Paul Osuyi, Asaba
RESIDENTS of Asaba-Ase, a coastal community in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State, are yet to come to terms with the appellation ‘Road Master’ that the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has been tagged.
Okowa who also goes by the alias ‘Ekwueme’ is popularly called Road Master across different communities in the state, apparently for his achievements in the road sector since 2015 when he assumed office. Those who call him Road Master can rightly point to one or two accessible roads within their areas that have received the golden touch of his administration in the past four years.
However, the people of Asaba-Ase are yet to benefit from the road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance initiatives of the governor. The agrarian community, in a recent protest, decried the hardship they go through as a result of bad road.
Although they admitted that the access road, which is the Abari/Asaba-Ase road, was awarded by the present administration, the job has allegedly been abandoned after the contractor crushed the existing drainage, leading to the destruction of internal roads.
The seven-kilometre road stretches across two local government areas, Patani and Ndokwa East, according to the placard-carrying protesters, who recently appealed to the governor to prevail on the contractor to return to site.
Inscriptions on some of the placards read: “Asaba-Ase is suffering from lack of roads,” “The Road Master come to our aid,” “Our road has been abandoned,” and “Sen. Nwaboshi, Ossai, Osanebi, Okowa, Buhari, please, come and help us, Asaba-Ase people,” among others.
They lamented that they cannot evacuate their farm produce to markets in city centres where the goods are in high demand because of the bad nature of the road.
President-general of the community, Anabogu Nosike Godfrey, said the people of Asaba-Ase have been suffering since 2012 when the road was destroyed by heavy flooding, adding that they thought succour had finally come when Okowa awarded the contract for it to be reconstructed.
“You awarded this road two to three times to persons, the unfortunate part of is that the contract was awarded to persons without names, signpost or whatever and when they came, the drainage we were managing before, they crushed it and the internal roads were destroyed.
“Since the award of the 7km road, Asaba-Ase/Abari road, by you over a year ago, nothing has been done. We are begging you, Ekuweme, to come to our aid.
“We dropped our written letter with the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Works in Asaba about this road and nobody has come to verify,” Nosike Godfrey claimed.
He further decried the devastating effect of the 2012 flood on the Uzere/Asaba-Ase road that links Isoko South LGA to Ndokwa East, saying that the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) had maintained it but the maintenance work was also washed off by the 2018 flood.
“The 2018 flood destroyed the road and nothing has been done since despite our cry and series of letters to the concerned authorities.
“Governor Okowa, we know what you can do kindly help to us call FERMA on the Uzere/Asaba-Ase road and prevail on the contractor handling the Asaba-Ase/Abari road to go back to site to resume the abandoned road construction work in the area to give us a sense of belonging.
“We are also facing ecological problems here. Erosion is affecting us seriously and if urgent measures are not taken, Asaba-Ase will be wiped off from the earth. We need help or else Asaba-Ase, the gateway to other coastal communities in Bayelsa, Rivers, Anambra and other states, will be cut off from the state,” Godfrey pleaded.
Also, the chairman of CDC of the community, Benson Opute, described the bad condition of the road as terrible, saying, “The only road, which is our light, is no more, we have been experiencing this bad condition since 2012, we have suffered a lot because of the Asaba-Ase/Abari road that has been abandoned by the contractor handling it.
“The condition we are facing is terrible because the place is extremely bad and any moment from now, as the flood is coming, we will not know the state we belong to, whether Delta, Bayelsa or Rivers. We need serious assistance so that we can survive this situation.
“We are being affected by serious erosion and if urgent measures are not taken, other coastal communities will not be reached. We are farmers and because of the terrible road condition we are unable to transport our crops and farm produce to market.”
On his part, the chairman of the PTA, Omolu Edward, appealed to the political leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Okowa, Sen. Peter Nwaboshi, Nichola Ossai and Friday Osanebi to come to their aid.
Edward said, “Any moment from now, when schools resume, our children would not be able to go to school because of the bad nature of the road and flood and no teacher will be ready to risk his/her life to go and teach, because of the flood.
“We are crying to government to come and help us to salvage the situation so that our children can have access to education. Our children are crying, they cannot write either WAEC or NECO because of the terrible condition of our road. Both young and old are crying to the government to help us. Education is right and if our children cannot go to school because of road and flood then Asaba-Ase is finished and a lot of things have been abandoned.
“Our only employment is our farms and if there are no roads to market our goods then we are in danger. We are part of Delta State and we also want to feel the presence of Governor Okowa, Sen. Nwaboshi, Ossai, and Osanebi and government in Asaba-Ase. We are peace-loving people hence this peaceful protest. We are begging, please come and help us.”
One of the female protesters, Mrs. Queen Obodoagu, lamented the poor patronage of their farm produce because of the bad nature of the road, saying that “customers are no longer coming to buy our goods. Our goods are going bad on a daily basis because nobody is coming to buy or trade with us, and we don’t have adequate storage facilities.”
Reacting to the protest, the Commissioner for Works, James Augoye, sympathised with the people but assured them that the seven-kilometre Asaba-Ase/Abari road has not been abandoned by the contractor. He appealed to them to be patient.
“It is not true that the contractor demobilised from site. The water level in that area is very high, which will hinder construction work on the road. The contractor is on site doing concrete works.
“The culverts are being constructed on strategic sections. We are aware of what is going on. We are in agreement with the contractor that what should be going on is concrete pavement to get the earthwork correctly so that the road, when completed, will be for all seasons,” Augoye said.