– South-East roads, especially Enugu-Onitsha highway, succumb to gully erosion, raising fears of imminent collapse
Raphael Ede, Enugu, Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The Enugu office of the Nigeria Erosion Watershed Management Project, (NEWMAP), recently raised the alarm that ravaging erosion may in the near fear future lead to the total collapse of several roads in Enugu State. The agency said environmental threat on major federal roads in the state requires emergency measures to fix them, warning that the state would be cut off from the rest of the country with further delay. Project Coordinator of NEWMAP in the state, Mr Vincent Obetta declared after a recent tour of some gully erosion sites along Enugu-Onitsha expressway and Coal Camp; that “erosion is closing in on our roads and the hinterlands.”
According to him, “The sites along Enugu-Onitsha road are in a state of emergency and the one at the Coal Camp is almost swallowing a factory. The Ugwu-Onyeama road is almost gone; imagine when that road is cut-off at that half then, the motorist will be struggling on the part that is also in a deplorable condition.” He lamented that NEWMAP could not do much because of the rigorous process required before the agency’s intervention.
“If we go by the procedural method of NEWMAP; those situation we saw might either consume life or structures before the interventions could come to the people,” he said. Notwithstanding, Obetta explained that the agency has completed work at the Ajali water works and 9th Mile gully erosion sites and waiting for their inauguration. The project engineer of NEWMAP, Festus Ajibo gave further insight into the magnitude of the problem, saying that over N12 billion was needed to tackle erosion threat in Enugu state alone.
“For instance, to tackle the gully erosion at Umuavuru-Abor in Udi Local Government Area, it requires between N700 million to N1 billion. For the Onuiye Nsukka, it is a very massive project and it mighty gulp up to N5 billion and that of Anyazuru-Ohum Orba will gulp over N5 billion. The Agbaja-Ngwo is going to gulp about N500 million and these are state interventions. We are only being supported by the World Bank,” he stated.
Motorists have long abandoned plying the area except for residents of Ninth Mile and those whose businesses are located within the precinct with no alternative routes.
They lamented that the road has become a graveyard and called on the South-East governors to pool resources and repair the completely failed portions.
A commuter, Mr. Olu Omotayo, blamed National Assembly members from the zone for the travails of the Igbo because they did not stand up to demand for what was just for their people.
Elsewhere, commuters on the Onitsha-Awka end of the road appealed to Federal Government to quicken the rehabilitation of the road to reduce the suffering of road users.
They specifically mentioned the Awkuzu, Umunya and Nteje axis of the road as parts that needed immediate repair and described them as death traps this rainy season.
The Enugu-Onitsha expressway has featured for total rehabilitation in the national budget for decades but year in year out, the road deteriorated due to lack of maintenance.
Mr. Hyginus Nwamba said: “This road has been a death trap for many years, especially at the Umunya and Nteje axis where accidents usually occur and passengers robbed. There is no season that is good for the road, when it is dry season it will be better to ply but the dust will be too much for anybody to bear. The red dust will cover the entire road to the extent that you cannot see the next vehicle. It is terrible in rainy season because the mud on the road can trap a vehicle and whenever your vehicle breaks down on the road, you can’t come down to access it due to the bad road”.
A passenger Mrs. Benedict Njoku said she was once robbed when their vehicle broke down.
“Many drivers are running away from the road due to its deplorable state; they now take other better routes though far but more motorable than the expressway,” she said.