Cross River: Temporary relief in sight for Calabar-Itu road users

Bad portion of Calabar-Itu road at Odukpani axis

Bad portion of Calabar-Itu road at Odukpani axis<br />

Motorists and commuters plying the deplorable Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja and Calabar-Itu federal highways are on the verge of experiencing temporary relief, owing to the intervention of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and Northwest Petroleum and Gas Company Limited. Both firms stepped in to halt, albeit temporarily, the plight of motorists on these roads.
In the last few years, the conditions of these two highways have experienced significant decline, owing to little or no maintenance. But matters simply got from bad to worst in the last six months, which these two highways have remained largely impassable, thereby multiplying the woes of road users.  

It would be recalled that tanker drivers plying the routes not long ago threatened to embark on an indefinite strike action to protest the deplorable condition of the two federal highways if nothing was done about their deplorable state.

Due to several failed portions on the two roads, cars get grounded easily, while articulated vehicles come crumbling regularly. In some cases, when this happens on both roads, the traffic jams, force commuters to trek many kilometers to the opposite end to board waiting vehicles who make brisk businesses, by helping commuters to complete their journeys. It is these nightmarish happenings that usually make trips that ought to last two to three hours, to spill into many hours and eventually days.

However, the worsening state of the road and the attendant hardship visited on road users, among other things, were what compelled the NDDC to intervene in the Calabar-Itu road, pending the take off of the total reconstruction for which the Federal Government has budgeted the sum of N6b for.

On its part, Northwest Petroleum and Gas Company Limited, intervened specifically in the remedial rehabilitation of the Adim-Biase axis of the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja Federal Highway, in a bid to ensure free flow of vehicular movement. The repair of this road is not in this year’s budget.
With these interventions, the situation has significantly changed, and the number of hours spent on the road by motorists, radically improved.Chairman of Biase Local Council, Mr. Enebiene Ana, who lamented the deplorable condition of the road, lauded the intervention of the oil and gas outfit, saying it has brought huge relief to a large number of road users, both from northern and southern parts of the country.
He, however, appealed to Federal Government to intervene, in order to permanently ameliorate the sufferings of commuters, traders, truck and tanker drivers plying that road.
Acting Clan Head of Adim, Chief Etim Ofem, expressed delight at the humanitarian posture of the oil and gas firm, urging other corporate entities in the state to follow suit.

In the same vein, a youth leader in the Area Mr. Ekpene Anaba, assured the contractor of total cooperation, support and protection of materials and equipment.
On his part, the Chairman, Calabar Municipal Council, Ntufam Donatus Etim, thanked the outfit for its intervention, which he said was as a result of the hues and cries of petroleum tanker drivers, who spend weeks at Adim, due to the collapsed portion.

The firm also earned applause of tanker drivers, who after narrating their ordeals, expressed appreciation to it for such magnanimity, just as they called on the Federal Government to undertake comprehensive repair of all dilapidated federal roads in the state in order to reduce carnage and boost economic growth.

According to them, all four major federal highways in the state that link it to the rest of the country and Cameroon are gradually becoming death traps and are increasingly impassable to cars and trucks, having been constructed over 40 years ago.

Apart from the aforementioned, the other two federal roads in the state are the Calabar-Ikang road that terminates at Ikang River, in Bakassi Local Council, and Oban-Ikang road, which leads to the Republic of Cameroon. The stretch of the motorable portions of the Calabar-Ikang road, which length is about 140 kilometres, is not up to10 kilometres when put together.

Chief Bassey Atiabong, a taxi driver, who recently spent over six hours to get to Uyo, from Calabar, (it takes just about one and a half hours under normal circumstances), said if concrete steps are not taken to fix failed portions of the Calabar-Itu road, it would only be a matter of time before the remedial works give way.

Ongoing works at the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja Highway

Ongoing works at the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja Highway

Atiabong, who has plied both Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja and Calabar-Itu federal highways, before the remedial works began said: “When you reach Adim, the road is very bad. From Ekori down to Obubra is very bad, and from Iyamoyong to Ikom is also in a terrible state, as vehicles cannot pass easily. Trucks are falling daily because of the deep and multiple potholes on the road.

“We don’t have good roads in the South South, and the few ones that are still motorable are not maintained. It is a pity that we are experiencing this level of infrastructural rot in a country where we have a president, governors, lawmakers and ministers, who spend more time talking than working to achieve results.

Before the Calabar-Itu road got this deplorable, the Cross River State government said it carried out palliative works on it and other federal roads in the state, but the roads went bad again.

That notwithstanding, the Commissioner for Works, Mr. Dan Osim-Asu, said the state is, however, demanding for N25 billion reimbursement from the Federal Government, being the sum spent on the rehabilitation exercises.

“The problem of access of Calabar-Itu highway has become incessant. You know. In most cases that road is rendered impassable for months either by heavy rains, or heavy traffic. As a result, the state government has moved in repeatedly to provide palliatives, and rehabilitate that road. But you know also that if state government rehabilitates federal roads, there ought to be a reimbursement,” he explained.

The latest intervention on this road by NDDC (which is ongoing), is at an estimated cost of about N2b. Acting managing director of the agency, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, who gave the estimate in Ikot Nyong, Odukpani Local Council, during an inspection visit by the Senate Committee on NDDC recently, said “NDDC decided to intervene when some failed portions on the road presented serious challenges to commuters, and we estimate to cover about 75 kilometres of the road with asphalt to complete the intervention.”

She stated that the agency had engaged four contractors to fix the dilapidated portions of the road, which required major intervention to become motorable again.

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