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South East federal roads, mere death traps – group

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By Jonathan Asikason

An environment rights and pro-democracy non-government organisation, Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development (FENRAD), has lamented over the state of many federal roads in the South East geopolitical zone, describing it as “deplorable.”

The group made the observation over the weekend, in a press release in Aba, by its executive director, Comrade Nelson Nwafor, in which he observed, with dismay, that the continued neglect of federal roads in the South East, constituted serious threat to businesses, lives and property in the region, especially at the yuletide season.

“Majority of these federal roads now-turned abandoned projects were conceived, in most cases, before 2015 and were equally captured in previous federal budgets yet remain derelict and bare without tar coating. This situation, as bad as it is, makes accidents imminent as December approaches – when usually sons and daughters of the region within Nigeria and in diaspora return home for the season’s celebrations and festivities,” the release stated.

Furthermore, “Since 2017, the Otuocha-Anam-Kogi road has yet to breathe after it was abandoned. The federal minister of works and housing, Babatunde Fasola, had visited Aba-Ikot Ekpene and Enugu-Port Harcourt roads on many occasions with promises, (re)affirmations and (re)assurances of federal government’s willingness to fix the roads yet work still remains tardy and delayed to date. While the Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia axis of the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway could be said to be fair, the Lokpanta spot (precisely Umuchieze area) remains yet a hellhole! The Aba-Port Harcourt end of the entire project is a mess and has impinged on the ease of doing business, causing serious problems to livelihoods, even. Time and time again, vehicles – worst of these sights being latched and unlatched containers and other articulated lorries – fall along the major thoroughfare or by the wayside hindering communication, vehicular and human movements. Equally do many of such vehicles break down due largely to the muddy and sorry plight of the road. This has become everyday story. Sad story, too. 

“The Onitsha-Awka road, FENRAD recalls, once was impassable so much so that motorists and other road users devised a route through nearby villages. This, too, is not peculiar to that road as many other federal roads are in the region where owing to their deplorable state daily commuters and travellers suffer this plight with needless prolongation of already torturous and arduous journeys. 

“Aba-Ikot Ekpene road has remained ‘work in progress’ for yonks and eons. Many small-scale enterprises including some large-scale businesses like filling stations, FENRAD notes, have gone under. That road is crucial to the region because it connects Aba, the industrial hub of the Southeast to Akwa Ibom thence to Cross River state from where the Aba manufactures feed through to as far as Cameroon markets! This is a serious setback to not only local but international trade beyond West African subregion! 

“Another nightmare is 9th Mile-Makurdi road which links the Southeast to the Middle Belt region of the country. At a time, it was a theatre for armed robbers. Onitsha-Enugu express road remains yet a metaphor for abandonment as the forlorn look of that road speaks volumes of competent neglect. FENRAD wonders what the federal government had been doing SUKUK Bonds which it has held for years. FENRAD, however, laments that at a time, the sum of N16.75 bn (SUKUK Bond) was set aside to rehabilitate Onitsha-Enugu expressway and also for rehabilitation of sections 1, 2 and 3 of Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway with nothing to show for all this to date. Release – in the way of money too – was made through Presidential Infrastructural Development Fund, PIDF for the Second Niger Bridge, completion of which had tarried like the second coming! Never, FENRAD recalls, was any of the said projects completed in record time as almost all are lying fallow in some cases.”

Though the release was specifically crafted to draw the attention of the federal government to the deplorable state roads federal roads in South East, FENRAD seized the opportunity to bemoan the ruins of some state roads in the regions. It charged the five South East governors to do the needful in order to enable road users to have hitch-free mobility in the forthcoming festive seasons.

“FENRAD is in the know and privy to the fact that state governments receive monthly allocation from the federal accounts allocation committee, FAAC and some through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)yet many roads within the five states making up the region are Still waiting repairs, even construction,” the Press Release noted.

FENRAD also urged the governors to avail themselves the opportunity of such programmes like World Bank’s Rural Access Mobility Project (RAMP) to help them build arterial access and linkage roads across rural areas to enable local (mostly agricultural) produce find market in cities and as well bridge the demographic disparity and gap noticeably hindering urban and rural commercial nexus, exchange, and flow. 

FENRAD, finally, beckoned on the South East Senators and Members of House of Representatives to prevail on the federal government to see to the construction and rehabilitation of the aforementioned roads so that accidents will be curbed and slumbering businesses in that areas revitalised.

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