Motorists and commuters plying the Benin- Sapale- Warri expressway have been groaning over the deplorable state of the busy highway in Delta State.
The ever-busy interstate highway which links ‘Mosogar Tinapa’ palm wine joint to Oghara , in Ethiope West local government area, can best be described as a death trap as the axis has become dilapidated to the extent that travelers are held up at the location for hours.
The Benin-Sapele road which is the only highway to the Niger Delta region has become a death trap for motorists who have no idea which side of the road is good because it is all covered with water. They try to use one side of the road, but when all vehicles struggle to make use of one lane, there is usually heavy traffic for hours and sometimes they spend a lot of time there trying to navigate.
Aside decrying the loss of man- hour to the deplorable condition of some of the federal roads in the state, some motorists and other road users have continuously raised the alarm that the bad condition of the Sapele axis of the road also exposes them to armed robbery attacks, particularly at night.
They harped that the bad portion of the roads does not only affect adversely their smooth drive from Benin city to Sapele, Warri and other places in the state but puts both their lives and vehicles at risk stating that they are often being left stranded on such spots for days . They revealed that
at least ,10 communities between Okpare waterside and Amukpe roundabout, as well as Ethiope East local government road.
Residents and traders in Okpara waterside, Igun, Ekpan, Aghalokpe, Otumara, Aragba, Adagbrassa, Ibada, Ovwori, Igbeku and other affected communities have also lamented the huge losses they have suffered, following the collapse of commerce in markets in the areas over the dilapidated road.
They complained in separate interviews that commercial vehicle operators have abandoned the route and diverted to Sapele and Abraka, the university community in Ethiope East Local Government Area. It is either they stay the whole day, particularly those driving heavy-duty vehicles, or their vehicles breakdown at the very bad spot by RCC. Tankers fall down while trying to pass the bad portion while smaller vehicles usually breakdown. Everything is bad about the road from the Benin section through to the by-pass and to RCC junction.
Not long ago, the state government wanted to start another intervention on the road, but it was said the federal government said the road has been awarded to a contractor and that made it very difficult for the state to do what it needed to do despite that the road has gone very bad to the extent that commuters are going through a lot of troubles.
The bad spot and potholes on the road were responsible for the regular crashes on the Benin-Sapele road. Several lives had been lost on the highway due to the poor and dilapidated condition of the road, as motorists no longer understand the safer side or part to ply.
Narrating his ordeal, a commercial driver, David Egbadi, who was trapped in the gridlock for almost two hours before he was able to navigate his way out of the failed sections of the road told our correspondent that motorists plying the road have been groaning over the deplorable condition of the road. He appealed to government authorities saddled with the rehabilitation of the road to “save travelers along this corridor from undue hardship by doing the needful without further delay.”
Another transporter, Emeka Odi, lamented that the federal government had allowed the road to becoming a death trap and nightmare, insisting that the failed portions of the road have aggravated severely. He also blamed the state of the road on the Delta and Edo state governments, saying they turned a blind eye to the highway until the rain sets in, thereby making the road impassable.
While pleading that “Government should help fix the road as what is happening on the road is a shame to the South-South. “We can’t believe this is the road to the oil-rich Niger Delta,” he said.
A resident along the failed portion, Abigail Sunday said they have seen officials of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) come to dig holes in between the two lanes of the road, “but their work created another death trap because when it rains, drivers don’t know where the holes are and sometimes it is unsafe to drive through the failed portion for fear of falling in the ditch,” she lamented.
Some of the traders asserted that even if the federal government had awarded contract for rebuilding of the road, the state government should fix the failed portion in Aghalokpe to revitalise commerce in their communities. Veronica, a trader in Aghalokpe, said: “Construction of the East-West Road for example, has been on for over a decade. You see state governments fixing bad spots for use of their citizens. We have had situations where NDDC also intervened to fix Kaiama end of the road when it collapsed.
“These interventions do not in any way alter the contract for construction of the road. They are only minor interventions so that communities around the road can go about their daily businesses. This is what we want the Delta state government to do. Fix the failed portion to save our markets, “she pleaded.
A teacher at a secondary school in Aghalokpe, who did not want his name in print, said: “It is a whole day wait to catch a commercial vehicle because almost all of them now go through another road. A civil servant simply identified as Robinson, pleaded with government to come and fill the bad spots on the road while the construction company handling the federal government project on the road does its job. Citizens of the state are the ones suffering, so the state government should come to our aid even though it is a federal road.”
Mr. Emudianughe in Okpara Waterside said: ‘’It is like we have been cut off from other parts of the state. The communities are just alone here. Our state government should not ignore our communities because we are on a federal road. We can hardly rush emergency cases from Eku Hospital to Teaching Hospital, Oghara because of bad road.”
Another community leader, Mr Andrew, said between Abraka, the University town, to Sapele should not be more than 30 minutes’ drive through the road, but because of the bad spot, most vehicles in Abraka prefer to go through Warri to Sapele, or Agbor to Benin and then to Sapele. The bad road is taking its toll on our weekly markets that used to attract people from Warri, Sapele, Abraka and other communities,”
He added: We hardly see people buy our wares because you can count vehicles that dare to ply the road in a week. Who will buy the things we usually sell in the market or by the roadside when vehicles do not ply this route anymore?”
While a lawyer, Mr. Gabriel Eyide, blamed the repairs work on the road instead of total reconstruction, a medical doctor at the state-owned hospital in Eku, confirmed that some patients referred to the Teaching Hospital in Oghara could not make it because they took longer route to avoid the Eku-Sapele-Oghara road, which would have taken just 40 minutes from Eku.
But Mr Charles Aniagwu, commissioner for information, Delta State, lamented the state is very pained as a government that these federal roads are in a very terrible situation and commuters from across the country are actually going through hellish situation to travel through these routes.
He said the state government has intervened in all the federal roads which have gulped several billions of naira despite that the state is not even going to ask the federal government for refund because what we did was to remedy the situation along those roads.
“We wish the federal government had given us approval to possibly intervene fully and that would have given us hope that we would be able to get back the funds. But even when we knew we won’t get back the funds, we have tried continuously to intervene on these roads.
We are therefore asking the federal government to mobilise the contractors to come and work on these roads because Nigerians are going through hell along these roads.
“What has become a challenge is that the federal government has taken far more than they can deal with in a number of these projects and that’s why people have been calling for the devolution of powers to the component units. This is important because when you devolve power and allow the component units to tackle these issues it means that you will also have an adjustment in the revenue sharing formular such that states will have more resources to to deal with some of these issues that affects our people.
Aniagwu, who said that the deplorable state of federal roads across the country justified calls for devolution of power in the polity, called on the federal government to take urgent steps to address the situation, said that the state government had spent enormous resources on interventions on federal roads but pointed out that some others had become dilapidated, without attention from the federal government.
He stressed that devolving power to component units would provide them more funds to undertake the task of infrastructural development of the states, including roads, that seemed to have overwhelmed the federal government.
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, also collaborated that the state has continued to intervene on federal roads in the state since 2015. “Some of you have had cause to accompany us on inspection of these federal roads. You also know that we have intervened three times on the Eku-Agbor-Uromi road which is also a federal road.
He disclosed that the attention of the state government had been drawn to a viral video on a failed part of Uromi (Edo)-Agbor (Delta) road and said that it was a federal road. He explained that the state government had intervened on two different occasions on the road.
“We were intervening on that road and other federal roads in the state until we were told by the federal government that the job of the road had already been awarded to a contractor. We have pleaded with the federal government to take another look at that road because it is in a very bad shape.
“Delta had been adjudged by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) as second least poverty state in the country. You will recall that when we revamped the Agbor Technical College, we intervened on that road, and we never asked for any refunds in these interventions. He thanked journalists to do more critical analysis on issues as watchdogs of the society by making governments accountable to the people” lfeajika stated.
Tired of waiting for the federal and state government intervention on the deplorable state of the roads especially Sapele road in Benin, residents and road users recently protested, took over the bad portion of the road near the by-pass popularly called RCC Junction.
The protesters expressed their disappointment in the Federal Ministry of Works and the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) as well as the Edo State Government which they accused of insensitivity to the plight of the people.
They argued that the Edo state government could have fixed that portion of the road to the benefit of the people and then get a refund from the federal government.
Led by human rights activist, Patrick Eholor, the protesters carried placards with various inscriptions and vowed to continue the protest until the road is rehabilitated. “We are tired of this kind of insensitivity of the government to the plight of the people. We must remind them of their responsibilities. We will make sure that we shut this road. They think that we are going to continue to suffer and smile. We are saying to Babatunde Fashola the Minister of Works that if your hands are tied because President Buhari has failed to do the needful, then resign if you don’t do that, we are not leaving this road.
“This is just the beginning, we have been peaceful, but we can take it to their doorsteps if there is need for that. They have to fix this road. We are tired of seeing police die, we are tired of seeing soldiers die, we are tired of seeing security agencies and other people die on this road. Accidents don’t recognize tribe and class. The governor ought to have taken action because this is his state by informing the state house of assembly and then referring the issue to the National Assembly through our representatives because people are dying, and businesses have been destroyed.
“The people who we have elected to various political positions have failed us so we the citizens are saying that we are going to continue this protest until the minister comes here to fix this road. We are here to stay, if they can force us to take COVID-19 injection, we must force them to fix this road”, Eholor told journalists” Elohor lamented.