Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
This is not the best of times for the people of the oil-rich Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta region, considering the natural and man-made problems bedevilling them.
On land, Bayelsans and other travellers using the East-West Road have been subjected to nightmares due to the deplorable state of the road. The contract for the East-West Road, which connects Edo, Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa-Ibom, ending at Cross River State, was awarded during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Work on it was actually carried out during the presidency of the late Umaru Yar Adua.
However, while the sections of Edo, Delta and Akwa-Ibom states have been completed, a small section in Mbiama axis of Rivers State is yet to be finished.
The Zarama-Opokuma junction section of the road in Bayelsa State is as bad as that of Odukpani in Cross River State.
For days, travellers and motorists have been stranded at the Zarama-Opokuma junction in Bayelsa. The deplorable state of the road has been made worse by the rains.
“The Niger Delta is the producer of oil, as we all know, but we don’t get the benefit of the oil. People have been stuck here for days with no movement forward or backward. Trucks are falling because of the deplorable state of the road. People are suffering,” said Mr. Celestine, who spent three days at the bad spot.
Another motorist, Mr. Ebikibina, while lamenting the state of the road, called on President Muhammadu Buhari o come to the aid of the people.
“We are begging Baba Buhari to help us. The suffering is too much,” he said.
Chief Ologi, another commuter, said the bad state of the road has made it difficult for food, especially garri, to be brought into Yenagoa.
“To travel to go and buy garri is now a problem. We don’t know what to do. We need Federal Government to come and help us. I don’t even know what the government is doing. This is a sad development. This should have been the best road in Nigeria but the opposite is the case” he said.
On his part, Mr. Alex Oynikuro, who was coming back to Yenagoa after attending a burial ceremony in Odi, was made to spend five horrifying hours on the road. He was so embittered about the state of the road and wrote about it on Facebook calling on the Federal Government through the Ministry of Works and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to take action.
Findings indicated that Rt. Hon. Tonye Isenah, representing Kolokuma Constituency 1 in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, took the matter up by informing Prof. Steve Azaiki, representing Yenagoa-Kolokuma-Opokuma in the House of Representatives on the deplorable state of the road.
In a motion, titled “Need To Immediately Repair the Failing Sections of the East-West Road Particularly the Bayelsa/Rivers and Bayelsa/Delta Axis and Complete the Construction of the Road,” sponsored by all the five House of Representatives members from Bayelsa and their counterparts in Delta, Rivers, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Benue states, they drew attention to the poor state of the road.
The motion read, “Note that the East-West Road, which was constructed decades ago, is one of the most important roads in Nigeria and its contribution to the economy and development of the country cannot be overemphasized.
“The East-West Road spans five states, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Akwa-Ibom and Cross-River state. This road is in the heart of the oil-rich Niger Delta, where the oil revenue is derived and hence very vital. The deplorable condition of the road makes traffic very heavy all season.
“ It is in recognition of the importance of this road, that the administration of President Olusegun Obansanjo approved the construction of a second carriageway and the rehabilitation of the existing one. Sadly, this road is yet to be completed.”
It continued, “A greater portion of the road in these states has failed even as the project contracted to SETRACO construction company has been abandoned. The road has become a death trap and causes nightmares to commuters who have to unavoidably use the road. In particular some sections of the road in Bayelsa shall cut off in the coming few days as the rains intensify. This immediacy can only be saved if the Federal Government intervenes without any further delay.
“There is the need to urgently repair these failing, sinking sections of the road to avert more loss of lives, properties and ameliorate the hardship experienced by road users and ensure that the entire road is completed.”
The lawmakers made the following prayers, “Urge the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to direct the contractor Messers SETRACO and any other contractors to immediately return to site and do the needful. Ensure that Niger Delta Affairs Ministry and SETRACO rehabilitate immediately the most threatened sections in Rivers/Bayelsa and Bayelsa/Delta axis to avoid the cut-off of these portions of the road.
“Urge the Federal Government to redeem all liabilities owed contractors on the construction of the road. Urge the Federal Government and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to complete this important economic road without any further delay.”