By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
The recent tweet by Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State on the negligence and poor state of federal roads crisscrossing the state has reopened the serious pains and wounds inflicted on the dilapidated state of the roads.
Gov. Ikpeazu had on the tweet noted”Abia as a state bordered by seven other states is replete with a number of roads cutting across the state into other states. However, almost all of such roads are in a state of total disrepair, causing untold hardship to road users across the country”.
The governor called for urgent interventions of the federal government on the affected roads.
It will be recalled that Ikpeazu’s administration has done some critical interventions to remedy the situation and ameliorate the plight of Abians and other road users occasioned by the situation. Such interventions is the alternative road to Akwa Ibom through Ekwereazu.
Unfortunately, Ikpeazu’s interventionist efforts, as indicated by the series of tweets, suffered a hitch as the state received a letter from the federal government stopping it from an ongoing construction the state embarked along a federal road.
Gov. Ikpeazu appeal extended to immediate intervention of the federal government on the Osisioma Owerrinta through NNPC Depot which the federal government through its Ministry of Works had stopped.
True to Ikpeazu’s assertions, the federal roads crisscrossing Abia are in dilapidated state. A special mention here is Aba-Ikot Ekpene highway which has been roundly neglected by previous administrations of the federal government. The road project was reportedly awarded in 2009 to Brent Investment Ltd, by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration at the cost of N2.9 billion with a completion period of 20 months; the contract was meant to reconstruct the failed section of the highway.
It has been alleged that inadequate budgetary provisions in the past years has been responsible for the delay and the gradual failure of the road hampering economic activities in the commercial city of Aba and other cities in the South-east.
For example, the federal government did not make budgetary provisions for Aba-Ikot Ekpene road in 2013 budget, and so the contractor did not do much in terms of coverage and project completion. Also, the 2014 budget which was tagged all inclusive with a provision of N120 billion for the Federal Ministry of Works for capital projects could not proffer the solution.
The deplorable state of the road is exerting serious negative impact both on the Abia economy and citizens of Aba, especially those communities located on the fringes of this federal highway such as Alaoji, Ntigha, Umuafukwu, Ohanze, Umuokpo, and Onicha Ngwa, just to mention but few.
These communities are mostly agrarian communities and depend, to a greater extent, their farm produce for a living. For these communities to access Aba, which is their nearest commercial city, is akin to the proverbial “camel passing through the eye of the needle”. For them to access the town, they swim like amphibians and engage in a more tortuous odyssey than that of the “Magi” in T.S Elliot’s “The Journey of Magi”.
It is worthy to note here that sometime ago,an AfDB team accompanied by another team from the Federal Ministry of Works, Abuja had on the spot assessments of the road .
The inspection tour offered them the opportunity of first hand information of the level of decay of the roads and the trauma and suffering of the residents and travellers in and around the road. AfDB did a technical analysis and studies of the roads before releasing funds for repairs of the road. The visit offered new hopes that the road would be fixed but to no avail.