Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
“I wonder why all the noise and claims on the pages of newspapers and on radio and television that the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway was being rehabilitated. They even quote up 70 to 80 per cent completion, but see where we have been trapped for the past three and half hours now, on the old road which is now the only way to Awka or to Enugu from Awka. Who is actually deceiving who?”
That was the outburst of one of the frustrated commuters along the Enugu-Onitsha federal road recently. The comuters were trapped at a place for over three hours at the Ugwuoba/Amansea axis of the old road where a deep gush from potholes has eventually turned to a gully just before the Ezu River. It made movement of vehicles almost impossible.
That particular spot where the road was also narrow, according to road users, started gradually to dilapidate but no one, not even the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) took any proactive measure to repair it. So, commuters kept managing it with less traffic, before the rains set in.
But with the increase in the rains and the attendant total breakdown of the little passable portions on the dilapidated expressway, the old road became the only road now for both the articulated vehicle and others, thereby condemning the only manageable road that links the two neighbouring states.
The Enugu-Onitsha expressway, which ordinarily should be the major thoroughfare, had been totally impassable with many trucks stuck and abandoned by their owners.
Gridlock on both the Enugu and Anambra ends of the road sometimes stretch to as far as three kilometres. In the past two weeks, commuters have experienced so much hardship that a journey that would ordinarily take less than an hour, now takes over three to four hours with the attendant breakdown of vehicles due to the deplorable state of the road.
A driver with of one of the popular transport companies, who plies the road on a regular basis, told our correspondent that he slept on the road twice last week. According to him, some perishable items that were sent to him had become rotten because he was not able to get back to Enugu from Onitsha on one of his trips.
At the moment, several vehicles to and fro Enugu do the ‘cross country’ of passing through the Inyi-Ufuma-Oko road in the southern axis of Anambra State, which takes at least three hours.
It got to a level that even government officials and influential persons who used travel in convoys and with security escorts to harass and intimidate other road users now find it extremely difficult to pass through the deplorable road, so, people now pour curses on them as they get trapped in the gridlock.
However, some ray of hope appeared to be on the way as the House of Representatives member representing Anaocha, Njikoka and Dunukofia Federal Constituency, Hon. Val Ayika, who was touched by the plight of travellers on Friday, August 2, mobilised truckloads of stones and chippings to the collapsed section of the road for palliative intervention.
The correspondent, who had been stuck at the dangerous spot for over two hours that day, ran into the lawmaker while he supervised the humanitarian job. Ayika said that it was a pity that governments were failing on their duties to the masses and called on both the states and federal governments to come to the rescue of the people.
“Actually, by virtue of section 14 (2b) of our constitution, the ultimate and principal purpose of government is the security and welfare of the people. About three days ago, on my way back from Abuja via the Enugu airport, I was held up at that spot for three to four hours. Having experienced that just in a day, I sympathize with the road users who use that route on daily basis.
“Based on that, I called the Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ubochi. I also called his Anambra State counterpart; Rt. Hon. Okafor. I told them that the simple definition of government is that those of us in positions do for the people what the people cannot do for themselves. I told them that, since I cannot get to the governors but I can get to them, and also, I’m a national legislator; so, let’s do something by way of palliative measure.
“What we did was, I ordered for those lump stones you saw there and hired some labourers to put them on the road. Because it’s a pitiable sight seeing traders losing their wares, seeing Nigerianslosing their lives and property by way of their vehicles falling into the gully by the side. You can also see the vehicles stuck there. That day I was passing, about three drums fell. These things belong to people and that’s one of those things that make people to get frustrated, you know, that can cause them stress.
“And I also have a motion I’ve prepared that I will move once we return from recess on the urgent need for the government to do something to stem the tide or to reduce the rising rate of suicide in Nigeria. A man who loses his vehicle and his trading wares in the process of trying to navigate a pothole will become suicidal. So, we need to take preventive measures.
“So, what you saw there was a palliative measure organised by me with the support of the speakers of Anambra and Enugu States. Again, this is an opportunity for me to call on the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) whose responsibility it is to maintain our roads. They have budgetary allocation to them on yearly basis. I mean, these are the kind of things that call for urgent and immediate actions,” the lawmaker stated.
Ayika also called on the incoming Minister of Works to do the needful on the road so as to save lives and property of commuters.
Also speaking, another road user who identified himself simple as Dr. Uche lamented that his business appointment for the day had been foiled by the traffic jam occasioned by the bad road.
He described as irresponsible the actions of the two state governors of Enugu and Anambra, as well as officials of FERMA, all of who use the road but allowed that level of dilapidation.
A commercial bus driver, Michael Udoka could not control his annoyance as he poured invective on those in authority: “This is wickedness; the governors, ministers and rich men all pass here. When they are coming, their police and army operatives will chase us away and they will use the only space to pass. What will it take them to repair here knowing that the express is now a no go area? We are totally disappointed. We thank this lawmaker whose name I don’t even know and whom I understand his constituency is not even this area. Yet he came to do something about the road. God will bless him. He is the type that should be in government. He is people’s representative indeed.”