From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa advised residents on Tuesda to exercise caution during this year’s Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Governor Okowa, who spoke against the backdrop of a possible second wave of COVID-19, said the virulent pandemic was out to claim more lives, insisting that it is now deadlier than when it was first discovered.
He emphasised the need for churches to enforce the compulsory wearing of face masks, use of hand sanitizers and strict observance of social distancing, among other protocols that would keep the virus at bay, adding that the state would come up with more stringent measures to contain the spread.
The governor was addressing a press conference in Asaba with the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Dr Boboye Oyeyemi, on the strategies to control the free flow of traffic on the Niger bridge during the yuletide season.
He said until the second Niger Bridge project is completed, the high density of vehicular traffic at the Asaba and Onitsha ends of the first bridge would continue to occur especially at yuletide season.
Governor Okowa said the state government had concluded plans to set up a task force comprising of the police, the military, FRSC officials and the Delta State Traffic Management Authority to handle the traffic situation.
He called on the military and the police to dismantle their checkpoints around the bridge so as not to frustrate any action aimed at easing traffic gridlock, adding that his administration would assist the Corps with logistics in traffic management, even as he solicited the cooperation of all in making the state’s roads safe for all users.
‘I am glad that the boss of the FRSC is here again this year to ensure that we have the free flow of traffic across the River Niger bridge. You have done this year for which we are very grateful,’ the governor remarked at the occassion.
‘Personally, I thought that there will be less of travelling this year, but apparently, from the brief I have, it appears that people are even travelling the more this year, but I am glad that you have come to see what you men are doing in combination with the task force that we are setting up.
‘It is my hope that, working together, they [our taskforce and FRSC officials] will be able to ensure truly that we have a free flow of traffic at that point [the River Niger Bridge]. The question is until the second Niger Bridge is truly finished, we may be going through this ritual [traffic gridlock] on a yearly basis,’ the governor said.
Earlier, the FRSC Corps Marshal, Dr Oyeyemi, said he was at Government House Asaba to brief the governor on the annual review meeting on how to ease traffic at Asaba bridgehead.
Dr Oyeyemi said his men have been deployed to the area to ensure that no passenger or other road users are stranded on the Asaba/Onitsha route during the holiday season.
‘This is the sixth in the series of our annual review meetings in respect of the end of the year patrol operations especially as it concerns the major corridors in the southern part of the country,’ he said.
‘I have deployed additional personnel; I deployed 600 yesterday to Anambra and this morning, we are deploying over 652 personnel to Delta State. We have mobilised our two heavy-duty recovery vehicles if there is any breakdown of vehicles on the road.
‘One thing I want to inform the public is that there is an unprecedented increase in vehicular density on the nation’s highways this year. Today is December 22, 2020, and since Sunday, December 20, we have witnessed vehicular densities.
‘So, there is a need for extra patience on the part of road users. We have tackled the other problem at Onitsha end; so, there is no obstruction there and with the heavy-duty recovery vehicles donated by the state government, we can promptly remove any broken-down vehicle,’ he said.
While commending Governor Okowa for his sustained support through vehicles and other logistics, the Corps Marshal advised all road users to be patient and obey traffic rules while on the road.
He said the Corps will enforce all rules that would ensure safety on roads and the fight against COVID-19 spread and advised all motor parks to comply with the federal government’s protocols against the virus.