From George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Motorists plying the old Nekede Road, a suburb of Owerri, Imo State capital, were recently stranded at night as the road was nearly severed into two by gully erosion. This followed a heavy rain earlier in the day.
Passengers had to alight and trekked to their various homes. Those heading in the opposite direction (Owerri), also had to trek for about 10 kilometres to their various destinations. The collapsed road is the major access road to the Nekede Zoological Gardens, the only of such in the South East.
The gully erosion measuring about 40 feet deep was just about 12 feet close to the wall of the Nekede Zoological Gardens. To compound the woes of residents, alternative roads to the community; the Third and Fourth Inland roads from the Emmanuel College Junction, constructed by the administration of former Rochas Okorocha, had all collapsed long before the expiration of the administration in 2019. The Old Nekede Road was also reconstructed and expanded during the administration of Okorocha and it failed.
A spokesman for the community, Evans Anyanwu, said the community had long been abandoned by successive administrations in the state: “We have suffered in this community because of the bad condition of the road. The gully erosion that has been menacing that section of the road near the Nekede Zoological Garden has not be tackled properly.
“The road has no drainage. Whenever it rains, the old road is nothing but a nightmare for motorists plying it. We are calling on Governor Hope Uzodimma to urgently come to our aid. If the road finally cuts off as the gully is expanding especially this rainy season, that means the whole community will be cut off from Owerri.”
A commercial bus driver, Chukwuemeka Amadi, said: “If this link road is cut off, it means to get to Owerri, we will have to get to Ihiagwa and then to Nekede Poly Road before getting to Owerri, which is a long distance. Palliative measure is not enough here. First, the government has to deal with the erosion.”
Nkwanzema Pius, a resident, accused previous administrations of subjecting residents to unnecessary suffering because of the terrible condition of the road.
Ifeanyi Austin, a structural engineer, said: “If you look at the inland roads that had collapsed within one year after it was constructed by the government of Rochas Okorocha; you will discover that the foundation of the roads was faulty. The contractors or whoever did the job ought to have compacted the earth and not just filling.
“That is why the roads collapsed. So, no matter what measure is taken; if the erosion menace is not controlled, as the rains continue, the gully will continue to expand.”
Commissioner for Works, Ralph Nwosu, said: “We don’t even know the contractors that did that shoddy work, only Okorocha government knew where they had brought them. We are going for real reconstruction of the road not palliative measure. What is now needed is to find a permanent solution which is what we are going to do very soon”.