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Southeast Roads As Dead Traps Ahead Of Yuletide

Picture of dilapidated Onitsha - Enugu Expressway

Picture shows dilapidated Onitsha – Enugu Expressway

Vehicles in snail movement on the Enugu – Port Harcourt road…

Part of the Onitsha – Enugu Expressway that is no longer motor-able…

What do you say on road like this?

President Muhamadu Buhari has conspicuously begun to evolve his purported new Nigeria without appointing one single person from the Southeast political zone into his machinery and work force.  In other words, no Igbo man or woman is part of his administration for now. And thus,   no Igbo has the privilege to whisper to the ear of Mr President on issues of Igbo interest. Ndigbo cannot visit or welcome anybody as presidential aide in their midst of which to convey message to Aso Rock Villa or receive message on a confidential note or otherwise as other regions do. 

The above note is perhaps no longer news, what could be news nevertheless, especially to President Buhari and his Igboless team is that Christmas season is on the threshold and the condition of the federal roads in the southeast are terribly bad. Travelers on the road are extremely vulnerable to snake movement leading to unnecessary night journey, inevitable vehicle break down and accident but God forbid. It is wrong for somebody moving from Asaba in Delta state to the city of Enugu to sleep on the road. Nothing could be used to justify a situation where a journey of two hours could take the whole day.

Mr President and Commander in the Chief cannot deny the knowledge of the fact that Christmas season is a time of mass movement of Ndigbo who move to and from places across the country for a period spanning three to four weeks just as it is obtained in the Northern region during Sallah season.. It is of note that as from second week of December down to second week of January, roads in the southeast witness heavy amount of vehicle movement as Ndigbo flood their home land from all parts of the country to celebrate Christmas.

Abandoned lorry at Onitsha - Enugu Expressway due bad condition of the roadAbandoned lorry at Onitsha – Enugu Expressway due bad condition of the road

Mere looking at the roads like Enugu – Onitsha Expressway, Enugu – Port Harcourt Expressway, 9th Mile-Obollo Afor -Makurdi road, Aba – Port Harcourt road and others, it is obvious that Ndigbo are bound to see hell and experience its fiery furnace during Christmas and New Year season movement. For instance, the larger part of the four-lane Onitsha – Enugu Expressway which is the link road that connects Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi from some parts of South South like Edo and Delta states and the entire South west is no longer motor-able.

But that is just what people are expected to experience on the federal roads in the southeast ahead of Christmas season. Already the condition of Onitsha – Enugu road in particular is so bad that Dangote Cement trucks can no longer used it to convey Cement from Obajana in Kogi state to Anambra using the road. Nigeria Brewery trucks no longer use the road to convey drinks from Enugu to their sub stations in Anambra.  Series of vehicle breakdown and loss of millions of Naira worth of Cement have scared Dangote truck drivers and tanker drivers away from the road.

Furthermore, other heavy duty vehicles that use the road to convey food stuff and livestock such like yam tubers, tomatoes, onions, cows, goats and beans among other things from the North to places Igbo land no longer use it. Bringing down goods and commodities like rice, provision, cosmetics, toiletries and other things from Lagos to the southeast is a big nightmare for drivers. Companies lose goods worth millions of Naira on the road daily. Nigeria Brewery in particular is in a better position to address the public on how companies are losing big money on the road due to its bad condition.

Unless something is imperatively done on the Onitsha – Enugu Express way road people moving from Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Asaba and other places in the South South and southwest down to Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi state respectively should prepare to sleep on the road, Checks show that the road has completely gone beyond mere rehabilitation in places like Umunya, Nteje, Awkuzu axis in Anambra and Oji River axis, Ezeagu axis and 9th mile corner all in Enugu state. What it needs therefore is total reconstruction.

In fact, no driver of either car, lorry or sport utility vehicle can safely drive through these places mentioned above. Some parts of the road have turned to be mini canal and no longer an issue of potholes. Attempt to drive through the canal marks the end of the journey to the victim. Often times, people ask whether government officials do not ply the road with their vehicles. This is a good question. Government officials also use the road but at the end of the day, they cannot raise their fingers to do something over it. 

It is a pity and very condemnable that people in government could fold their hands and watch roads damage from bad to worse and from worse to worst, No preventive nor maintenance measures from government quarters to protect roads from developing potholes following the negative effect of rainy season and other factors that naturally militate against them. It is sad to say that these roads look like not being used by human beings hitherto the terrible condition. Of course human being use them, but are careless on the need maintain them particularly on the side of the people in government.

In some cases, good Samaritans would voluntarily come out to use manual equipments  and such like hoe and shovel to sand feel potholes on the expressway and government officials would blew siren and speed way without showing interest in what is going on. It is only in Nigeria that government officials senselessly and carelessly fold their hands and watch issues of interests like roads damage to decay year in and out as we see in condition of these roads across the southeast zone.

The question now is could Buhari rise up to the occasion in line with his change mantra to give immediate attention to these roads? Yes, of course, he has to. The poor condition of the federal roads in the southeast is part of the problems he inherited as president of Nigeria and he has to descend on them immediately. The problem cannot be politicized because the people’s lives are at stake. This is Christmas for goodness sake and people have to drive on good roads to their destinations for Christmas and New Year holiday.

In 1999 Olusegun Obasanjo as President of this country inherited a terribly dilapidated Onitsha – Owerri road that is similar to the roads earlier listed here. And because the lives of the people are at stake on that particular road, he did not play politics with it, instead he reconstructed it expanding it from one single lane to dual carriage way. Julius Berger did a good job there and people are happy driving through it. In the same vein immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan did not associate politic with Lagos-Ibadan expressway as well as Benin – Ore – Sagamu way as he affected good works on the said roads.

Similarly, Buhari should kindly emulate his predecessors: Obasanjo and Jonathan to separate the need for road construction from politics because the lives of the people are at stake. For the reason best known to our president, he has left Ndigbo behind in choosing people into his appointment but as political as that could be, nobody from the Igbo extraction died consequently. And life goes on. The case of the roads is absolutely different from appointment. 

To abandon the roads as they are now is as bad as asking Ndigbo to face firing squad or commit suicide because the safety of the people cannot be guaranteed using them but God forbid.  Relevant Igbo stakeholders like the Southeast Governors Forum, Ohaneze Ndigbo and Igbo National Assembly members have to use their positions to reach out to Buhari concerning these roads. Even if it takes to sleep in Aso Rock for days, they should endeavor to see Buhari as soon as possible to draw his attention on the danger surrounding their people ahead of Christmas.

During Obasanjo regime, Orji Uzor Kalu as Governor of Abia state was a thorn on Obasanjo’s flesh over the need to reconstructed Onitsha – Owerri road using diplomatic measures on one hand and confrontation on the other hand. Checks clearly show that since 1999 Southeast governors have failed to do enough jobs towards the rehabilitation or reconstruction of federal roads in the zone. They failed to read the hand writing on wall that the roads are gradually decaying to canals and thus need federal attention.

During the regime of Mr Peter Obi as governor of Anambra state, he made a very positive impact on the Onitsha – Enugu road by reconstructing it from the Bridge head area in Onitsha down to Odumodu Junction at Umunya in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra. Under Obi, a flyover by-pass was put in place to enhance easy movement at the ever busy New Motor Spare Parts market axis in Nkpor, People enjoy driving on a smooth road to and fro Bridge head to Odumodu junction courtesy of Peter Obi who also completed work on old Onitsha – Awka road which was started by his predecessor Dr Chris Ngige in 2004. 

Like his predecessor, the incumbent governor of Anambra Chief Willie Obiano is also doing some work on the road. Obiano is building flyover bridges on the road in different locations at Awka the capital of Anambra such as in Aroma junction, Akwata, junction and Amawbia junction in Awka respectively. Although what Obiano is doing has been largely criticized as unnecessary and irrelevant as the road does not need such bridges, the point is that something is being done on it Obiano is probably of the view that such brigades are needed to safe guard the road.

Unlike their Anambra counterparts, governors of Enugu state from 1999 to 2015  Chimaroke Nnamani and his successor Sullivan Chime respectively  could not do anything towards rehabilitation or reconstruction of the Enugu state version of the road. As popular Catholic Priest Rev. Fr  Ejike Mbaka observed  before the 2015 elections, those born at Ezeagu axis 10 years ago do not know that the expressway is an eight lane carriage way because one side of the road has been taken over completely by grass, 

People expected the Enugu governors to do something at 9th mile corner to ease heavy amount of vehicle traffic that use to occur at the corner during Yuletide. As it stands now, travelers are inevitably going to past nights at the 9th mile corner if the status quo remains the same during December and January movement. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has a big job to do over there at 9th mile. Ugwuanyi has to put down measure capable to accelerate movement against traffic gridlock at the corner which could be heavy to keep people overnight. Some are putting it to Ugwuanyi to take the bull by the horns to push for construction of 9th – Obollo Afor – Makurdi road into a dual carriage way as the road is long overdue for elevation into that status.

As it is now, all hope lies on Buhari and the governors. Ndigbo would be happy if Mr President decides to use the reconstruction of the federal roads in the southeast to placate them following none appointment of the Igbo into his administration for now. Some on the other hands are saying that Mr President has to at the same time start work on the proposed second Niger Bridge because the safety of the existing bridge can no longer be guaranteed after the Christmas season. The southeast governors have to press on Mr President on these roads and the 2nd Niger Bridge too.

Both the roads and a new bridge on the River Niger in the commercial city of Onitsha are no doubt very important to Ndigbo because their lives and property are at stake. Buhari should therefore swallow animosity against Ndigbo and forgive them if he has any. Buhari should live up to his words that he should work for people in every part of Nigeria as according him “he is for everybody and for nobody”

By Toby Chucks

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