- Asks FG To Expedite Action To Stop Motorists, Commuters’ Sufferings
From Joseph Obukata (The New Diplomat’s N’Delta Correspondent)
The ever-busy Benin/Sapele highway has become a death trap for motorists and commuters. It is one of the major roads in the South-South geopolitical zone linking the Northern part of the country.
The highway which is a federal government road, has been in a deplorable state over the years with many lives and property lost to its disrepair. It connects four oil-producing states namely Edo, Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers to the north, is one among the numerous failed federal roads constructed, owned and supposedly ought to be maintained by the federal government.
It is one road that falls among the infamous East-West Road in the South-south region which has gulped over N300 billion according to Nigeria’s former Minister of Niger Delta, Mr. Usani Usani, who at a time in 2017 briefed newsmen about the progress in the construction of stretches of the East-West road in the region.
According to a recent report by ThisDay, despite the controversy surrounding alleged fleecing of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) under his direct watch and supervision, Minister, Godswill Akpabia, is said to be making final plans to get N20 billion “working capital” for the East-West Rad whose completion date has become open-ended after it cost the federal government some N600 billion since the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
But the approval to release the N20 Billion to Akpabio, is generating concerns within government circles, with many questioning the purposes at a time of heightened public suspicion amid alleged massive mismanagement at NDDC under the supervision of the minister.
Worried about what have been sunk into the road project with no good result, particularly as its affects Delta and neighbouring Edo state, some member of the Warri Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) undertook a tour of the dilapidating road to witness first hand the pains motorists and other road users go through plying the route each day.
Mr. Okies Veeky, Chairman of the chapel and his Assistant Secretary, Mrs Betty Idialu, who released a statement to newsmen after the weekend tour of the road to ascertain the degree of its deplorable state following the persistent outcries by motorists, averred that the call for the federal government to expedite action on the project had become necessary to ameliorate the unending suffering motorists and commuters were being subjected to daily on the ever-busy road.
Travellers, commercial transporters and commuters from various parts of Nigeria have continued to lament over the deplorable state of the road which have caused many untold hardship.
Findings show nearly every part of the road have failed. Some sections of the road were at the verge of total collapse and could sever Edo State from Delta State if urgent steps were not taken to reverse the trend, according to NUJ. Most part of the road are filled with potholes, craters and gullies carved by erosion, making life miserable for commuters. It is especially worse during the rainy season.
The NUJ identified spots such as the stretch between Koko Junction in Delta State and parts of Ologbo in Edo State where over 20 lives were reportedly lost a fortnight ago when a fuel-laden truck crashed into a bad portion of the road and caught fire.
“As a union, we can no longer keep mute while the Federal Government continues to neglect the only access road that link the West to the South South region of the country. The earlier government intervenes the better.”
The journalists union recalled how some motorists had been spending days on some bad spots on the road in spite of the pledge to fix it by the embattled Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) after inauguration early 2020.
Decrying the deplorable state of the road, a truck driver identified as simply as Mr, Tunde who was conveying goods from Port Harcourt to Kano had his truck stuck in one of the bad portions on the road.
“I have spent almost one week in this Ologbo village because my truck ran into a ditch.
“I have been sleeping under the cold since waiting for another truck that will tow mine own from this ditch. I want to plead with the Federal Government to please come to our aid.
“Government is the only one we can cry to, we are really suffering and also losing money in this road.”
The journalists recalled that a similar situation had occurred in 2019 within the Adeje axis on the Warri/Sapele Expressway where motorists and commuters were stuck on the roads for days until Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta have to mobilise contractor to carry out some palliative repairs on the failed portions of the road to ease the suffering of the people.
The NUJ, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government, particularly the Minister of Works, Mr Babatunde Fashola, to intervene before further lives are property are lost to road crashes and bandits.
The East-West road project was first awarded in 2006 by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration but driven by the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administrations.
The project, a 657-kilometre dual carriageways stretching from Calabar in Cross River state to Warri in Delta state, was, however valued at N726 billion at the time and approved by the federal government at the height of agitations by youths in the Niger Delta.