By Henry Umahi
The rich culture and tradition of Ebonyi and Enugu states were showcased last week. Many traditional dances with several groups performed before the jubilant members of the communities and visitors. The different groups that made an appearance included the Eribi Ogene Group, the Ogene Youngsters and the Omaba Masquerade, among others.
The people of Nenwe, Oduma and Uburu communities in Enugu and Ebonyi states rolled out the drums to celebrate as President Muhammadu Buhari officially inaugurated the 40.37-kilometre Nnewe-Oduma Road linking the two states, thus bringing to three the number of roads launched across the country since the beginning of the ‘Season of Completion and Impact’ barely two weeks ago.
The other roads officially opened by the President were the 304-kilometre Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega-Kontagora-Makera road, launched on Thursday, November 25, 2021, and the 24km Vandeikya-Obudu Cattle Ranch Road (Phases I and II) in Benue State, officially flagged of on Monday, November 29, 2021.
In his remarks before the flag-off at the Ezinike-Oduma village, President Buhari, who was represented at the event by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said the Nnewe-Oduma Road and others represented the manifestation of the commitment of his administration to improving road transport infrastructure, ease of doing business and job creation as well as prosperity to lift people out of poverty.
President Buhari, who described the roads already inaugurated as “a critical component of our national road network”, observed that one element of change in those roads was “the travel experience on new and well-built roads” as opposed to the not-too-distant unpleasant experiences from the old and previously unmotorable roads.
Also describing the roads as “part of our many roads to prosperity”, the President noted that reduced journey time as a result of the improvement in the road network meant reduced expense on travel, pointing out reduction in travel expense also meant more money in the pockets of travellers.
According to the President, the roads being inaugurated also represent “a statement of economic efficiency and ease of doing business.” He explained that a situation where the previous travel time on a road, which averaged one hour 30 minutes before construction, was reduced to 30 minutes after the completion of the road meant money and time had been saved.
Other elements of change in the roads being turned out by the administration, Buhari said, included the restoration of road furniture, such as lane markings and route assurance signs, which he observed, “had all but disappeared on our highways”, adding: “But our commitment to change has restored them, with the markings helping drivers to achieve better lane management and control of their vehicles; while the route assurance signs provide information about how much further or longer, the drivers and commuters have to travel and the distance to the next village, town or state.”
Urging commuters not to abuse the road and obey traffic rules and regulations, Buhari, who reiterated that the roads have been built to the highest quality of design and workmanship, added that if they are well used and not abused, they should last for the designed service life. He pointed out that there are many forms in which commuters abuse the roads.
Buhari said: “Road abuse takes many forms such as overloading of vehicles and trucks, which accelerates pavement damage, spilling of petroleum products, which dissolves all the components and allows water to penetrate, and converting the road shoulders to permanent parking places, that brings the onset of road failure from the shoulder.
“We must all do our best to avoid these practices, report them when they occur and act in a lawful manner to stop them.”
He commended Nigerians, who have contributed and are still contributing, in one form or the other, to the construction of the roads, saying the roads also represent a story of the capacity of patriotic Nigerians who were employed directly to build the road and the scores of suppliers employed indirectly who are responsible for providing the machines utilized in the construction. “These are not only nation builders to whom we offer our salutations, they are the heart of the Nigerian economy, the micro, small and medium enterprises that drive our economic growth,” he said.
In his remarks, Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, a senior advocate of Nigeria, expressed joy that the Season of Completion and Impact, which began from the North-West barely a fortnight ago, has revealed the Buhari administration’s investment commitments in road transportation and the impact on the citizenry, adding that it has also brought to the fore the administration’s commitment to infrastructure as a driver for economic growth and prosperity.
According to Fashola, who was represented by the director for highways, South-East zone, Engr. Bola Aganaba, “these projects represent major investment in road transport infrastructure, which is a commitment of the Buhari administration as a driver for economic growth and prosperity. They are visible and incontrovertible assets in proof of what Nigeria’s resources are invested in, from a combination of our earned resources, and borrowings.”
Reiterating that the inauguration and handover of Nnewe-Oduma Road was the third in the Season of Completion and Impact, the minister, who noted that it represented another example of what the country would experience in more days and weeks to come, listed the handovers that will follow to include the 142.2 x 2 (Dual) kilometres road between Shuwarin and Azare connecting Jigawa and Bauchi states and section III of the 106.3 x 2 kilometres road between Azare and Potiskum, connecting Bauchi and Yobe states.
Paying glowing tributes to investors in the first and second Sukuk, the minister, who noted that the fund has contributed immensely to the completion of many roads and is contributing to progress of work on 44 roads across Nigeria, said the impact had seen to the funding to completion, major road projects such as the Azare-Potiskum, Shuwarin-Potiskum and Sokoto-Tambuwal-Kontagora roads, among others.
He thanked the Ministry of Finance, and the members of the National Assembly, “especially the chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Works in the 8th and 9th Assembly for their support as well as the Debt Management Office for their role in previous Sukuks, which, according to him, have been most innovative and impactful nationwide, and for the Sukuk still being expected.
Fashola also thanked the ministry’s staff and contractors whom he acknowledged “have worked very hard to bring these projects to conclusion,” as well as the host communities for their cooperation without which progress would have been impossible.
“I hold them out as examples of what peace can achieve and the investments that collaboration and some sacrifice can deliver, if we embrace partnership with government,” he said.
The minister’s gratitude also went to the Federal Executive Council, which included all ministers in the first term and the current term, for their support, the President and Vice-President “who presided for long hours over the council meetings” and the governors of Bauchi, Jigawa, Benue, Cross Rivers, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Enugu and Ebonyi, who, according to him, “bear witness to fruits and the evidence of change by the Buhari administration, adding: “There is more to come.”
In his remarks, the Enugu State governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who was represented by the Commissioner for Works in the State, Engr. Greg Nnaji, expressed appreciation to both the Federal Government, President Buhari, and the Minister of Works and Housing for the synergy, which saw to the completion of the project that, according to him, began in 2013.
Describing road construction as the cradle of civilization, Ugwuanyi, who expressed joy at witnessing the handover of the road, recalled the harrowing experience that commuters went through before the Buhari administration took the road to completion, adding that with the completion the people of Enugu and Ebonyi, who he said were farmers, would easily bring their farm produce to various markets with ease.
He, however, urged the people to take ownership of the road, adding that the protection of the road against abuse would ensure its long and full life span and would continue to provide for the communities the ease of doing business as well as boosting their economy.
Speaking on behalf of the traditional rulers and members of the beneficiary communities, the chairman of Oduma Council of Traditional Rulers, Igwe Daniel Njoku, Diji 1 of Ezinesi Oduma, also poured encomiums on President Buhari, and the Minister of Works and Housing for seeing to the completion of the road which, according to him, was but abandoned until the coming of the present administration.
He said: “Every Oduma indigene will recall that in the past we travelled by okada to Nnewe with spare clothing as a result of the bad road.”
He added that the people also found it difficult to transport their agricultural produce to neighbouring markets, a situation which, according to him, had since changed with the completion of the road.
A bread maker, who plies the road constantly on business, Mr. Mkwachukwu Chinweba, commended the Federal Government, President Buhari and the Minister of Works and Housing for their consistency and commitment which saw to the completion of the work. He explained that as a result of the condition of the road, he relocated to Onitsha where he was doing his bread business but returned in 2016 when the road was rehabilitated by the present administration.
Explaining that the land of Oduma is called Alanni, meaning land of food, Chinweba said the people, who are farmers, suffered over the years as a result of lack of access to markets to sell their farm produce. He added that with the road completed, the people could now access the markets while people from other lands also come to Oduma to buy food, leading to economic benefits for the farmers.
For Princess Adaeze Oje, a housewife, farmer and also native of Oduma, the completion of Nnewe-Oduma Road has brought economic development to the town and its people with prices of farm produce now competitive and the people of Oduma, who had been forced to stay in other towns to do their businesses, now coming home to carry on such businesses and bringing development to the town.
Rev. Father Titus Udeh, Parish Priest of Saint Nicholas Parish Oduma, in an interview, recalled the hardship encountered by the people of Oduma before the completion of the road, thanking God that He has used the present administration with President Buhari at the head and Fashola as the executor to build the Nnewe-Oduma Road. He said that the construction of the road has enhanced the socio-economic affairs of the community.
Also thanking God for giving the community a gift in the person of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Udeh said the road has greatly changed the outlook of the community, pointing out that the completion of the road has drawn many sons and daughters of the community back home, leading to the building of many beautiful houses.
Earlier in his remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works and Housing, Mr. Babangida Hussaini, who was represented by the Federal Controller of Works in Enugu State, Engr. Olufemi Oyekanmi, gave a brief introduction of the project, saying the 40.27km road constructed by Messrs Reynolds Construction Company, was done in two sections with Section I, starting from Nnewe Junction and terminating at Oduma Junction, with spur to Uburu Road, and Section II, starting from Umagu Village in Ishiagu and terminates at Mile 2 Roundabout in Ebonyi State.