From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Comuters have cried out to the Federal Government to urgently rehabilitate the dilapidated Enugu-Onitsha expressway from the Awka end, which has completely collapsed and is now a death trap.
The federal road has become a nightmare for motorists and commuters who are often trapped whenever it rained. The road has totally collapsed between Awkuzu, Nteje and Umunya area.
It was gathered that the state government has spent billions of naira on the federal road and bridges which has not been refunded to it.
Indeed, the state government under Mr. Peter Obi rehabilitated parts of the road around Onitsha axis and Awka while Governor Willie Obiano has constructed three bridges in Awka to ease off traffic on the expressway.
As a result of the deplorable condition of the road, many private and commercial drivers have resorted to the Awka old road and a bypass from Nteje to Umunya, which has made the road to become congested.
The bypass from Nteje to Umunya also poses a challenge because of gullies and a hanging bridge on it just as the youths in the area are cashing in on the situation to make brisk business by collecting between N50 and N100 before allowing any motorist to cross the bridge or the road, which they claimed they would use for the maintenance of the road.
Recently, commuters were stranded when a truck-laden with crates of beer fell and blocked the already dilapidated Awka-Onitsha expressway at the Umunya axis.
The accident made those travelling from Awka to Onitsha to search for alternative routes as the road was flooded and mud made it difficult for motorists who wanted to make a U-turn.
A commercial bus driver, Mr. John Ozobi, told Oriental News that the lorry fell at night and blocked the lane that was good, which made many vehicles and passengers to be stranded for hours before the youths of the community came up with a makeshift road.
“Some drivers have stayed here for hours because no road to continue or to go back, but the action of the youths of the community helped a lot though they are collecting N100 from this end and N50 or more at the other end. It is better than to stay here because nobody knows when the truck will be removed from the road.
“We have been suffering on this road for years now; it seems the Federal Government has abandoned the road, we suffer during the rainy and dry seasons. This road has claimed many lives. The road is a gateway to South-South and South-West part of the country, but it is being neglected. There is another alternative route at Nteje to Umunya, which also is a death trap. It is only old Awka road to Onitsha, but very busy and causes serious gridlock. We are still appealing to the Federal Government to rehabilitate the road to save lives.”
A passenger, Mrs. Angela Chukwudi, while narrating her ordeal on the road, said that the neglect of the federal road has proved the marginalisation meted on Ndigbo in the country, saying that there was no administration since 1999 that has not used the road as a campaign promise but failed to rehabilitate it afterwards.
Mrs Chukwudi said: “Our leaders are heartless…look at this road, it has been like this for over a decade without any serious attention. Year in, year out, they will mention it in the budget, some time you will see people surveying and mapping the road but at the end nothing will be done. Just take a look at the road, does it look like a federal road? Our leaders are only after their pockets and not to provide basic amenities, which road is part of, for the masses.
“As it is now, nobody is talking about this road. For how long will people continue to suffer on this road? My friend was telling me how the commercial bus she was travelling in to Ondo State got stuck after a downpour on the road, they were told to come down in the mud before the vehicle was pushed out of the place.
“They had to look for where to buy sachet water to clean up themselves before continuing the journey. She even told me that some passengers were robbed after their vehicle broke down in the evening. Look at our own experience today, we have wasted hours in the gridlock because a truck fell and blocked the road, I weep for my people!”
A civil servant who uses the road to go to work from Onitsha to Awka, Mr. Peter Ikemefuna, said the road has made him not to ride his car to work, saying that the ugly experience on the road was the day the car broke down and he left it and went to work, saying that when he returned to carry the car hoodlums had removed the tyres and battery.
“Onitsha to Awka is between 30 to 40 minutes drive, but today it takes us one hour, two hours or even more depending on the route one plies. A times, you will follow Awka old road, thinking it will be better to avoid the expressway, but you will go there to waste two hours due to hold-up. At times you will decide to follow short-cut from Umunya through Nteje and you will be trapped too.
“We don’t have road now until this expressway is rehabilitated. In rainy season, the road will be worse while in dry season dust will be there. We are calling on the Federal Government to urgently reconstruct the road to reduce accident, robbery, breakdown of vehicles and to save time. I know that the state government has been trying but they should continue to do palliative work to make the road passable because it has totally collapsed,” Ikemefuna appealed.