By Emeka Mamah, Vincent Ujumadu & Anayo Okoli
VEHICULAR journeys on federal roads in the South-East states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo have become deadly trap for motorists as virtually all the roads have become impassable.
Notable among such roads include the Enugu-Umuahia-Port Harcourt expressway, Onitsha-Owerri road, Enugu-Onitsha expressway, Ninth Mile Corner-Nsukka-Makurdi road as well as Onitsha-Uzo Uwani-Nsukka-Onuiyi-Haven-Ovoko and Enugu Ezike-Umuida-Unadu-Akpanya roads.
The Enugu-Onitsha expressway has turned to a nightmare for motorists as the roads have become virtually impassable. Travellers from the north who pass through the Makurdi-Obollo Afor- Ninth Mile Corner-Awka-Onitsha expressway spend over 12 hours for a journey which usually lasts three and a half hours from Makurdi, Benue State to Enugu.
Attendant wear and tear
Also, motorists travelling to Onitsha through Enugu to Onitsha expressway or vice versa pass through Udi through Achi-Aguata road to come out at Onisha instead of going through Ninth Mile from Awka to Onitsha, which usually takes fewer hours as the roads have failed in several areas. As a result, a journey from Onitsha to Enugu, which ordinarily should take about one and half hours, now takes more than five hours, with the attendant wear and tear on the vehicles.
The worst sections of the road are the Umunya-Amawbia axis and the Amansea end on the border with Enugu State. The Ninth Mile Corner to Enugu is another terrible portion even with two by-passes constructed by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State to ease traffic congestion caused by bad roads. The road from Ninth Mile to Makurdi is hellish death traps especially between the Nigerian Brewery junction along Iwollo road to Opi junction at Nsukka.
Since the rains became heavy, motorists travelling to Lagos or other South-West states through Onitsha had diverted to the old Onitsha-Enugu road rehabilitated during the administrations of former Governors Peter Obi and Sullivan Chime and the pressure on the rehabilitated road had resulted in potholes and traffic gridlock on the road.
Travellers express worry
In the past few weeks, travellers had to spend hours at the Amansea junction following the bottleneck created by the two police checkpoints between Mobile Police, Awka and Amansea, sometimes forcing the passengers to trek several kilometres to get to Awka town to join other vehicles to continue their journeys. Sometimes the traffic gridlock would extend to Ugwuoba in Enugu State and Zik Avenue in Awka.
Expectedly, the road users have been expressing worry that the ongoing work on the expressway was very slow, noting that the work would have gone far if the contractors were more serious. A commercial bus driver, Mr. Joachim Nnakwue, said it was always a terrible experience driving on the road. He said as a result of the bad road, he does only one trip daily between Enugu and Onitsha, as against three to four trips he was doing when the road was good.
Another driver, Mr. Nwachukwu Okeke, said due to the diversion drivers make at Umunya, youths of some villages have been extorting money from them as they usually mount emergency toll gates and force drivers passing through their villages to pay. He said that drivers paid between N300 and N500 before joining the better portion of the expressway at the Awkuzu end of the road.
Apart from the Enugu-Onitsha road, the Oba-Okigwe federal highway is also in a deplorable condition as the work there has been going on at snail speed.
Enugu-Umuahia-Port Harcourt Expressway
Also, although the Federal Government has remobilized contractors to resume work on the busy Enugu-Port Harcourt express way abandoned for many years a succession of previous administrations, it is not yet Uhuru for motorists plying the roads as they still are several very bad areas on the roads to be fixed.
The Enugu portion of the road is still dotted with dangerous potholes, some of them located in the middle of the road, making it difficult for motorists to evade or manouvre.
Worst areas: However, the worst areas are some stretches at the Abia end of the road. Specifically, the Ofeme axis in Umuahia North council still gives motorists nightmares as they go through a lot of stress on the road, which would likely become a no-go-area for them.
In fact, certain portions on one of the lanes of the dual carriage road have been overtaken by weeds but due to a lack of alternatives, motorists still manage to ply it with the attendant tear and wear on their vehicles. It is a common experience to see vehicles break down at these dilapidated portions. But for a standby police patrol team at the Ofeme stretch by the Abia Police Commissioner, Leye Oyebade, many motorists would have fallen victim to armed robbery attacked as the area is always lonely and prone to criminal activities.
The contractor handling the Okigwe-Umuahia stretch of the road, Setraco, seemed to have been touched by the ugly plight of motorists plying the road, as they have began to mobilise materials for palliative work on the bad portions before the actual work commence.
The Umuahia-Bende-Ohafia road is one death trap that has eluded any solution as all hopes seem to have been lost as nothing is being done either by the federal or the state governments to save the life of the road users in the area.
Between Igbere and Abiriba axis of the road lie no less than three dangerous gullies, which pose serious dangers to motorists.
Arochukwu-Ohafia federal road, from all indications, has remained a curse on the people of the area and the users as nothing is being done to genuinely alleviate the hardship they go through on the road. No vehicle dares ply the road during the raining season. Life is just hell for the people of the area and users of the road.
However, the Enugu- Abakaliki-Ogoja highway is a little bit more motorable except at a few spots. It is the same situation in Imo State as the Owerri-Port Harcourt and Owerri-Aba Highway are in a terrible state of disrepair.