IF your automobile is not a truck or a rugged Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) with an auxiliary gear, it may be advisable to steer clear of Enugu-Onitsha expressway and most of the other federal roads in the country that are now in horrifying and extreme deplorable condition.
Even if you are travelling with such special vehicles, the squeaking sound that will punctuate every move across the ditches and life threatening bumps will continually confirm to you the toll on your life, on the lives of other commuters and on the vehicles.
Also, as you crawl through the upsetting stretch at less than 15 Km per hour, you would be confronted by the roadside signs announcing speed limit of about 100km per hour. This is not a joke on the irony of our existence in this part of the world; it is the hard reality. Welcome to Nigeria’s highways of grief!
An investigation conducted by The Nation shows that most of the federal roads in the Southeast zone have become death traps. From Enugu-Awka-Onitsha road to Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia-Aba-Port Harcourt road; from Oba -Nnewi -Okigwe road to Anam Kogi road; from Aba-Ikot Ekpene Expressway to Aba- Azumini federal Highways, commuters told The Nation that the situation has become too bad to contemplate.
It seems only some of the federal roads in Ebonyi State, which were reportedly reconstructed and rehabilitated by the state government, and a few others are today still in admirable condition, according to our correspondents who commuted along the highways in the zone to witness the situation first hand.
Our investigation on the state of federal roads is not limited to the Southeast geo-political zone. In fact, reports from our correspondents in other parts of the country, which we will present in subsequent editions, like that of the Southeast (in this first instalment), are also bitter tales of woes, anguish, frustration and pain.
Aware of the plight and cries of commuters, the Federal Government of Nigeria has not only made promises but has also reportedly awarded contracts for immediate reconstruction and rehabilitation of most of the deplorable roads in the country.
Our reporters, who attested that reconstruction and rehabilitation works have actually commenced on some of the roads however reported that in the last few months, some of the contractors stopped works, a development that has worsened the situation and had led to speculations that the government may have abandoned the roads.
Government agents, who spoke to our correspondents, denied such insinuations, blaming factors like the rains and other contingencies for what they described as the ‘temporary lull.’ But because of the untold sufferings, commuters are not impressed and are therefore calling on the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to come to their aids.
It would be recalled that in April this year, the federal government gave specific reassurance on its commitment to reconstruction of deplorable federal roads in the Southeast when it said it was executing 58 roads and bridges projects in the Southeast geo-political zone alone.
The then Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, Alhaji Mustapha Shehuri, who made the declaration in Abuja when he received a delegation from Igbo World Union (IWU) led by its President General, Dr. Mishak Nnata, cited Enugu-Port Harcourt road, Onitsha-Enugu expressway, Onitsha-Owerri road, Ninth mile-Orokam road, Nnewi-Enugu road and Onitsha Eastern Bypass as parts of the ongoing road projects.
As he puts it: “At the inception of this administration in 2015, we met a lot of mess in the system, particularly, in the area of infrastructure.
“As I speak to you now, we need nothing less than N3 trillion to fix road infrastructure in the country and as at 2015 when we came in, budgetary allocation for road was just N18 billion.
“The N18 billion would not have gotten anywhere, but in view of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to developing infrastructure in the country, the budgetary allocation was increased to over N480 billion in 2016.
“The allocation was increased, notwithstanding the dramatic fall in the price of crude oil that led the country to recession at the beginning of the administration,” he said.
He also explained that “the federal government had come up with several initiatives, which included the Sukuk Fund, Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund and Tax Credit Policy to address funding challenges in the execution of the road projects.”
Given that the same roads the government said it had commenced reconstruction works on seven months ago are still being described as death traps today, observers are curious to know why this and successive governments in the country have remained seemingly unable to fix the roads and save commuters from ceaseless agonies and untimely deaths.
Huge budgets apart, Enugu-Onitsha expressway remains a nightmare
ENUGU-Onitsha Federal Expressway has been a reoccurring decimal in the Federal Government of Nigeria Budget since 2005.
But the road can be described as the worst and most dilapidated express way in Africa.
A normal journey of 1 hour 30 minutes from Enugu to Onitsha now takes close to six hours.
The rehabilitation of the road project which has appeared in the Federal Government of Nigeria Budget for about 15 years is yet to be half done let alone completed.
Following are the appropriated amount for the said road from 2005 – 2019 year by year and amount in Naira.
2006—- N2, 052,860,000.00
2010 —- N4,800,000,000.00
2016 —– N5,468,119,561.00
2018 — — N5,634,524,077.00
2019 —– N2,637,286,449.00
Total —- N45,304,159,009.28
As at the time of filing this report, no work was ongoing on the road.
When our Correspondent made enquiries at the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) office in Enugu over the condition of the road, he was referred.
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