By Emeka Mamah, Vincent Ujumadu, Chidi Nkwopara, Anayo Okoli, Chinonso Alozie& Ugochukwu Alaribe
Irrespective of claims by the Federal Government that works were ongoing on many federal roads in the Southeast geopolitical zone, an investigation by Saturday Vanguard revealed that little or nothing had been done on the roads.
The finding across the five Southeast states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo showed that the roads were still in terrible states.
In Abia State, the Aba – Ikot Ekpene highway, Ohafia – Arochukwu highway, and Umuahia -Ikot Ekpene highway were found to be in very bad shapes.
The Enugu/Onitsha Expressway had remained impassable as motorists were forced to make a detour at Umunya in Anambra State before getting to Enugu from Onitsha.
Work was found to be seriously ongoing along the Enugu axis of Enugu/Onitsha Expressway.
Similarly, work had progressed up to Amichi on the Oba/Nnewi/ Okigwe federal road.
Saturday Vanguard discovered that Anambra State government was carrying out palliative measures between Awkuzu and Umunya on Enugu/Onitsha Expressway.
The Enugu/9th Mile Corner/ Opi/ Obollo Afor/ Makurdi roads were found in dilapidated conditions. Potholes and craters are common sights between Opi Junction and the 9th Mile corner alone.
Contracts for the construction of roads
Passengers and other road users, who travel from Abuja and other northern states to Enugu and other southern states, tell stories of woes as they often spend many hours to get to their destinations.
A retired journalist with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, Mr. John Ndukauba, asked the Federal Executive Council, FEC, to approve contracts for the construction of the roads.
Ndukauba said: “The government should commence work on the roads by awarding the contracts. The Aba Ikot Ekpene highway collapsed four years ago constraining commuters, traders and business people from Cross River and Akwa Ibom going to Aba, the commercial hub of Abia state find it difficult doing so.
“Cross River, and Akwa Ibom states have two airports, a seaport, and heavy industries. With the collapse of Aba Ikot Ekpene highway, the heavy duty trucks, trailers, petrol tankers have all diverted to the narrow, Umuahia -Ikot Ekpene which is a single lane road. As a result of this traffic, gridlock is a common occurrence.
“For the Ohafia -Arochukwu highway which links Abia State to neighbouring Akwa Ibom and Cross River states, the commuters face more difficulties.
Three hours to get to Arochukwu from Ohafia
“The poor state of the highway has cut off the people living in that section of the state. It takes about three hours to get to Arochukwu from Ohafia, instead of about 30 minutes if the road was good.
“May all men of goodwill bring these roads to the attention of the federal authorities. They should not tell us that we need to wave the broom before these roads are reconstructed.” Broom is the symbol of the ruling party, APC.
Death traps in Imo
In Imo, Saturday Vanguard observed that most federal and state roads were in a very terrible state.
The Obinze-Ihiagwa-Nekede-Naze-Egbu-Uratta-Orji road and the Owerri-Anara-Okwelle-Okigwe road have become death traps.
The story was not different along Ulakwo-Umuowere-Umuohe-Ntu-Eziama, as well as Okpala-Eziama-Amala-Igbodo roads in Rivers State
A villager from Ntu, who simply identified himself as Chinonye, lamented that at the peak of the rainy season, it was often difficult to travel on the roads.
He said: “It is easier to squeeze water out of a stone than accessing our communities at the peak of the rainy season. However, we manage the road during the dry season but we contend with reddish-brown dust.”
When Vanguard visited the Obinze-Ihiagwa-Nekede-Naze road, some members of staff of the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, lamented over the deplorable state of the road.
They were unanimous in their stance that the federal and state governments were not interested in rehabilitating the road.
A woman, who pleaded anonymity said: “Because the nation cannot boast of accurate data, the government may not know that Nigeria may have been spending more money in procuring vehicle parts than in the importation of rice.”
A bus driver, Kachy Madumere told Saturday Vanguard that a bad spot along the Owerri/Onitsha road, adding that Uchenna Bus Stop in Irete, Owerri West Local Government Area had been a nightmare to motorists.
Companies operating on the Aba/Ikot Ekpene highway
He mentioned Owerri/Portharcourt road, which extended to Imo Polytechnic in Umuagwo, Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area. The road also extended to the boundary between Imo and Rivers states.
Another road user, who identified himself as Lemmy, lamented over the difficulties experienced on Owerri/ Enugu road, especially at Akabo, Atta and Amaraku Junction.
He also mentioned Anara on the way to Okigwe Local Government Area.
Commenting on the Owerri /Aba road, he pointed out that there were uncountable bad spots from Wetheral Roundabout to the Polytechnic Junction, adding that the Airport Junction and the road leading to Abia State had become an embarrassment.
In Abia State, the rehabilitation work on the dilapidated Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia-Aba-Port Harcourt has recorded appreciable progress, adding that contractors had returned to the site.
Nonetheless, some portions of the road were found to be very bad.
However, the contractor handling Enugu road is very slow.
No portion of the road has been completed.
Another bad portion is the boundary between Enugu State and Lokpanta Cattle Market in Umunneochi Council of Abia State, which has remained a nightmare for the road users.
The situation is a little different on the part of the Okigwe-Umuahia-Aba axis where the contractors could be said to be doing well.
A greater part of the road from Okigwe junction in Imo State to Umuahia was discovered to have been completed.
Also, the contractors handling the Umuahia-Aba axis of the road had made remarkable progress. Work on the stretch had progressed to Owerrinta junction.
In Aba, companies operating on the Aba/Ikot Ekpene highway were observed to have closed shop over the deplorable state of the road.
Hotels, filling stations, restaurants, mechanic workshops
It was observed that owners of hotels, filling stations, restaurants, mechanic workshops, and farms have abandoned their places business place.
Further check revealed that the Aba- Ikot Ekpene road which is the major link between Aba and Akwa Ibom and Cross River hosts 46 filling stations, 15 mechanic workshops, two hospitals, seven hotels, eight schools, 32 Palm Beaches, three farm settlements, 50 restaurants and supermarkets and four manufacturing companies.
The worst sections of the highway which have been abandoned are the Alaoji/Ukpakiri, Umuokpo/Umuwaoma and Onicha Ngwa/ Nlagu areas on the 20km stretch from Opobo Junction in Ogbor Hill to Nlagu which is the last border community between Abia and Akwa Ibom state.
Many communities along the highway have been cut off as residents and motorists now pass through bush parts.
The people of Obingwa Local Government Area and environs now find it difficult to access the Nigerian Christian Hospital, Nlagu.
A farm owner along the road, Mr. Uzochukwu Okwu lamented thus: ‘’It is a shame that the Abia State government and the federal government allowed this all-important road to degenerate into this level where it is now totally impassable. You can imagine the number of business enterprises on this road and the number of families they feed. Conservatively, these businesses created nearly 3000 jobs.’’
The lawmaker representing Obingwa East Constituency in Abia State House of Assembly, Mr. Solomon Akpulonu, appealed to the state and federal governments to rehabilitate the road, adding that the road had been featuring in national budgets since 2009 without being rehabilitated.