Asaba-Ughelli Road… Long Journey To Nowhere
WHEN Delta State governor, Mr. Emmanuel Uduaghan flagged off the dualisation work on the Ughelli-Asaba Road upon assuming office eight years ago, communities along the road expressed happiness that the 149-kilometre road would speed up development in their areas.
But barely three months to the end of Uduaghan’s eight-year tenure, that happiness is far from being manifested, as the road remains a patchwork of disappointment though several millions of state funds is claimed to have been expended on it.
The project has suffered several hiccups, as there had been a cat-and-mouse game between the state government and the contractors handling it. Notwithstanding the fact that three contractors had been co-opted into handling the road, it remains unpaved. Several contract terminations and re-awards had been effected yet the road is far from being completed.
A resident in Ozoro, headquarters of Isoko North Council had angrily said last week, that the “Ughelli-Asaba Road must go down as a testimony of Uduaghan’s failure in his eight-year reign as governor of the oil-rich state.” His frustration is understandable; the road runs through Ozoro.
Although Commissioner, Directorate of Special Duties, Mrs. Orezi Esievo had once stood before the State House of Assembly committee members to clarify issues on the road, the story remains the same. Esievo had assured the lawmakers that work was ongoing in Sectors B and C except Sector A, which contract she threatened to terminate, according to a February 25, 2015 edition of the state paper, The Pointer. But such threats have made no significant difference to the poor state of the road.
While construction work is being unduly delayed, the old road that still continues to serve commuters is in bad shape and has become a death trap in some places. At several sections of the road, especially Iyede and Ughelli, local traders have taken over the yet-to-be paved section to display their wares, posing grave danger to themselves and motorists, who sometimes drive recklessly at bad spots.
Uduaghan’s promise to commission the road before he leaves office must be ringing hollowly in the ears of the people in the communities along the road.
Two weeks ago, Uduaghan embarked on a flurry of projects’ commissioning across the state. The Ughelli-Asaba Road was exempted from the commissioned projects.
Mrs. Onanuju Olise, who resides in Kwale, but supplies paint to building sites at Ughelli asked incredibly: “How did this happen? Why couldn’t a government as rich as Delta State build a149-Kilometre Road in eight years? In what ways did the people of Oshimili, Ndokwa, Isoko and Ughelli offend Uduaghan’s political sensibility to warrant abandoning such a major project that cuts across these communities. Meanwhile, these people are strong supporters of his political party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) o?”
Putting the matter in a deeper perspective, a former PDP Counselor and Caretaker Committee member of Isoko North local council, Mr. Sam Uyeri, said: “That’s the failure of government we have in Delta State. The road’s economic importance to the lives of Nigerians cannot be quantified. The road was divided into three segments. Segment ‘A’ was from Ughelli to Aradhe in Isoko North; Segment ‘B’ runs from Aradhe to Onicha in Ndokwa West and Segment ‘C’ is from Onicha to Asaba, with three contractors handling them.
“I don’t know why the road is abandoned; maybe because of funds. It’s a long stretch of road. Some sections of it have become death traps. It’s a road that links Asaba to Onitsha, West Africa’s largest market and Port Harcourt from the Ughelli end. Both ends also link Lagos. A lot of haulage happens on that road. No magic can be performed to complete the road in the three months left of Uduaghan’s tenure. All efforts, all energy are now concentrated on 2015 campaigns; no more work is going on.”
Another respondent, Mr. Sam Isuosuo said, “it was the old broken road that is still in use, as the new one is far from being built. Uduaghan’s government is failure redefined, because nothing has happened even at the Asaba end where there are no bridges and swamps to build and fill. I don’t see the magic he can do to finish the road even if he gives it to Julius Berger or RCC.”
The question on the lips of many is: will the next government be any different and proactive enough to complete this and other abandoned projects in the state?