From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
In many parts of Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State, the state of the roads has been a major cause for concern. But right now, residents are beginning to nurse hopes, as the administration of Governor Douye Diri begins to confront the bad internal roads scattered across the state capital.
Roads in areas like PDP, Otiotio, Sapex, Deeper, Market Square, outer Swali Market to Osiri and Okaka have become pathetic. Most of the roads which were part of the 72 internal roads the former administration of Timipre Sylva constructed as part of its urban development project were neglected to a deplorable state.
Motorists cannot drive on the road without nursing fears of huge damage to their vehicles, coupled with the inconvenience of having to wait for other road users to pass due to the bad state of the roads.
For years, residents of the state groaned endlessly for the state government to take action. But their appeal, which later turned to anger, was in vain as the then Dickson administration focused more on big ticket projects. The then government paid little attention to maintenance and rehabilitation of roads.
At the outset of the Diri administration, Bayelsans invested hope and looked forward to a government that would confront the state of the roads. However their hopes were dashed as the COVID-19 pandemic which ravaged the world crippled global finance with devastating effects on many states in Nigeria, including Bayelsa.
A social commentator, Noel Dimi Inafa expressed sadness over the state of the roads which he pointed out were constructed by the Sylva government.
Said he: “Our internal roads in Yenagoa have reached their nadir. If not for NDDC that has been doing sketchy maintenance on the roads in the past, they would have been impassable by now. These roads were constructed during Sylva’s administration in 2008/2009. When Dickson’s administration came in 2012, he abandoned the roads till date. It took concerted efforts from some Bayelsans to plead with NDDC to rehabilitate the internal roads in Yenagoa.”
A lawyer and human right activist, Ebikebuna Augustine Aluzu shared the same view with Inafa over the state of the roads.
“I am particularly concerned about the poor state of the roads, particularly PDP Road, Okaka Road, Captain Ayeni Street during the rainy season. This concern has led me to take out an action against the NDDC.”
But recent findings indicated that the long night of suffering of motorists using internal roads in Yenagoa appears to be over as the state government has mobilised contractors to commence the rehabilitation of the internal roads in the state.
The Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr Moses Teibowei in an interview said work has commenced on some of the roads starting with the Commissioner Quarters road at Opolo which he said would not only undergo rehabilitation but also upgrading.
He said all the internal roads that are bad would receive adequate attention from the government.
His words: “We have mobilised various contractors to sites recently. The companies have started. The Commissioners quarters road is on-going, the GloryLand drive would commence before the end of January. That project was abandoned for over eight years and we know the importance of that road to Bayelsans.”
“What I want to say is that very soon you would see a firm working on PDP Road, another one is already working on Saptex Road, Green Villa and several other roads. Imgbi Road and the outer market Road would be worked on. And there are several other projects that we are working on which would come on stream. Thereafter we would go back to face the construction of other internal roads. What we are doing is maintenance but by February we would start constructing new roads within Yenagoa city and other local government areas.”
Investigations revealed that the state government recently received a lump sum of N27.5 billion from the federal authorities as refund of money spent on federal roads. The funds it is believed has boosted the revenue base of the state giving it the opportunity to embark on developmental projects. Already, work has started on Sapex Road.
Residents have however cautioned the state government to award the contracts of the rehabilitation of the roads to competent contractors.
Inafa said: “Let it not be like a jamboree or bazaar for political cronies who will see it as an avenue of amassing wealth. The state has received funds from federal government; let them utilize it judiciously for this purpose.”
Aluzu who also applauded the moves by the state government to tackle the menace of bad roads tasked Bayelsans to remain vigilant to monitor the progress of the roads.
Environmentalist and Programme officer of the Environment Rights Action and Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN), Mr Alagoa Morris urged Diri to redeem his promise to Bayelsans by working on the roads and ensure that the repairs are done in time and to standard.
“There is need also to re-strategise for effective drainage system in the state capital and environs. All gutters should have predetermined points of sending water, with proper gradient to prevent stagnation and breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” he stated.
Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Ayiba Duba said infrastructure development for Bayelsans is top priority for the Diri led administration.
“As a government we tell Bayelsans to keep trust in us. When we started,we told Bayelsans that we are not going to joke with the development of the state. Not just in infrastructure but even in the human capital development, which we are doing. By the grace of God the resources would be available. The governor has said by the way he came in miraculously, the funds also would come miraculously. And they would be used not for personal purposes but the good of generality of Bayelsans.”