene-Umuahia- Aba and Itu-Calabar roads.
National President of South- South Solidarity Forum, Dr Bassey Umoh, who hails from Ibiono Ibom local government area, Akwa Ibom, said: “I know that so many roads across the country are also in deplorable condition, but we are particularly worried because this region that contributes so much to the wealth of the country has no good federal roads.”
“From Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa, you observe that the only dualised link road is the East -West road but it appears that that road has been highly politicized because I cannot remember how many years it has been under construction.
“How can a people be cut off completely from each other? Between Ikot Ekpene and Aba and Ikot Ekpene and Umuahia which are the routes to most commercial town in the East, the roads are not passable. From Cross River to Benue, the road situation is not different; journey that should ordinarily take five hours, people spend close to eight hours before they could get to Calabar from Benue.
His words: “For instance the Calabar-Itu road has been in a bad shape over the years. I met that road when I was born; they have not repaired it except minor works that break down the next moment. Successive governments have neglected us in terms of road development, that is why we are appealing to this government to come to the aid of this state in particular and the South-South region in general.”
Similarly, chair, Afaha Atai village council, Eket Chief Samuel Etti, decried the delay in completing the East-West road, which commenced since 2007. He said: “When I visited there two days ago, I noticed that work is going on; they are still working on part of the road that is yet to be completed and the bridge leading to Onna local government area. One of the workers said there it is fund problem, which is delaying the completion.
“As a community leader, my position is that the completion of the project is long overdue and we are not happy about it because whenever a project comes to this part of the country, execution is usually a problem. So we are asking this new government to do something to hasten the completion, they should release the budgeted money for the project so that it can be completed before the next rain starts.”
Uyo -based executive, Master Chibuike, said: “The the roads to Aba and Umuahia are nightmares. They are manageable now that we are still in the dry season. Once the rain starts, it will be something else. Apart from the fact that the cost of transportation will increase during the rainy season, sometimes, people’s goods and commodities can stay on the road for two to three days because of the bad road.”
“I am telling you this because I have had that experience twice, this government should repair that road if it really has the interest of the citizen at heart, as it claims in its change slogan.
Motorcycle to the rescue
A youth activist from Ikot Ekpene local government area, Mr. Manasseh Umoette, said: “The situation of Ikot Ekpene-Aba-Umuahia is worrisome. For so many years now, it has been difficult to access Aba in Abia state from Ikot Ekpene such that people now resort to using motorcycle from Ikot Ekpene to Aba. “And this exposes people to so many health issues and dangers like robbery, especially those drivers who must always go to Aba using diversions from Obot Akara in Akwa Ibom through Ndiuro-Oboro Amizi villages.”
Youths fleece drivers
Umoette disclosed: “The last time I went to Aba, that is last December, I observed how youths in those remote villages capitalize on the situation to extort money from commercial drivers and other vehicles that use the diversions before they allow you to pass. These are very narrow roads that two cars cannot pass at the same time; one car has to wait for another to pass first before it can then pass.”
NDV learned that the high cost of transportation was responsible for the high cost of goods and commodities in Akwa Ibom markets despite the nearness of the state to the commercial town of Aba where most of the people go to buy their wares.