By Vincent Ujumadu, Dennis Agbo, Steve Oko & Emmanuel Iheaka
DRIVING through most of the federal roads that crisscross the South-East geopolitical zone has become very agonizing. The Enugu-Onitsha, Onitsha Owerri, Aba-Owerri, Owerri-Umuahia, Enugu-Abakaliki, Oba-Nnewi-Okigwe, among many others are in deplorable condition.
For instance, the journey from Enugu to Onitsha which, in the good old days, used to take less than one hour now takes about six hours. Same for Enugu-Aba and Onitsha-Owerri.
In fact, motorists have totally abandoned the 82 Division- 9th mile section of the degraded Enugu-Onitsha expressway, due to its impassibility, thereby forcing commuters to overuse the single lane of Trans-Ekulu bridge, which often results in a terrible gridlock all day round.
In Enugu, both lanes of the road from Abakpa junction are in grave degradation such that vehicles, particularly heavy duty trucks are in constant breakdowns on the road thereby compounding traffic problems in the area.
Water tankers who source the city’s water supply from 9th mile have ugly experiences on the bad road and which brought about hike in the price of water supply to residents.
In Anambra, the Amansea portion of the Enugu –Onitsha expressway has been turned into money making spot as scores of youths assemble there every day to push vehicles stuck in the mud for negotiated fees on the dilapidated road.
Drivers are also bemoaning their fate as their vehicles could sometimes remain in the mud for days as towing vehicles can not even access the area.
The portion, which has become a death trap despite promises made in the past that it would be reconstructed as part of the ongoing work from Onitsha –to Enugu, has become a nightmare to motorists and passengers.
The development has put so much pressure on the old Onitsha –Enugu road with the attendant traffic gridlock witnessed on daily basis.
Many vehicles, particularly trucks, have had to remain in the mud for days as the drivers and owners of goods being conveyed by the drivers suffer economic losses.Some of the youths who now make money by pushing out vehicles from the mud say they make as much as N15000 daily.
One of the drivers, Mallam Isa Aminu, whose lorry had been trapped in the mud for three days said he is praying that there would not be further rainfall in the next few to so that the area could dry to enable him drive out.
He said that he could not afford the amount of money being demanded by the youths and urged government to come to the aid of the drivers by making the area a priority in the ongoing reconstruction of the Onitsha –Enugu expressway.
For Imo State, to say that federal roads in the area are deplorable, is to state the obvious. Though residents of the state and those who ply the roads o may be said to have heaved a sigh of relief from what the situation was in 2018/2019; it is still an ugly experience to ply the Owerri-Umuahia road and Owerri – Aba road.
Before the ousted Emeka Ihedioha administration came on board in 2019, it was a nightmare to travel through the Owerri – Umuahia road. The Imo part of the road was totally broken.
At a point, motorists resorted to taking a bypass through villages in Emekuku and Obowo to cut off the bad federal road until the state government did a remedial work on the road.
The road has since gone bad again.. A journey that ought to take one hour, now takes two hours. The Emekuku in Owerri North, Oboama Nguru in Aboh Mbaise and Achingali in Obowo areas of the road are the worst portions of the road.
The Owerri end of the Owerri – Aba road and the Ulakwo axis have become impassable in spite of the fact that.the state government did remedial work on the road some years ago.
In Abia State, the Osisioma to Port Harcourt axis of the dual carriage road could pass as the worst section of the highway as commuters dread plying the route.
The ongoing rehabilitation work which began from the Enugu end since January 2015 at the twilight of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has been crawling on snail speed for close to seven years now.
The Abia axis of the highway was segmented into two and awarded to two separate construction firms apparently for swift execution, but the slow pace of the work seems to have defeated that aim.
The condition of the highway between Aba and Obigbo in Rivers State, particularly at Ariaria Junction, Alaojii Mechanic Village and Asa axis is hellish. The expressway has virtually collapsed in these identified portions making movement undesirable for commuters.
Security agents who have converted these failed portions into toll gates as they extortion money from motorists have made matters worse.
Similarly, the Port Harcourt Road traversing the heart of the commercial city of Aba is in sorry state, just as the Ikot Ekpene-Umuahia federal highway linking South East and Akwa Ibom State, particularly the Ikwuano axis.
The federal government in 2018 awarded N13.4 billion contract for the total rehabilitation of the highway after years of palliative work by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA, but after the initial clearance of some terrible portions the road has been abandoned for non mobilization of the contractor..
While the Akwa Ibom end of the road is smooth, the Abia axis is almost impassable, thus, making movement on it a nightmare.
The Umuahia-Ohafia-Arochukwu federal road is no exception as it has almost collapsed making trip to Arochukwu from Umuahia the state capital almost a day’s journey.
In fact commuters prefer going to Arochukwu via Akwa Ibom instead of passing through Ohafia, a journey that ordinarily should not have taken more than two hours.
Despite claims by the federal government that contract for the rehabilitation of the road has been awarded, there is nothing on ground to suggest it will be done any time soon.