‘We are wasting man-hours…’

PortHarcourtMotorists, commuters lament Port Harcourt’s awful gridlocks

TO say that traffic congestion is awful in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, is an understatement, as the situation has become almost unbearable for motorists and commuters in the city and its environs.

Despite the establishment of the now disbanded Rivers State Traffic Management Authority (TIMARIV) and the recent construction of, at least, two flyovers at Agip and Elizo junctions by the state government, driving a vehicle and commuting in Port Harcourt these days still remains a nightmare.

It is not uncommon to hear Rivers State government officials boast that heavier traffic in Port Harcourt is an indicator of huge economic activity in the state. But the economic cost of vehicular traffic in terms of lost man hours, fuel consumption, stress and air pollution caused by the traffic delays, is diminishing people’s enthusiasm to work and do business in the state.

Thus, it has become imperative for the present government to reconsider its traffic control strategy.

Last week, the State government and seven corporate organisations committed themselves to raise N3 billion for the rehabilitation of the abandoned and dilapidated Federal Government-owned East West Road from Eleme junction to Onne to ease traffic congestion along the road.

In addition, Governor Nyesom Wike also recently flagged off “Operation Keep Moving” by inaugurating the Traffic Decongestion Committee (TDC) during which he charged the Commissioner of Police, Chris Ezike, to remove all abandoned vehicles from the roads and charge the owners a towing fee for abandoning their vehicles on the streets of Port Harcourt.

“No government can succeed well when it cannot solve the problems of traffic congestion. Governance is not about building roads and storey buildings, it is about making life meaningful for the people, and providing the comfort of moving around, that is the essence of governance,” said Wike.

The causative factors for the incessant traffic gridlock in Port Harcourt range from total lack of discipline by motorists, who weave from lane to lane on the road; taxis and bus drivers, who stop in the middle of the road to unload and pick up passengers, thereby blocking other vehicles from moving freely at Waterlines junction, Rumuola, Rumuokoro, Artillery, Location junction by Ada George-Rumuokuta Road, GRA and several other places. Other disturbing causes of traffic are the security personnel escorting expatriates, some government officials who drive one way and untimely maintenance of existing roads by government.

Ms. Priscilla Didi who was works in the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, blamed the unnerving gridlock at Refinery Road, Akpajo where she wastes at least five working hours daily, on the deep pothole that is more like a crater on the road. She explained that each time a vehicle tries to navigate safely through the bad spot, traffic on the busy road grinds to a halt. She described as very frustrating the failure of the Eleme Local Council to fix this important road that leads to the Port Harcourt petrochemical company, the Port Harcourt refinery, the Onne seaport where there are presently over 300 companies, all within the council.

“Higher vehicular traffic is said to be indicative of the economic activity in an area, and the beneficiaries of this economic boom, particularly the State and, most disappointing, the local government, should not abandon its role to maintain roads because of the importance of these roads to the sustenance of economic growth. The bane of Port Harcourt traffic congestion is outdated road networks and absence of an efficient rail and water transportation system. Existing infrastructure can no longer keep up with the fast-growing economic activity in Port Harcourt and its environs, and this should spur government to think out of the box. If you want more investment, you have to improve your infrastructure” she said.

Delighted by the immediate palliatives initiated by the governor, Miss Josephine Adokiye, suggested that government should consider building more overpasses or tunnels particularly at GRA, First and Second Artillery, Waterlines, Ada George by Wimpey, YKC Woji intersections to solve the problem of perennial traffic at these places. She emphasised that the traffic situation in Port Harcourt has reached critical level that precious man-hours and resources being wasted every minute should be of concern to anyone who is interested in economic growth, development and well being of the residents of the city.

She lamented: “How long shall road users continue to languish in traffic before something is done urgently? The longer time spent in traffic causes stress and this is why many people are so hostile on the road. Instead of being at the office to start work on time, people are stuck in traffic. Instead of being at home to be with families and friends, people spend time stuck in traffic.”

A courier, Umoh Akpan, told The Guardian that traffic congestion on the streets of Port Harcourt has continued to have adverse impact on the activities of companies involved in the business of logistics and distribution of goods and services. He explained that sometimes it is difficult to deliver mails and other items to clients on agreed time because of the difficulty of accessing them on time due to traffic.

The pioneer of a voluntary traffic outfit in Rivers State and former chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Accra Sam-Sam Jaja, said it is now imperative for the government to scrutinize the soundness of its traffic decongestion strategy, particularly at the various intersections in the city.

Jaja blamed the incessant traffic at Rumuokoro junction on taxi and bus drivers who in total disregard for other road users block the road making it difficult for free flow of vehicles on the East West Road as well as the Airport-Ikwerre Road. He also cited the same problem as the bane of traffic at Waterlines and advised the State government acquire a parcel of land near the police post after Barnex for use as bus stop where taxis and buses can load and discharge passengers. In addition to this, he suggested the relocation of the bus stop near Challenge bookshop so that vehicles coming from GRA junction to Abali park will move freely.

“Let government make sure it gets the street lights fixed, get people to man these junctions and fill some of the potholes to enable vehicles move freely. If you get to Tank junction before Lonestar, the road is almost cutting into two and there is only a small space left,” he said.

Jaja, who regretted the disbandment of TIMARIV, accused the agency of derailing from its original objective of making sure that there was a free flow of traffic around the city.

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