Motorists, commuters lament deplorable state of Onitsha Upper Iweka road
It was a tale of woe for motorists, residents, and commuters plying Onitsha-Owerri Expressway in Anambra State, because of the deplorable state of roads in the Onitsha Upper Iweka axis of the highway.
The busy Onitsha-Owerri expressway, a Federal highway connects the River Niger head bridge and serves as a starting point of movement for people going to the eastern parts of the country.
Road users and stakeholders are lamenting that despite its importance, it has been allowed to be in a deplorable state, leading to loss of life and property.
According to them, commuting through Upper Iweka, a major economic hub in the state, leading to Metallurgical Training Institute, a Parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, has become a nightmare, as the road has become a death trap, leaving travellers and passengers grappling with the attendant gridlock.
A motorist, Kene Ochiagha, said due to the state of the road, heavy-duty vehicles fall on a daily basis, thereby subjecting motorists and commuters to horrific experiences.
According to him, motorists have turned the dualised road into a single lane to avoid staying on the road for a long time, while parts of the road are littered with dumps of waste, and a journey of 60 seconds, sometimes takes hours.
He said: The road has now become a nightmare for pedestrians, motorists and residents. As a result of constant gridlock, hoodlums and criminals have capitalised on the situation to rob road users, especially at night.
Speaking with The Guardian at a scene where a six feet container truck fell last Tuesday, Mr Uchenna Izuakor, who was translating his goods from the fallen truck, said that he seldom ply Upper Iweka road whenever he was carrying heavy-duty loads but decided to make use of the route due to the exigency of the delivery.
He thanked God for his life and swore never to go through the route again, stating that hoodlums are always around to extort money for translating the goods, while armed robbers at night could strike if he did not finish on time.
A commuter, Mrs. Nneka Chukwu complained that transport fares have gone up by 50per cent due to the poor state of the road.
She claimed that almost all routes leading to schools, hospitals and markets in Upper Iweka are not passable.
According to her, Christmas and the festive period are almost near and work is yet to commence on the important road that leads to commercial centres in the state.
“ I hope the government could do something before the festivity,” she lamented.
A tricyclist, John Udega lamented the high cost of maintenance, stressing that he visits mechanics more often because of the poor state of the roads,
According to Udega, all roads leading out of the Upper Iweka are in a poor state, which made them increase the fare from N100 to between N200 and N300, depending on the distance to provide for the cost of maintenance.
He said many passengers now choose to trek home as a result of an increase in fare but have to move in groups to avoid being robbed, especially at night.
A businessman, Mr Obum Ojukwu, narrated how he lost his legs to armed robbers in the Upper Iweka gridlock a month ago.
He said: “ I was in a gridlock when armed robbers suddenly pointed a gun at me and ordered me to wind down my windscreen and open my vehicle. Terrified, I obeyed them and they pushed me down from the vehicle. The armed robbers ran me over while making away with my vehicle. I have spent close to N1 million for treatment to see if I can walk properly again.”
A medical doctor at Onitsha General Hospital, Dr. Ben Aja, said Upper Iweka road has become a laughing stock because of its poor state, leading to an increase in accident victims.
He urged the government to imbibe the culture of maintenance and lamented that bad roads have affected the state economy.
Contacted, Anambra State commissioner for transportation, Mrs. Patricia Igwebuike said the state feels the plight of its people and would soon flag- off the reconstruction of the road.
According to her, the governor of the state, Professor Charles Soludo has declared a state of emergency on all connecting roads in the state, starting from Okpoko, Upper Iweka and Oba.
She also advised residents to inculcate the spirit of bagging and containerising their waste, rather than bringing them and leaving them along the roadside.
The state’s Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engineer Ifeanyi Okoma acknowledged the bad roads and pleaded with residents to bear with the government as work would be flagged off soon.
He said: “The Upper Iweka road is a Federal road and the contract for its reconstruction had been awarded by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA).
“ I was in a meeting with FERMA recently. I am assuring road users that proper monitoring is ongoing at the Onitsha- Owerri Expressway to ensure that the agency commences work as soon as possible.”
Also, a FERMA official said the agency is aware of the state of the road and pledged that work will soon commence on the Upper Iweka axis.