Nigerians groan as road, bridge projects stall for years

Mararaba- Baisa Road, which leads to Kurmi Local Council of Taraba State and to Cameroun, in a terrible state… PHOTO/ CHARLES AKPEJI

Despite the Federal Government’s claim of undertaking various road projects worth N2.8t across the country, 69 of which it claimed are in the South East, lost man hours, missed delivery deadlines and multiple deaths are still a daily reoccurrence on federal roads as revealed by this second batch of our report on federal roads.

As the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government battles to curry the goodwill of Nigerians in the build-up to the 2019 general elections and hopefully secure another term in office, sights and sounds from across the country continue to point at the fact that it has a lot of catching up to do, as far as national infrastructure is concerned.

In fact, despite claims and counterclaims about how much it has committed to the development of road infrastructure, interstate commuters demand that it was time the government translated its intentions into concrete terms.

In August, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, in his remarks at the National Council on Works in Kebbi State reiterated that government was committed to completing roads and other national infrastructure projects, which it inherited from previous governments.

In his speech, where he also said that adequate attention would be paid to any new projects it initiated, Fashola said: “From rail to ports, power and roads, this administration is resolute in its determination to complete ongoing or abandoned projects. Today, there is no state in Nigeria where the federal government of Nigeria is not executing one road project.”

He claimed Nigeria had the opportunity to build up its national infrastructure at a time more money was made from sale of crude oil but did not, adding that such choice was now impacting negatively on the country’s infrastructure base.

According to him, the current government is now left with the decision to borrow money to fix the country’s infrastructure.

CLEARLY, one of the roads that has suffered abandonment from both the previous and present is the East-West Road, which now appears to have been forgotten.

Another portion of Akure-Owo-Ikare Road PHOTO: OLUWASEUN AKINGBOYE

In fact, heavy resentment is presently brewing in the Niger Delta over the abandonment of this road, which passes through Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states.

Without a doubt, poor road network has remained a major socio-economic challenge in the Niger Delta, yet, since the advent of this administration, contractors have abandoned the East-West Road from Kiama in Bayelsa State, to Oron in Akwa Ibom State.

Peeved by the decrepit condition of the road, especially from Eleme Junction to Onne Trailer Park, in Rivers State, the former president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Ledum Mitee, on behalf of himself and indigenes, residents and communities of Eleme, Ogoni, Okrika, Ogo-Bolo, Opobo, Andoni and Akwa Ibom State, including commuters on the Port Harcourt–Onne Junction Section of the East-West Road, filed a class suit at a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, claiming the neglect of the road by the Federal Government has caused his people untold hardship.

Mitee lamented that whereas the Federal Government has been allocating and providing more funds to similar projects in other parts of the country, it has continued to make meagre, hopeless and inadequate allocation of funds and providing no disbursement for the completion of the Eleme–Onne Junction section of the East-West Road.

After recent outcry by motorists along Eleme Junction to Onne Trailer Park, the Federal Government approved repair works to fill up craters on the road, similar to what was done in 2015, by the Rivers State government and some companies.

It would be recalled that the Federal Government had in 2006 awarded Section 3 of the road (Eleme Junction in Port Harcourt, up to Eket, in Akwa Ibom State) to Reynolds Construction Company (RCC). While work had been completed on the dualisation of the road from Eket to Onne Trailer Park, the remaining seven kilometres leading to Eleme Junction have been abandoned.

This stretch of the road is where multi-billion naira investments, including multi-nationals are located.

They include Port Harcourt Refinery 1 and 2; Indorama Petrochemicals; Notore Fertilizer Company, NAFCON, Federal Ocean Terminal 1 and 2, Oil and Gas Free Zone Onne, as well as, the Nigeria Naval College, among others are located within Rivers State.

A resident of Eleme, Mrs. Ruth Obele, told The Guardian that the failure to complete the road project years after it commenced has been creating problems for commuters and posses a threat to their lives, especially during rainy season when parts of the road usually collapse.

According to her, even during dry season, dust generated by vehicles passing by, worsen the condition of people living with respiratory challenges that live near the road.

“So the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs should strive to fix the road, which construction works has been unduly delayed. It saddens me that the ministry hardly pays any attention to the damaged road. Intermittent repair of dilapidated portions of the road is not what is required for a strategic road like this. I gathered that there was no budgetary allocation for this road in 2017. Nothing has been done here in the past three years, don’t be surprised that ahead of the 2019 elections, you will see contractors on site,” she said.

The faulty design of the road, occasioned by the absence of drainage, particularly from the University of Port Harcourt to Eleme Junction end, is a major reason for the flooding that has cut off a section of the road at Nkpolu-Rumuigbo in Obio-Akpor Local Council of Rivers State.

On Section One of this road (from Warri to Kiama), which was awarded to Setraco Construction Ltd, remarkable job has been done up to Patani, in Delta State. But from Patani to Kiama in Bayelsa State, the road is in a terrible state.

A commercial bus driver, Mr. Ejiro Afam, who plies Warri to Port Harcourt weekly, maintained that the decrepit condition of the road, between Kiama to Mbiama, makes commuting nightmarish.

The transporter, who disclosed that pregnant women often complain of immense pains traveling through this stretch of the road, stressed that the government’s inability to complete the reconstruction of the road, which started in 2006 confirms the claims by inhabitants of the Niger Delta that they have been discriminated against.

“In terms of development, the Niger Delta people have been ignored for years. Our pleas to various governments have fallen on deaf ears and our people have continued to agonise. In the area of infrastructure, the Niger Delta is backward as reflected by the East-West Road, which was awarded in 2006, expected to be completed in 2010, but work abandoned eight years later in 2018,” he said.

Section 4 of the road, which starts from Eket to Oron, and now extended to link up Calabar in Cross River State, was awarded to Gitto Costruzioni Generali Nigeria Ltd.

The additional 23.9km to link Calabar with the coastal town of Oron, was included in the contract by former President Goodluck Jonathan, in an attempt to make the road accessible by all the major oil producing areas of the Niger Delta region.

So far, the dualisation of the road through Eket Town, which will require the demolition of buildings, has not commenced due to the huge compensation that would be paid to property owners. The Guardian gathered that the road might be diverted to avoid huge anticipated compensation.

Just after Mobil helipad in Eket, the road has been dualised to Uya-Oron, which is just about seven kilometre to the Oron Beach, where bridges are expected to link up Calabar.

An indigene of Oron, Mr. Etim revealed that contactors abandoned site three years ago due to funding problems.

“This road is very important to the people of Oron and adjoining areas, but it is in a very bad condition. The stretch of the road to Oron beach that has been left undone is giving residents tough time. The impression we have here is that the government has completely forgotten about the road as no work has been done on it in years. One thing that we should have at the back of our minds is that this road is a Nigerian road, and does not belong to a particular section of the country,” he said.

While expressing resentment over the Federal Government lackadaisical approach to the road project, the Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators, recently asked: “how many years would it take to complete the East–West Road?

AFTER the 25-month state of emergency, which Ondo State government declared on federal roads in the state, especially in the North Senatorial District, these roads have gradually deteriorated and are presently in their worst possible state.

The very busy Akure-Owo-Ikare Expressway, which connects the state to the northern part of the country attracts high human and vehicular traffic. This informed why the administration of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko deployed there, in September 2016, the now defunct Ondo State Agency for Roads Maintenance and Construction (OSARMCO) to carry out maintenance works.

The immediate past government also rehabilitated some federal roads, beginning from Cultural Junction on Akure-Ondo Road, to Akure-Ado Ekiti Road, at Igoba, particularly, the stretch that connects to Ado Ekiti, in Ekiti State.

However, at the moment, federal roads that are in deplorable state in the state include; Akure-Owo stretch of Akure-Owo-Ikare Road; Owo-Ikare-Oke-Agbe Road; Ikare-Ugbe-Epinmi-Isua Road, and Ikare/Erusu/Ikaram/Akunnu Roads. All these roads, which are mainly in the northern part of the state are often described as death traps, or a national embarrassment.

The southern and central parts of the state would have been in the same condition, but the Benin-Lagos Expressway, and the Ilesa-Akure Expressway were reconstructed in 2015, by the immediate past administration.

A staff of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA), Mrs. Josephine Ayeni and another road user, Mr. Yusuf Tijani, are angry with the state of federal roads in the state and so want the Federal Government to bail the residents from the nightmarish experience.

According to Tijani, “I spent more than five hours on Owo-Ikare Road because of the bad roads. A lorry developed fault around Oba Akoko and this caused heavy gridlock. We spent more than two hours on just one spot whereas the trip that I embarked on should, on a normal day last less than 45 minutes.”

Tijani disclosed that this was the reason some commuters and motorists prefer to travel through Ekiti State (that is using Igbara-Oke and Igbara-Odo to Akure) rather than risk going through uncertainties on the Ikare-Akure route.

For a commercial driver, Oluwagbenga Owokoniran, the poor state of federal roads adds to their plight as a lot of money is spent fixing vehicles damaged by bad roads. This burden is thereafter transferred to passengers.

“We cannot help, but increase transport fares because the more we ply the bad roads, the more our vehicles are developing faults. We drivers are not happy with the situation, but we have to maintain our vehicles.”

Often, residents of the four local councils in the Akoko axis embark on widespread protests, where they lament that apart from the roads becoming death traps, they were also paralysing socio-economic activities.

Severally, they have accused the state government of neglecting the roads, which are major gateways to the northern part of the country. Roads that they are calling the government’s attention to include, Irun-Afin-Ese-Okeagbe-Oyin Akoko to Omuo Ekiti roads, Ikare-Arigidi-Okeagbe-Akoko Road; Ikaram/Okeagbe Akoko roads, Ikaramu-Ikakumo Akoko Road, Ipele-Idoani-Ifira-Isua Akoko Road, as well as, Ugbe-Epinmi Akoko Road.

The Olubaka of Oka-Akoko, Oba Adebori Adeleye (OON), expressed concerns over the deplorable state of roads, just as he lauded Governor Rotimi Akeredolu for repairing the Iwaro-Oke Oka Hill Road owned by the Federal Government.

He said because of what they were going through, Akoko communities advised a synergy between the state and Federal Government in order to fix the Kabba-Isua-Idoani-Ipele-Owo Road, which was designed for long vehicles.

The people of Iwaro-Akoko Town, in Akoko South-West Local Council recently embarked on a protest, where they barricaded the federal road at Iwaro-Oka brandishing placards with different inscriptions like, “Iwaro is now Sambisa,” “Declare Operation Lafiya Dole,” “No to heavy-duty trucks,” “We don’t want to take laws into our hands, please do something,” “Please save our souls, we are dying like fowls.”

The acting Chairman of Iwaro Acclaimers Forum, Otunba Dele Ologbese, said hundreds of people have been killed as a result of road mishaps caused by heavy-duty trucks plying the road.

He urged the Federal Government to declare the Iwaro road a national disaster zone because accidents have become the norm due to the heavy-duty trucks that often lose control while coming down from the hilly Oka road.

However, the state Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Taofeeq Abdulsalam, said both federal and the state governments have mapped out plans how to rehabilitate and reconstruct deplorable roads in Akoko Land.

He gave an assurance that palliative works would be done by FERMA on Owo-Ikare-Akoko Road to reduce the sufferings of motorists, while total reconstruction would be done later.

IN Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, the Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene-Aba Road, which is also known as Calabar-Odukpani-Ikot Ekpene road, and the Calabar-Ugep–Ikom-Katsina Ala federal highways now constitute death traps.

For over 15 years, various sections of these roads have gradually deteriorated, thereby forcing motorists to take alternative routes. This is why most residents of both states are quick to tell anyone that “there is no federal highway in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states.”

As a reflection of the poor state of the Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene-Aba Road, heavy trucks and trailers fall regularly as they try to manoeuver the numerous craters on the highway. Thus, it is commonplace to see vehicle queues stretching several kilometres once a vehicle comes down. Matters are made worse as vehicles caught in the web struggle to make their way out.

Under normal circumstances, a trip to Uyo from Calabar should take just one hour or slightly above, while a trip to Ikot Ekpene, from Calabar should last for one and a half hour. Now, motorists spend between three to four hours, and even more to reach these destinations respectively, depending of course, on the situation on ground.

Last year the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) intervened on this road as a remedial measure, but today the road has practically fallen apart.

The axis from Ikot Ekpene to Aba is a total eyesore. It not only turns soggy during rainfalls, it leaves many wondering if there was ever a road between Ikot Ekpene and Aba in Abia State.

Because of the deplorable state of the road, motorists now resort to use of Etim Ekpo-Idemili axis, which is an unusually far distance for a trip to Aba from Akwa Ibom.

From Ikot Ekpene to Aba normally should take between 30 to 40 minutes, but through the alternative route, it takes over two hours.

With conditions on this road at its worst, as far as, travelling to Aba by car is concerned, many have now resorted to the use of motorcycle for the trip, cutting through bush tracks and swampy locations.

A businesswoman in Ikot Ekpene, who simply gave her name as Ima said travelling to Aba from Ikot Ekpene and back “is a very horrible experience. The only alternative to doing this is going through Etim Ekpo, which is farther and more expensive.”

On the impact of this on her business, she retorted, “it certainly does a great deal of harm. We cannot travel as often as we need to, travel time is badly affected, cost of goods soars and risk of accident pretty high. This is the reason we need the Federal Government to proffer urgent solution to the problem.”

Equally commenting on the poor state of federal roads in the state, the General Overseer, Christian Central Chapel International, Calabar, Bishop Emmah Isong said: “The Nigerian political class has continued to rape and dupe the electorate through financial impropriety, misappropriation of funds, as well as, aborted promises… Have you been to Calabar-Itu Road recently? Anybody that wants to rule this country should drive through that road, then come back and talk about why he should be voted for. That road is a death trap, and that is why I am raising this issue.

Isong described as unexplainable, the fact that former President Goodluck Jonathan, a president of Niger Delta extraction could not fix Calabar-Itu Road or the famous East-West Road all through his stay in office. “I’m sad. How do you explain that?”

The National Publicity Secretary of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), who elected to speak in his personal capacity added, “The problem with the Nigerian political class is that they have no game plan to change the people’s lives; all they do is hire thugs and rent crowd during electioneering campaigns.”

A transporter who plies Calabar-Abuja route is Okon Udo. He deplores the manner, which the Nigerian government treats infrastructure by always waiting for them to disintegrate before thinking about maintenance.

“It is a well-known fact that Cross River State has suffered seriously as a result of the state of the two federal highways in the state, that is the Calabar-Odukpani-Ikot Ekpene Road and the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja-Obudu-Katsina Ala.

In the last five years or so, the Calabar-Odukpani-Ikot Ekpene Road has gone from bad to worse. In fact, sometime last year, it was at its worst state, and this forced the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to move in to salvage the situation. They did their best, but the truth is, it was a palliative measure.

Something that is long-lasting is what that road needs because of the volume of traffic that ply the road. This is also the closest road for people of the state to get to other South South, as well as, South East states. Julius Berger has mobilised to site on the Itu axis of the road, but for now nothing serious is going. It does appear the Federal Government is taking people from these parts for granted, if not, taxpayers should never be allowed to suffer this much.”

Okon continued: “In the course of my work, I ply the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja-Obudu-Katsina Ala almost daily. At a point, everyday that I return from my trip I had to visit my mechanic because so many things in the car would never be in place again. And I kept on asking myself, how can we continue to live like this as a nation?

“It was only last year at the peak of the problems on the road that the cries of commuters and the state government attracted the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, and he visited, inspected the pathetic state of the road and thereafter promised that funds would be released to carry out intervention works.

“Even though intervention/rehabilitation works have been carried out at some critical sections of the road between Calabar and Ikom, a lot still needs to be done to make it safe for commuters,” Udoh said.

KOGI State does not just pride itself as the Confluence State because it is more than that. Its capital, Lokoja, apart from being the Confluence Town, also serves as a major gateway to different parts of the country. In fact, it is said to be a link to about 26 states of the federation via the Abuja-Gegu-Lokoja-Okene Road, and the Okene-Zariagi-Lokoja-Koton Karfe-Geru Road.

All these not withstanding the federal road network in this historical city and state is at best shambolic, causing untold hardship to roads users, facilitating massive loss of man-hours, and missed deadlines for transporters

Specifically, scenes playing out on the Abuja-Gegu-Lokoja-Okene Road; the Lokoja-Ajaokuta-Itobe Road, as well as, what is happening along Anyigba-Itobe-Okene Road, all combine to paint a picture of gloom, agony and despair for commuters and motorists struggle with impassable terrains.

Right now, these roads that used to parade smooth surfaces in the 1980s are now riddled with large craters and potholes that vehicles, including heavy-duty ones must go at snail’s speed if they must preserve their integrity.

Matters are so bad that travelling from Lokoja to Okene (a distance of about 55Km) now takes over two hours. At regular intervals, up to 10 articulated vehicles could be clustered as they meander through the terrible road. The Lokoja-Okene part of the road, which has now been dubbed a death trap has continued to claim many lives over the years.

Earlier on, the Federal Emergency Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) had indicated that the Lokoja-Okene portion of the Abuja-Gegu-Lokoja-Okene Road had expired more than 13 years ago.

Barely two and a half months ago, commuters and motorists stood still for about 72 hours on the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja Road as a result of a heavy gridlock occasioned by the impassable nature of the road.

While this happened, motorcyclists in Okene made brisk businesses as many of the passengers in commercial vehicles disembarked to be ferried across to where they could board other vehicles and continue their trips.

The gridlock, which spanned about six kilometres, stretched from the Federal College of Education (FCE) Okene, to the Total filling Station located in the same locality.

There was also another gridlock that stretched for another six-kilometre- from Itape to FCE. This was equally caused by the deplorable state of the road.

At the moment, the Itape Road Bypass, which would have served as alternative exit for motorists when the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja Road is on lockdown does not fare better. Heavy downpours that were witnessed not long ago in Kogi Central, some for up to three days, only succeeded in worsening the already bad condition of the road, making it almost impassable.

A commercial motorcyclist who spoke to The Guardian said they made brisk businesses by transporting Edo State-bound passengers that were stuck in traffic to the outskirts of the town for N1, 000 to enable them board other vehicles and continue their journeys.

One of the passengers, Ken Umukoro, appealed to the Federal Government to dualise the road, just as he called on Governor Yahaya Bello to also rehabilitate Itape-Eika-Kuroko-Okene Road since the road can serve as alternative route for motorists travelling through the town whenever the FCE Road is blocked.

Another lamented that not much has happened regarding the dualisation of the Lokoja-Okene portion of the Lokoja-Okene-Benin Road, which contract was awarded by the former President Goodluck Jonathan.

“That project has remained what I would call a pipe dream as the contractors have put up only skeletal works, that is just building culverts.”

Anyigba-Itobe-Ajaokuta Road is also another federal road in the state that exists only by name.

This is because for years now, vehicles daily engage in the difficult routine of meandering through the thoroughly decrepit, and mud-ravaged road to get to their destinations.

A lecturer at the Department of History and International Studies, Federal University, Lokoja, Dr. Anthony Danladi Ali, described poor transportation system as the precursor to all the negative indices in other sectors of the economy. This he added was the reason the country was still battling to keep its head above water level in terms of economic development.

“How effective or otherwise the transportation infrastructure of any nation speaks volume of how serious minded the people are,” Ali said, adding that the country’s economy would continue to remain in the backwaters if the political class fails to take the transport sector seriously.

Maintaining that transportation is one of the five indices for development, the university teacher stressed: “Our transport infrastructure does not make us to look like serious people at all. It has even gone beyond political considerations because federal roads are not supposed to be politicised. It is bad enough to politicise roads that are to be maintained by state and local governments, but I don’t know how to explain a situation where federal roads have been rendered impassable. It doesn’t make us look like serious people.”

He continued: “When we were growing up in 1970s and 1980s, from Lokoja to Okene by car would take less than 30 minutes. From Benin to Lagos was just three hours; there were no road failures; there were no bumps or potholes, but gradually the roads have degenerated to a situation where they now constitute a nightmare.

“For anyone to travel now, you have to go to your pastor for prayers before entering the road because roads are even more dreaded than armed robbers and kidnappers.”

REHABILITATION works have commenced on the Kano-Kaduna Expressway, and Kano-Katsina Expressway in Kano State. These are two of the major and critical federal highways in the North West.

Before the commencement of work, the roads endured many years of neglect, which led to their being in pathetic state.

The 220-kilometre Kano-Kaduna Expressway was dualised in the early 1990s by the military administration of Gen. Ibrahim Gbadamasi Babangida, while contract for the dualisation of the Kano-Katsina Expressway was awarded by the administration of President Jonathan.

Already, dualisation work on Kano-Kaduna Expressway has started in Kano metropolis, moving towards Katsina State.

The multi-billion naira contract was left uncompleted until the present administration re-awarded the contract and directed contractors to move to site.

When The Guardian visited the road, construction company, Julius Berger Nigeria Limited, had already mobilised to somewhere between Zaria and Kano, where heavy-duty equipment were sighted, and vehicular traffic narrowed to a single lane.

A frequent user of the road, Abubakar Umar, who applauded government’s intervention, however, hopes that the exercise would not be abandoned, just as he appealed for its speedy completion.

Work on Kano-Katsina dualisation, which was abandoned for three years has now resumed. The job is being done by Dantata-Sawo Construction Company.

This contract was initially awarded by the Jonathan administration before being abandoned.

A resident of Katsina, Umar Ali, told The Guardian that the condition of the single lane inter-state highway got worse since it was abandoned by the previous administration.

He pleaded with the Buhari-led administration to sustain the tempo of work in order to reduce the rate of carnage witnessed on the road.

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