Paul Osuyi, Asaba
The routine nightmare associated with travelling to the eastern part of the country through the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha expressway during the Yuletide may not be experienced this year, following ongoing repairs on deplorable portions of the road.
Commuters on this road usually groan during the festive season, with long stretches of vehicles stuck in traffic. The traffic gridlock is always as a result of ditches on the road that takes a chunk of time for motorists to meander through.
The situation is particularly worse at the Asaba end of the Niger Head Bridge, where about two kilometres of the approach is in a deplorable condition. Interventions in the past never stood the test of time.
In fact, large portions of the approach to the bridge recently collapsed, making the journey from Asaba to neighbouring Onitsha in Anambra State last an entire day, a distance of less than 30 minutes, if the road were in good shape.
But the pains and frustrations associated with vehicular movement, particularly on the Asaba end to the bridge during the Yuletide may become history.
Delta State government has elected to fix a deplorable distance of 1.5 kilometers to the bridge to bring succour to travellers on the dual carriageway.
When Daily Sun visited the road, the contracting firm, Levant Construction Company, had already mobilised men and equipment to site, and work was in progress, even though part of the dual carriageway leading to Onitsha was shut to traffic.
Motorists were not complaining about the closure but commended the contractor for mobilizing to site, and urged him to expedite action in order to quickly free the route for free flow of traffic.
Commissioner for Works in Delta State, James Augoye, told our correspondent that the 1.5 kilometers Niger Bridge approach was not the only place on the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha highway that the state government was working on.
Augoye said intervention work was also going on at Ubulu-Uku junction, where a 300-metre stretch of the road was also in deplorable condition.
“For the purpose of clarity, the bridge approach is not the only section we are working on, we are also working at Ubulu-Okiti junction, which is about 300 meters.
“What we are doing at the Bridge Head is 1,500 meters, which is 1.5 kilometers. The scope of work here involves excavation of unsuitable materials. The soil that was initially introduced, that is, the laterite, is no longer suitable, it is heavily soaked and it is expanding.
“We are removing it and introducing sharp sand. After that they lay crushed stones before the two layers of asphalt to make it more durable. So, there is no doubt that the road is going to be more solid than as it was before,” Augoye said.
Sight engineer for the project, Tarek Marui, gave the assurance that the job would be completed within one month, noting that the job would be durable and not fail again.
“The traffic is high on this road but, with our experience, we know how we work to ensure durability. We started filling with sharp sand, and the sand will come from under the laterite. The red sand is ready to suck the water and spoil the road.
“The sharp sand will collect the water and throw it outside. One point five kilometers is the distance. We are working under the rain at the moment, so you give us one month, to fix the place,” Marui said.
Worried by the deplorable nature of federal roads, generally, across the three senatorial districts of the state, the state government had complained to the federal government to come fix the roads but the federal government stated that such financial undertaking was not captured in the 2019 budget.
Hence, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and his administration applied to fix the road in the interim, with the possibility of the federal government making the refunds in future. The approval was recently granted.
According to the governor, the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha road is an important route to the state, as most passengers using the Asaba Airport were from the eastern part of the country, and they needed to enjoy the continuation of their journey after alighting at the airport.
Besides, he said the economic significance of the road to the nation could not be over-emphasized, as it was the only route to access the eastern part of the country from the north, by land.
“This road and others are very important, especially to our people who are the road users,” he said, urging the federal government, to as a matter of necessity, re-assess all roads that were constructed 20 years ago with a view to reconstructing failed ones.
“I know that Deltans are unhappy with the deplorable state of federal roads across the state. We may not have the resources to do the road but we can do palliative work on them.
“After applying for permission from the Federal Government to embark on the rehabilitation of these failed roads in the state, we got approval and we have deployed contractors to commence work on the very bad spots,” the governor said.
On the cost, Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, told journalists during an interactive session after the State Executive Council meeting in Asaba, that the state was spending more than N1 billion on the repairs of federal roads.
Aniagwu listed the federal roads whose failed portions would be rehabilitated by the state government as Benin-Sapele, Benin-Onitsha and Agbor-Abraka-Eku.
“You are aware that commuters are facing a lot of hardship on the roads; it has become so difficult to enter Onitsha, because the road at the Asaba end of the bridge is very bad.
“The good news is that Federal Government has reached out to us to repair these roads and we are very optimistic that by the time we are done, the government will attend to us for the purpose of refunds.
“We are more concerned with the safety of our people and that is why we are committed to fixing these roads which will take more than N1 billion,” Aniagwu said.