By Samson Ezea
I REMEMBER vividly the ugly experiences I had in the early 1980s at Ninth Mile Corner as a growing child travelling and returning from Enugu, where I usually spent my holidays at my uncle’s house. I usually would encounter heavy traffic snarl within the Ninth Mile axis of the Ninth Mile-Oturkpo road that linked Enugu and Benue states. For this reason, my parents had always warned me not to travel or return from Enugu late in the evening, if I don’t want to sleep at Ninth Mile.
So, whenever I wanted to travel to Enugu from my town, Aku in Igbo-Etiti, it was either I left early or deferred the trip to the next day. But more importantly, I must leave very early. This was a journey less than an hour, that is minus the perennial traffic gridlock at the Ninth Mile axis. The situation remained the same for years. It was usually worse during festive periods such as Christmas, Easter, New Year and others. This is simply because of poor erection of shops and heavy traffic congestion in the axis, considering that all vehicles coming from the North, especially North-Central states heading to the South-East and South-South states usually ply the road.
For decades, the traffic menace defied all solutions, including the knowledge and expertise in traffic management that the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, personnel brought to bear in the area. At times, the situation would be hopeless and frustrating. Another ugly incident that remained in my memory was the terrible experience my in-laws from Oba, Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State, had at Ninth Mile on December 27, 2011, while returning from my place after visiting for a traditional marriage engagement. After the event, my in-laws, who came in their numbers, left my place around 4pm, hoping to get home by 6.30pm. On getting to Nigerian Brewery Amah junction, they got stuck in traffic gridlock. They thought it would soon ease off. But to their shock, minutes to hours and the traffic became static. Alas, they were there till 2am before they could drive out of the congestion.
Since then, whenever I visited my in-laws, they would always taunt me with their ugly experience at Ninth Mile, asking me if there was nothing my state government could do about the problem?
Most times, I would be speechless because I didn’t have an answer to it. My worry continued and I kept asking myself why couldn’t successive governments put on their thinking cap and find a permanent solution to the congestion, either by constructing link and alternative roads in the axis or demolishing properties and dualise the main road?
Was it that successive governments lacked ideas, or they just decided to avoid the responsibility, considering that they might need to pay property owners compensation before dualising the main road? The answer to this question was not forthcoming for years. The result is that those seemingly condemned to experience the worst of this situation on the road resigned themselves to fate. As many as could avoid plying the road after many years of suffering the nightmare it had become, did so if they had a choice. But it is a difficult choice to avoid the road because it is closer to the state capital.
But the good news at the moment is that succour or relief has at last come to the users of the road. It will be recalled that when Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, assumed office in 2015, he made the immediate decongestion of the Ninth Mile road a top priority project.
It was a promise that was immediately backed with action as his government had within a short time, awarded a contract for the construction a new 9th Mile-Onitsha Express By-pass road that terminates at toll gate along Enugu/ Onitsha road. The road was completed within one year. The government also reconstructed the Amankwo-Ameke-Amah junction bypass road that commenced at Nigerian Brewery Amah junction and stretched to Ngwo and terminates close to Ozongwu Comprehensive School along Enugu/ Onitsha Expressway.
These two important link roads that have helped to eradicate the perennial traffic gridlock at the Ninth Mile axis were completed and commissioned in 2016. Though, it is a federal road, the Enugu State Government rehabilitated some failed portions of the Ninth Mile to ease traffic flow in that axis at peak periods.
With the completion of these link roads, anyone driving from Enugu, heading to Amah Brewery, Nsukka, Benue and others need not get to Ninth Mile town anymore. The best bet is to make a detour by the right immediately after Ozongwu Comprehensive School and head to Amankwo-Ameke-Amah Junction Bypass road and join the Enugu- Makurdi road at Amah junction. Travellers heading to Onitsha, Ebonyi, Delta, Anambra and others, avoid the traffic congestion by making a detour by the right and ply the Bypass road that will take them to the toll gate, from where they will continue their trips unhindered. Today, there is no more traffic congestion at Ninth Mile no matter the period. It took a thinking and performing government just one year to accomplish this.
That is what governance and leadership is all about. It is not about the number of projects initiated and abandoned, it is about the number of people-oriented and strategic projects embarked on and completed for the use of mankind. We have witnessed successive governments in the country which left in their wake white elephant, abandoned projects that have no direct impact on the lives of the people.
That is where the present government in Enugu is different. Across the state, the government has completed or nearly completed all the projects it has initiated. It has also continued to initiate new ones, having been assured by the majority of the good people of the state that it would be reelected in 2019 as a reward for performing well.
Ezea, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Independence Layout, Enugu.