Aare Afe Babalola, OFR, CON, SAN
Since the colonial days, Ekiti has always been land-locked, airport-locked, railway locked, industry-locked and power-locked, a development, which has adversely affected the economic development of Ekiti State. Conversely, most of the other states in the country have well macadamized dual-carriage roads, airports and rail links.
Ekiti State with a total land mass of 6,353 square kilometers (2,453 square miles), and a population of 2,398,957 (2006 census) came into being 22 years ago. It is one of the smallest states in the country. Indeed, it is the sixth smallest state in the country with Abia (6,320 square kilometers), Ebonyi (5,670 square kilometers), Imo (5,530 square kilometers), Anambra (4,844 square kilometers) and Lagos (3,345 square kilometers) queuing after it in that order.
Interestingly, each of the four Federal roads leading to Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, is not more than 30 miles from Ado-Ekiti.
Four federal roads leading to Ekiti State:
Because of its central position in the hinterland, there are four federal roads constructed by the Colonial Masters over 100 years ago all of which pass through Ado-Ekiti linking the state with Osun, Kwara and Kogi as well as Ondo states.
•The first one is from Ado-Ekiti to Otun and Kwara State,
•The second one is from Ado-Ekiti through Effon-Alaye to Ilesa, the Old Oyo Province,
•The third is from Ado-Ekiti through Ikere-Ekiti to Akure, Ondo State, and
•The fourth one is from Ado-Ekiti to Ijan, Iluomoba, Ode, to Lokoja, Kogi State.
The tragedy is that all the four federal roads which have been serially neglected by successive central governments have since become impassable death-traps. This has lead many users of these failed federal roads navigating their ways through bush paths to get to their various destinations.
Between 1999 and 2007, the Obasanjo government embarked on the construction of a new road linking Efon-Alaye with Ado-Ekiti, to by-pass the old and winding road from Effon Alaye through Aramoko and Iyin to Ado-Ekiti (about 20 miles).
As a matter of fact, the new road, though not tarred, was already motorable. However, the road was not tarred before Obasanjo left office. The tragedy again is that even though it is a federal road, it has been neglected by the Federal Government. Today, the road is overgrown with trees and shrubs.
Again, during his administration, Obasanjo started the reconstruction and the modernization of the road between Ado-Ekiti and Otun-Ekiti on the border of Kwara State. Unfortunately the reconstruction of the road was not completed before he left office. Again, it has been abandoned by successive federal governments.
In the case of the road linking Ado-Ekiti with Akure, Ondo State, no effort whatsoever has been made to repair or modernize the road. It has remained the worst death-trap of all times.
Lastly, the case of the road from Ado-Ekiti to Ikare and to Lokoja is not different. Today, it remains one of the worst roads around.
The role of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti:
Since our university, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, ABUAD and the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, are on the Ado-Ekiti-Ikare Road, we have been solely responsible for the repair and maintenance of the road and the old Ureje Bridge since 2010 until last year when the road was awarded by FERMA to a local Contractor for repairs.
Award of repair works on the road to a local contractor:
When the news of the award of the repair works broke out early last year, it was jubilation galore among millions of people that ply the road on a daily basis. But their joy soon became short-lived as the Contractor only ended up compounding matters thereby leaving the road worse than when it was awarded to him. Indeed, he has done more incalculable damage to the road and rendered it grossly impassable. In fact, the Contractor has abandoned the road.
The condition of Ureje Bridge got to a head on Monday, October 1, last year when the Bridge caved in with two people found dead. The collapse of the bridge led to the disruption of business for several thousands of people including transporters and those who have their means of livelihood along that stretch of the road.
The Ureje Bridge has deteriorated to the extent that today motorists suffer long queues both day and night with many turning back without getting to their initial destinations. God forbid, if the bridge should cave in, it will compound matters for everyone particularly those living along that stretch of the road many of whom have abandoned their homes as well travelers from Lagos to Abuja.
Several calls on Federal and successive Ekiti State Government on the road:
Over the years, I have written the Minister of Works & Housing, FERMA and successive administrations in Ekiti State over the deplorable state of roads in the state. When Ureje Bridge collapsed in October last year, I wrote to the Hon. Minister of Works & Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, to please come to our aid. Both the Minister and the Governor promised to do something about the bridge, but all that we saw was a pile of granite near the bridge most of which has been washed away.
Now the rains are coming:
Very soon, the raining season will set in again with the usual accumulation of debris, blockage of drainages and of course an overflow of water on Ureje River. If nothing is done immediately to mitigate what has now become a yearly occurrence, the bridge may be completely washed away.
The lot of Ekiti State inside failed federalism:
The critical question to ask at this stage is: What has Ekiti state done wrong to deserve this level of neglect? It certainly should not be too difficult for the Federal Government to dualize the only 120 miles of federal roads in the state.
My main motive of this Open Letter to the Hon. Minister of Works & Housing is to let the whole country know what Ekiti State is suffering in this failed federalism.
I am a firm believer in Ekiti Project and one of its founding fathers. As a concerned Nigerian who has contributed to Ekiti State and Nigeria more than most, I have the locus standi to make this strong appeal for the Federal Government to embark on an immediate construction of the 120 miles of federal roads in Ekiti State. This is the only way to make the state accessible and develop like its peers in the country.
When one looks at the fact that all the Federal roads leading to Ekiti State are nothing but death-traps, then it will dawn on any right thinking Nigerian that the time to act on Ekiti roads is now.
•Aare Babalola if the founder/chancellor, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti