Thursday, 9th December 2021
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The roads as we know them

Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), stirred the hornet’s nest last week when he stated during a press conference after the weekly Federal Executive Meeting (FEC) that, “Nigerian roads are not as bad as they are often portrayed

Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), stirred the hornet’s nest last week when he stated during a press conference after the weekly Federal Executive Meeting (FEC) that, “Nigerian roads are not as bad as they are often portrayed.” He knew the media would feast on the statement and went ahead to predict that it would be the headline for everything discussed at the press briefing. And it was!

Indeed, what followed was a barrage of criticisms that forced the Minister to explain that he was quoted out of context on the state of federal roads in the country. While giving the clarification, he told those who challenged him to tour Nigerian roads to ascertain their conditions that he had travelled around the country by road to access the condition of federal roads, adding that the Federal Government would soon commence fixing the bad roads in order of priority.

As the controversy persists, The Guardian, in the reports below from across the states, feel the pulse of Nigerians concerning the true condition of some arterial roads in the country as well as the impact on the economy.

Federal Roads In Ekiti Are Death Traps, Kidnappers’ Delight
From Ayodele Afolabi, Ado Ekiti
All the federal roads in Ekiti State are in deplorable conditions. They include the Ado Ekiti-Akure road, Ado Ekiti-Ikare Road, Ado-Aramoko-Itawure Road, Ado-Ifaki–Ido Ekiti Road and Ifaki–Oye Ekiti–Ikole– Omuo Road.

Others are Omuo–Kabba Road stretching to some local councils in Kogi, Omuo-Oke Road and Agbe–Ikare Road, among others.

The condition of these roads has been a source of worry to residents of the state, who repeatedly witness accidents that claim several lives.

For instance, in September this year, five wedding guests perished on the Ado-Akure road when the 18-seater bus they were traveling in plunged into a ditch along the Ado-Ikere axis. 

Apart from accidents, passengers are made to pay high fares because motorists claim they spend more money to maintain their vehicles due to the state of the roads. The condition of these roads has also provided a fertile ground for kidnappers who take advantage of the bad portions to waylay vehicles with ease and kidnap their occupants.

Disturbed by the deplorable state of the roads and avoidable deaths recorded, as well as the loss of property, the Ekiti Council of Elders at its monthly meeting recently said the condition of roads in the state made the call for restructuring imperative so that state governments would be able to fix the roads within its domain.

The chairman of the body, Prof. Joseph Oluwasanmi, reportedly said, “the restructuring we have on mind is that every state should be free to use its own resources for its own development.”

The Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, who also spoke at the meeting, said the decay of the roads across the state called for a revert to the days of Public Works Department.

“Ekiti State could pioneer the return of PWD. There are so many engineers sitting idle in the offices. Draft them into the PWD so that they fix the roads. That is a solution that can help considering the large scale damage to our roads in the state and across the nation. 

“It is better to maintain the roads immediately they start having problems than waiting until when they go bad. It is better to nip them in the bud whether state or federal roads before they go bad,” Olajide said.

A member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and a driver, Oluwaseyi Babalola, lamented the state of the roads, saying drivers now work under excruciating conditions. He added that the government at all levels have abandoned their responsibility, saying NURTW needed to embark on a nationwide strike to force the government to rehabilitate the roads.

“I don’t know why our leaders cannot mobilise us for a national strike to call the attention of the authority to the condition of the roads,” he said.

A petty trader along Aramoko-Erio-Efon road linking Osun State, Mrs Funke Ogunjobi, told The Guardian that traders selling at the bad portion of the road contributed N250,000 to buy hardcore and granite, adding that they also paid labourers to do palliative on the road. She wondered whether government still exists if women struggling to eke a living have to tax themselves to repair roads.

Edo Residents Decry Condition Of
Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi Highway, Others
From Michael Egbejule, Benin City

Residents and motorists plying federal highways in Edo State have continued to express anguish over their deplorable condition. But despite the hues and cries, the roads have not received any serious attention from relevant agencies of government.

When The Guardian visited the Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi highway, the road was completely in shambles. Motorists and commuters plying the road looked frustrated following the several hours they spend trying to access the failed portions of the road.

From the Benin City axis of the road to Ehor in Uhunwunde local council, the fear of driving through that portion of the highway is the beginning of wisdom.

According to a motorist, who simply identified himself as Oskapamwan Paul, the deplorable condition of the highway has been a source of worry to many road users even though it has been under reconstruction since the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan administration.

Findings, however, showed that the contractors handling the dualisation of the highway were very slow on the job. The contractors are Reynolds Construction Company (RCC), Dantata and Sawoe, and MotherCat Construction. In an interview, one of the contractors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they would commence work as soon as the government improves funding for the project.

Another road in a dilapidated state in Edo State is the Benin-Auchi Expressway. Recently, seven persons were killed in an auto accident involving the advance team of the Governor Godwin Obaseki on the road, precisely at Ehor in Uhunmwode local council of the state.

Eyewitness account said the Toyota Hilux van of the governor’s advance team had a head-on collision with an Audi car when the vehicles approached a failed portion and wanted to manoeuvre.

The Benin-Sapele road connecting Edo and Delta states is also begging for attention. Motorists plying the highway around the Benin Bye-Pass from Kilometre 7 and Kilometre 12 now spend more hours to get to their destination. 

The Benin-Ugbowo-Lagos Road opposite the Army School of Transport and Supply (S&T) Barracks is also riddled with potholes owing to heavy flooding in that axis. The Benin-Agbor Highway in Edo State is another deathtrap from Ikpoba Hill in Ikpoba Okha local council area connecting Edo to the eastern part of the country.

Litany Of Bad Federal, State Roads In Imo
From Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri

In Imo State, the greatest problem confronting all road users is the deplorable condition of major federal roads in the state, even as many state roads are also in a state of disrepair. The roads serve as gateways to the neighbouring states of Abia, Enugu, and Rivers. But as a result of their bad condition, drivers make a series of a detour before getting to their destinations. The outcome is a hike in transport fares by over 50 per cent.

Some of the critical federal roads in Imo are Owerri-Mbaise-Umuahia road; Owerri-Okigwe road, Onitsha-Owerri road, and Owerri-Omaelu-Elele-Port Harcourt road.

Some of the federal roads currently receiving remedial attention in the state include Owerri-Okigwe road (especially at Ekemele, Ikeduru portion) and Owerri-Mbaise-Umuahia road. The Owerri-Mbais-Umuahia road has very bad portions at Awaka, Emekuku and Azaraegbelu areas.

Coduc and XMGC are the contractors handling the rehabilitation of the failed portions of the road. However, when The Guardian visited the Awaka, Emekuku failed portions of the Owerri-Mbaise-Umuahia road last Tuesday, it was observed that the contractors handling the project were too slow. A staff of the construction company said they were still waiting for a friendly weather.

“This road is very critical. We are taking our time to do it. We are urging the users of this road to be patient. We will do our best to ensure that something substantial is done before the Christmas period,” he said.

A motorist, Okechukwu Nwogu, who spoke on his experience on the Owerri-Okigwe road, said he has spent so much money repairing his vehicle as a result of the dilapidated state of the road.

“It’s like I am at the mechanic’s workshop every other day. This road is important to us. We are appealing to the government to repair it,” Nwogu said.

Emir Seeks Repair Of Federal Roads In Kebbi
From Ahmadu Baba Idris, Birnin Kebbi

There are many federal roads in Kebbi State linking it with its neighbouring states of Niger, Zamfara and Sokoto. However, many of the roads are in very bad condition.

Recently, the Emir of Yauri, Muhammad Zayyanu Abdullahi cried out to the Federal and Kebbi State governments to rehabilitate all major highways that link the state with its neighbours such as the Koko-Yauri road, Yauri-New Bussa, Nagasky-New Bussa road and the Kotangora-Jega-Sokoto road.

He made this request while receiving the state Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, in his palace during a wedding ceremony.

The emir had observed that the contractor handling the Kotangora-Jega-Sokoto road has abandoned the project even though it has reached 80 per cent completion stage. He urged the government to urgently intervene and ensure the completion of the project.

Also speaking, the acting chairman of Yauri local council, Alhassan Adamu Birnin Yauri, said the Koko Besse-Yauri road and Birnin Yauri-Zuru road needed urgent rehabilitation.

“The roads are due for repairs. People are dying almost every day on these roads. The Federal Government needs to send a delegation to the place to feel the pulse of the masses,” he added.

Speaking with The Guardian, a motorist who plies Kebbi to Lagos, Nora Birnin Kebbi, deplored the condition of the roads, saying that apart from increasing travel time, they cause accidents on a regular basis.

A’Ibom Residents Lament Neglect Of Federal Roads
From Inemesit Akpan-Nsoh, Uyo

Many federal roads link Akwa Ibom State to other neigbouring states. These include Aba-Ikot Ekpene road, Port Harcourt-Ikot Abasi-Mkpat Enin-Eket road otherwise known as East West Road and Umahia-Ikot Ekpene road. To say the least, none of these roads can guarantee commuters a smooth ride to their destinations.

Ikot Ekpene-Aba road used to be the shortest way for traders from the state to Aba, Abia State to purchase their wares. In fact, in the good old days, commercial drivers shuttled to Aba two to three times a day, with the route nicknamed ‘Aba by air’. Traders from Calabar, Uyo, Oron, Ikot Abasi and Eket go through this route to Aba to buy their wares. But for more than seven years now, the Ikot Ekpene-Aba road has remained impassable.

To get to Aba today, traders from Cross River and Akwa Ibom go through Etim Ekpo, Iwukem in Akwa Ibom State and Azumini in Abia State because the federal roads linking these two states have failed.

The Ikot Ekpene-Obot Akara road that links Umahia, the Imo State capital, is also in a deplorable state. It is also the same case with Ikot Ekpene-Itu-Odukpani-Calabar road. The latter links eastern states with the South-south and the northern states.

Due to constant complaints by motorists and commuters on the Ikot Ekpene-Itu-Odukpani-Calabar road, the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on Works and Abandoned Projects recently sent a delegation on a fact-finding mission. 
It is, however, worth mentioning that prior to the general election, the Federal Government awarded the contract for the dualisation of the road to Julius Berger Construction Company at the cost of N54 billion, with a large chunk of 65.1km not awarded.

The contract was awarded on April 24, 2018, and it’s supposed to last for 30 months. But the contractor has since abandoned the project due to no funding. Findings showed that the company received only N7.4 billion out of the N54.1 billion earmarked for the project. Meanwhile, about 60 per cent of the money was meant for compensation, leaving them with a paltry N3.4 billion.

At Enen Atai village, in Itu local council, where erosion is almost cutting the Calabar-Itu road into two, residents who spoke with The Guardian, appealed to the Federal Government to come to their aid by reconstructing the road.

According to Mr. Ibanga Etok, the chairman of the village council, “from this place, the road has been cut off because of erosion. We have been appealing to both the federal and state governments to come to our aid but to no avail. The deplorable state of this road has caused erosion to destroy the only source of drinking water we have. Traders plying this road are the worst hit as vehicle to and fro Calabar falls here on a daily basis.”
A resident, Ubong Asuquo, added: “This road has caused a lot of hardship to commuters especially traders particularly at this place. Traders from Calabar who go to Aba or Onitsha get stuck here on a daily basis. We are begging the Federal Government to come and help us as this scenario has brought untold hardship to our village.”

Addressing newsmen last Monday, the Akwa Ibom State Chairman of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Mr. Franklyn Isong, also called on the Federal Government to mobilise the contractors to site before the Christmas season sets in, noting that by so doing, the plight of road users would be ameliorated.
Kudos, Knocks For Buhari Over Federal Roads In Anambra
From Uzoma Nzeagwu and Osiberoha Osibe (Awka)

Federal highways running across Anambra State including Onitsha-Awka-Enugu and Onitsha-Owerri roads have suffered dilapidation in recent times and could be blamed on the carefree attitude of successive governments. These expressways have gone so bad that they are now death traps to commuters, drivers and other road users.

For example, the Onitsha-Awka highway is dotted with countless potholes that sometimes cause accidents as drivers struggle to meander through. The Onitsha-Owerri road is also in a similar state. From the Onitsha end, it is virtually impassable till Oba town, but the fact is that there is no three-kilometer stretch on the road that guarantees the free flow of traffic.

Meanwhile, construction work is ongoing along the Onitsha-Awka highway by Reynolds Construction Company (RCC). The Federal Government has pledged to complete the project before 2021. The Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), made the pledge recently when he visited Anambra for on the spot assessment of work done so far.

When contacted to speak on the state of the project, the Project Supervisor, Chidi Ezeala, an engineer, said: “The Federal Ministry of Works through the Federal Controller of Works in the state is working on Onitsha–Enugu Expressway from the 20km Head Bridge/Upper Iweka-Umunya, which has been completed.

“RCC having fixed the Umunya-Amawbia axis is focusing on the more critical aspect of the Enugu bound axis of the road having fixed the Umunya to Awkuzu axis to enable vehicles pass. Amawbia-Amansea being handled by the IDC is funded by the state government, with the federal and state governments as joint supervisors.”

Speaking with The Guardian, some residents of Umunya, Nteje, Awkuzu, and Nkwelle Ezunaka communities along the Onitsha-Awka highway commended the Federal Government for executing the project, saying the road had been abandoned by various administrations.

One of them, Mr. Godfrey Ogochukwu, however, lamented that many commuters had died on the road, calling for quick completion of the project.

Also at Awkuzu, Mr. Ndibe Onumadu complained that the pace of work was very slow, alleging that the Federal government was neglecting the people of the Southeast.

A bus driver, Wilson Okonkwo, who said he plies the route on a daily basis, lamented that the dilapidated state of the road has damaged his vehicle.

“The Federal Government should hasten the reconstruction of all its roads in Anambra State. Vehicles drive one way somewhere from Umunya to Awkuzu and it is risky and dangerous. Accidents are recorded on a weekly basis, mainly because some drivers are reckless. But when the road is completed, accidents will be reduced,” Okonkwo said.

Speaking in the same vein, a driver with Peace Mass Transit Limited, who gave his name simply as Afor, also lamented that motorists were experiencing hardship due to the poor state of the road from Enugu to Onitsha, describing the Enugu-Onitsha expressway as a death trap.

Poor Funding Hinders Many Road Contracts In Enugu
From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu

Last year when governors of the Southeast zone alleged neglect of infrastructure in the region by the Federal Government, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Muhammed, had described the assessment as unfair in view of what he claimed as “available evidence”.

He had gone further to reel out 69 roads and bridges that would cost the Federal Government a whopping N680 billion that was ongoing in the zone. Some of the federal roads he mentioned that the government was rehabilitating in Enugu State include the Enugu –Onitsha road, phase 1, Contract No. 5929 awarded at over N7billion to CCC Construction Company; old Enugu–Portharcourt road (Agbogugu –Abia border spur to Mmaku) awarded to Setraco at over N13 billion and Inyi–Akpugoeze to Anambra border awarded at over N2 billion to Anbeez Services.

There are also the Umulugbe–Umuoka–Amokwu Ikedimkpa, Egede–Ojieyi, Awhum road awarded to IDC Construction company at over N6billion; Oji- Achi-Mmaku-Awgu road with spur to Obeagu-Ugbo in Enugu awarded to Golden Construction Company at over N99 billion; the Ozalla-Akpugo-Amagunze-Ihuokpara-Nkomoro-Isu-Onitsha road with spur to Onunweke in Enugu awarded to Arab Contractors at over N6 billion; Onitsha-Enugu dual carriageway section III awarded to Niger Construction Company at over N7 billion; Nsukka –Obollo-Ikeanru-Eha-Amufu-Nkalagu road awarded to Mife Construction at over N6 billion and Ogrute –Umuida-Unadu-Akpanya-Odoru road awarded to PW at over 12 billion, among others.

However, a visit to some of these roads indicated that the contractors may have either stopped work a long time or did not mobilise to the site at all. Some of the projects have not taken off at all. The situation has exacerbated the sorry state of roads in the state, thereby causing untold nightmare to their users.

The Enugu–Onitsha road, which was one of the campaign issues of the President Muhammadu Buhari in the zone during the 2019 general election, may not be completed by the administration with indices on the ground, despite the segmentation of the project to different contractors.

While the RCC has reconstructed the Ninth Mile to Umumba axis in Enugu as well as opened one of the closed lanes, the Umumba to Amansea axis in Anambra State has completely collapsed. As a result, motorists now ply the old Oji River-Enugu-Awka road. The resultant effect is that travelers now spend long hours on the area as vehicles struggle to overcome the dangerous potholes that dot it.

A resident, Mr George Obi, a lawyer, who was returning to Enugu from Lagos, told The Guardian that he spent more than four hours between Amansea in Anambra and Oji River in Enugu, as a result, vehicular traffic and multiple security checkpoints. 

Also, movement from Enugu town to Awka is no longer through the Enugu-Ugwu Onyeama-Nineth mile road, as it has collapsed. Only a few articulated vehicles ply the route. And this is ostensible because the state government barred them from plying the Milliken Hill–Ngwo road, which is now serving as the alternative route.

Repair works on Ozalla–Akpugo–Amagunze–Ihuokpara-Nkomoro road contracted to Arab Contractors has also stopped. Work has actually started from Ozalla and gone up to the boundary between Agbani and Akpugo, but it was halted after the last general election.

A commuter on the route, Ijeoma Okenwa, said, “as much as we are grateful for the award of the contract which is supposed to go into Ebonyi State, it is not good that work has stopped for some time now. I don’t know why the contractor stopped work. ”

However, The Guardian reliably gathered that the contractors stopped work due to a lack of funding.

Meanwhile, work on the Enugu–Port Harcourt highway has continued even after the election. The road was parceled out to various contractors who come in from time to time to do their portions. The development has limited movement to one lane of the road, thereby increasing risks among travelers.

Arterial Roads In Plateau Terribly Bad
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos

The federal roads in Jos, the Plateau State capital, include the road from Jos Township Market linking Bauchi State popularly referred to as Bauchi Road.

Another federal road is the Mararaban Jama’a to the AirPort Junction linking the Jos Main Market and from there to Zaria Road. There is also the Mararaban Jama’a to Langtang road. In Jos township, the road stretching from Plateau Specialist Hospital down to the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Centre to Farin Gada constitutes is also a federal road. All these roads are accessible but are in terrible condition.

Speaking with The Guardian, motorists and commuters plying these roads appealed to the Federal Government to put them to good use.

Residents said some drivers have become reluctant to come to Jos because of the poor state of the link roads. This is as residents said they were not happy with the situation because they spend longer hours waiting for vehicles to board and also on the affected roads.

We Don’t Have Roads, Cross River Drivers, Commuters Cry Out
From Agosi Todo, Calabar

Hundreds of passengers and motorists are stranded on a daily basis along the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja road in Cross River State. The road, which is the only link route from Calabar to other parts of Sout-south, Southeast and the northern parts of the country, is in a state of disrepair.

In the last three years, there have been some interventions on the collapsed portions of the road by the Federal Ministry of Works in the Akamkpa,Yakurr, Obubra, Ikom, and Ogoja local council axis. But these interventions only lasted for a few months.

Some road users lamented that travelling from Ikom to Calabar, which was usually a journey of two hours and 30 minutes, now takes five to six hours because of the deplorable state of the road.

Some drivers who spoke with The Guardian at the Ikom/Ogoja Park in Calabar said not less than two accidents occur on the road every day.

One of them, Jacob Muhammad, said the road also damages their vehicles, calling for the urgent rehabilitation of the road.

He said: “The road is very bad and everyday vehicles keep having accidents because of bad road. If you are not used to the road, maybe you are driving at night, the car could somersault because of potholes. It has really been very difficult for us.

“This Ikom-Calabar road is a Federal Government road. But since the Federal Government does not want to do anything about the roads, I think the state government should intervene so that it won’t be a death trap for travelers during the yuletide.”

He added: “If you get to Biase area in Iwuru, you will see some boys. I don’t know if they are the ones creating the potholes. They are taking advantage of the bad road to extort money from drivers. They will ask you to pass through a particular place and when you follow that way, you will give them N1000 because there is no other place to pass.”

Another driver, Tony Onah, also narrated their ordeal saying, “I left Ikom by six o’clock this morning; look at the time I got here. You will know any vehicle from Ikom through the tyre. The road is bad; our road is not good. In short, we don’t have roads.

Some residents and passengers who have had ugly experiences on the routes criticised the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola for saying Nigeria roads were not as bad as being portrayed.

A resident, who spent two days last week on his way from Anambra State to Calabar, Mr. Martin Anyafulu, urged the National Assembly to enact a law that would compel serving ministers and lawmakers to travel by road so they would always be aware of the state of Nigerian highways and do the needful.