By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Dennis Agbo, Ugochukwu Alaribe & Chinedu Adonu
ENUGU—THE condition of federal roads in the South- East is deplorable. They have indeed become death traps. Some of them have been abandoned and now out of use.
Also, state roads are not better off. Though the Federal Government awarded contracts for two major roads in the zone, the Enugu-Awka-Onitsha road and the Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia-Aba, work on the roads, especially the Enugu-Onitsha is not commendable.
But the level of work on the Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia is commendable. In fact, from the Leru axis down to Okigwe to Umuahia, has been completed and in use now, though the firm handling the work is still working on the drainages.
The greatest obstacle that has been delaying the Umuchieze to Enugu axis is the cattle market at Lokpanta. The Northern cattle traders constitute nuisance here by parking their trucks on thev two lanes of the road. However, there seems to be hope following the ongoing construction of two large trailer parks at the market. With the parks being put in place, work has already commenced from the Umuchieze axis to Enugu.
However, the Okigwe-Owerri roads, Umuahia-Owerri, among others, are in very bad shape. The Aba-Ikot Ekpene road could rightly be described as the worst.
Communities along the Aba-Ikot Ekpene highway in Abia State have been lamenting the dilapidated state of the road and crying that the federal and state governments should urgently fix the road.
The communities: Ehere, Ukpakiri, Ohanze, Umuokpo, Onicha Ngwa, Nlagu, all in Obingwa Local Government Area have been cut off from Aba, their major market on account of the state of the road.
The worst sections of the road are the Opobo junction to Ukpakiri as well as the stretch between Umuokpo and the Nigerian Christian Hospital, at Nlagu, a border town between Abia and Akwa Ibom States.
Over 2,000 businesses operating along the road have since closed shop as motorists no longer ply the road.
It was gathered that the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, had paid several visits to the Aba-Ikot Ekpene road. Rehabilitation works commenced at a stage on the Umuokpo-Amairinabuo stretch, but the construction firm abandoned the job, perhaps due to lack of funds.
Speaking with South-East Voice, Eze-Elect of Umuokpo Amairinabuo autonomous community in Obingwa Council, Chief Micah Ohajuru, said that his community could no longer access Aba town or Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom State due to the dilapidated state of the Aba-Ikot Ekpene highway.
“The poor state of the Aba-Ikot Ekpene highway has caused untold suffering as some of them have been cut off from their neighbours. We can’t access the Nigerian Christian Hospital at Nlagu, which is the major health institution in my area.
“You can also see the number of businesses which have closed shop due to the dilapidated state of the road. These businesses provided employment to over 5,000 families.
“Now, they have closed shop because the Federal Government refused to rehabilitate the road. Our people are suffering; the Federal Government should do the needful. We can no longer access Aba town or Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom State,” the monarch lamented.
The Obehie – Akwete- Azumini – Ukanafun federal highway is also in a dilapidated state as road users now wade through bush paths to get to their destinations.
On the Aba axis of the Enugu- Aba-Port Harcourt road, the rehabilitation work has stopped after the former toll gate at Isiala Ngwa area. Huge craters, large enough to bury trucks, adorn the stretch from Arungwa junction in Osisioma Ngwa to the Imo gate border with Rivers State.
Abia: Ikpeazu administration has commissioned 86 roads
For the state roads in Abia, the Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu said that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu ‘s administration has commissioned 86 roads while work is ongoing on 74 others across the state.
Reminded that the residents of Obohia, Ohanku, Ngwa, Omuma and Port Harcourt road are crying about the deplorable state of roads in their areas, the commissioner pledged that rehabilitation works would resume in the areas after the completion of the ongoing drainage works along Port Harcourt road.
“We prefer to be slow in road rehabilitation to deliver quality jobs than rush and build roads that won’t last. For some roads, we deployed cement pavement technology to ensure longevity. We did it at Ehere, Ochefu, Umuola, Eziukwu, Osusu and Owerri roads. Four years after, Ehere road and others are still standing strong. We are not bothered about the noise that we are slow; rather we are determined to deliver quality jobs.
“What we have done that others couldn’t do is that every single project must have a drainage that leads to a major storm water channel that gets to our natural storm collection point which is Aba River.
Once you do the drainages, the roads would last. We are delivering quality roads that will outlive the Ikpeazu administration. Those coming after Ikpeazu will not suffer what the governor has passed through returning to fix roads earlier rehabilitated by previous administrations.
“For instance, the MCC Road in Aba used to host Zerock Company which worked with the administration that served from 1999 to 2007. The road has been fixed eight times. It is only during Ikpeazu’s administration that the road has survived two rainy seasons.
The era of substandard roads in Abia is gone. Our roads are too strong that it can serve as runway for planes to land without problem,” the commissioner said.
Anambra: Ongoing rehabilitation stopped by COVID-19 pandemic
In Anambra State, federal roads were receiving serious attention until COVID-19 put everything on hold. There was serious work on the Onitsha–Enugu Highway and the Oba–Nnewi–Okigwe federal road before the lockdown.
“There was also the Otuocha—Anam–Kogi State border federal road abandoned since 2017 in which N1billion was allocated for the take-off of its rehabilitation in the 2020 budget.
For the Enugu–Onitsha expressway, because the company earlier awarded the contract was not serious with the job, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola announced that the Federal Executive Council had decided to change the contractor and that was how Reynolds Construction Company, RCC, took over the reconstruction of Onitsha—Awka end of the expressway.
Before the lockdown, 60% of one lane of the road had been completed.
The remaining bad portions were the Awkuzu to Awka and Awka to Amansea.
As it stands, the entire stretch of one lane of the Onitsha-Awka highway is still in a deplorable condition, while the other lane where work was ongoing before the lockdown, is still dotted with potholes, particularly at the Ukpo and Umuokpu Awka axis.
Indeed, before the lockdown, Fashola and the contractors had already agreed on the completion date of September 2020 for the Onitsha-Awka end, but since the lockdown, the contractors had moved their equipment away from the site and it is not clear when they would return.
For the Oba–Nnewi–Okigwe road, work had been completed up to Uga in Anambra State. Before the lockdown, Fashola inspected the work three times before work stopped.
The Otuocha-Kogi State border road has not been lucky. Although the National Assembly approved N1.8 billion to be spent on the road during the 2018 fiscal year, work has since been abandoned.
Before the project was first abandoned in 2009, a whooping N2.5 billion was said to have been spent, with nothing to show for it. It was gathered that the project would require additional N3 billion to complete.
However, following the efforts of the member that represented Anambra East and West in the House of Representatives up to 2019, Dr Tony Nwoye, who facilitated the release of funds to the contractor by the executive arm of government, work resumed.
This, however, did not last long as the contractor, Nigercat Ltd, has since withdrawn its equipment. This road is so strategic that when completed, journey from Anambra State to Abuja would be reduced to about three hours, instead of about seven hours which it currently takes from Anambra through Enugu to Benue and Kogi to Abuja.
In an earlier interview, Tony Nwoye said he decided to make the road his priority because the people of the area, who are predominantly farmers, were suffering so much as they often found it difficult to transport their produce to the cities due to bad roads.
“This road is very dear to me. I remember the support the people of Anambra West gave me when I stood for election. I have been meeting stakeholders to find a solution to the road as I am determined to ensure its completion.
“We inspected this road on December 7, 2017 when I was in the House of Representatives with officials of the Federal Ministry of Works because I am very much worried about the condition of the road.
The people of this local government (Anambra West) are the most marginalized in the state and I believe that opening up this road will help to boost the economy of the people of the area,” Nwoye said.
Although the previous government of Anambra State worked on some federal roads in the state expecting to be reimbursed, they are yet to be reimbursed. At the last count, the state government said the Federal Government owed it about N34 billion on works done.
On the state roads, the situation is such that Anambra, which was once adjudged to have the best road network among the 36 states, has dropped from that position as roads constructed few years ago had gone bad and lacked regular maintenance. Commissioner for Works, Mr Marcel Ifejiofor however said roads in the state were still better when compared to roads in most other states across the federation.
According to him, “The roads are bad but we have plans for them. Most of the impassable roads in Anambra State are federal roads. One good thing is that we don’t play politics with what we are doing. What we are doing on our roads is verifiable.”
Enugu/Ebonyi: Roads are in shambles
Both the federal and state roads in Enugu State are currently in shambles, particularly in the present rainy season. Even though Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is doing his best to create access roads, mostly in the hinterlands with the assistance of World Bank intervention through the Rural Access Mobility Project, RAMP, most internal roads in the metropolis of Enugu, Nsukka and Oji River are suffering from degradation.
Most streets in the capital city are yet to receive attention of grading, let alone asphalt, most especially at the new layouts and satellite towns that are fast developing without corresponding infrastructural provision.
The state government has essentially maintained already built city roads through frequent patching, while some of the uncompleted road projects by the past administration, such as the Ugbene II and surrounding roads are abandoned and have worsened in dilapidation.
Essentially, the state roads that are in dire strain are located in Nike communities where residential developments are at fast pace; same as in Trans-Ekulu and Emene, all in Enugu-East local government area.
There are other areas in Enugu metropolis that are fast turning into slums such as at Ikiriki, Achara layout and Ugwuaji in Enugu South local government.
The local government administrations which in the past supported the state government in doing some hinterland roads are no longer doing so.
The council chiefs complained about paucity of funds since the advent of the federal government bailout economic policy that replaced excess crude revenues.
However, some council chairmen in the state, such as the present administration in Isi-Uzo local government embarked on rehabilitations of both federal and state roads within the council area.
The Isi-Uzo council interventions are in the cut-off Ikem-Ehamufu section of Nkalagu-Nsukka federal road and the previously impassable Neke-Mbu state road.
All the federal roads that traverse Enugu State are equally in shambles. They include the ‘notorious’ Enugu-Onitsha expressway that is no long passable even within the Enugu metropolis section of the road such as from Abakpa junction to 9th mile. Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola had, last year, announced award of contract for the challenging 15 kilometers Abakpa junction—9th Mile section of the road.
Yet till date, there is no contractor on site while the road is no longer passable. Work has only been done on one lane from 9th mile towards Anambra State with break ups in between the distance. Work stopped on it immediately after the 2019 Presidential election.
The right lane of the dual carriage road, from Enugu to Onitsha is not yet in any budget.
Other federal roads in the state include the 9th Mile-Makurdi road, leading to the northern parts Nigeria. The road is completely bad and avoided by motorists except for heavy trucks that have no other option.
The single lane Enugu-Abakaliki road is in good state but it is experiencing upsurge in traffic that calls for dualization of the Trans African Highway. Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State is however dualizing some portions of the road within the state where he has built and is still building different flyover bridges along the highway that leads to Cameroon.
Another abandoned federal road in Enugu State is the Nkalagu-Nsukka-Onitsha road. The road has had several interventions in the past but work was never completed on any section of the road.
The worst affected is the stretch between Ikem and Eha-Amufu, where the Isi-Uzo council Chairman, Jacob Abonyi is presently making an intervention, while Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi did some kilometers from Eha-Amufu to the Ebonyi State boundary, while Governor Umahi did two major bridges on the road with concrete road construction from the Enugu boundary to Nkalagu junction of Enugu-Abakaliki road.
Other federal roads in the state that lack attention include Oji – Awgu road, Agbani – Amagunze-Ezzagu road, Agbani-Nara-Isu road, 9th mile – Opi-Nsukka old road, Nsukka-Enugu Ezike – Kogi state road, among others.
The condition of some of these roads are better imagined. The federal Controller of Works in Enugu State, Engr. Femi Oyekanmi said that there is presently no contractor on site because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, the state government is doing well in rural access roads. It has constructed rural roads in all the 17 local government area of the state as part of its programme to open up the rural communities.