LAST Saturday, James had travelled from Port Harcourt to Enugu. He had expressed surprise on alighting at the Gariki Park in Enugu and had exclaimed, “You mean we are already in Enugu? This is unbelievable!” The last time he travelled on the road (seven months ago), it took the vehicle about six hours to wade through the muddy road to Port Harcourt.
Overwhelmed with joy over the short time it took him to get to Enugu, he declared that the rehabilitation on the road has given much relief to travelers, urging that it should be sustained on all roads across the country.
According to him, what used to be Enugu-Port Harcourt highway and others like that in the South-East had been nightmares to travellers.
This is as a result of ugly scars on the dual carriage roads caused by deterioration of the road that hindered free movement of goods and people. The situation of the road became so deplorable that much harsh and horrendous words were used to describe it, all in an attempt to call attention of federal authorities to the suffering of the masses.
Transporters, who resorted to making detour in villages around the deplorable road to either get to Umuahia, Aba or Portharcourt had threatened action against the government should it fail to rehabilitate the road before December of last year.
On several occasions, men of the underworld laid siege on the highway dispossessing commuters of money and other valuables, especially at the Lokpanta Junction near Abia State, where Hausa Cattle traders now use as parking lot for trailers.
Perhaps, it was in response to this cry by residents and road users that the Minister of State for Works, Bashir Yuguda, toured the road and other federal roads in the zone on September 2, last year, where he stated the desire of the Federal Government to repair them using the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency [FERMA].
He had said that immediate repairs would begin as soon as the rains eased, stressing that the same level of repair would be carried out in other failed roads in the zone with December 2012 as completion deadline.
Yaguda who inspected the Enugu-Onitsha highway, the Ekulu River Bridge, Emene along Enugu-Abakaliki highway and the Enugu-Port Harcourt road, added that the Federal Government had as at then paid N7 billion to the construction company handling the rehabilitation of the Enugu-Onitsha highway and reassured the people of the South East zone of its determination to complete all ongoing road rehabilitation projects in the area.
Travelling through some of the roads last week, especially the Enugu-Port Harcourt, through Abakaliki and Onitsha, it was observed that considerable rescue work had been carried out on the roads, making them motorable again.
It was further observed that the double lanes on the Enugu-Port Harcourt highway had been restored save for an area near Ihube where one of the contractors, Setraco, was still battling to fix.
A traveler, Ndubuisi Ene told The Guardian that the prompt response of government to complaints of the people over the state of the road commendable.
He urged constant monitoring of the roads so that other areas that might give way after the rehabilitation exercise could be taken care of before the total rehabilitation as promised by the Minister.
Early in February, Executive Director, Operations in FERMA, Francis Ikpenwa, was on routine inspection of the 93 kilometer Enugu-Otukpa road. He stated that the agency had introduced a new programme, termed “Preventive and Maintenance” for any road that was recovered to stop it from deterioration and attend to any identified failure immediately.
He said, “We have surveillance unit that ply the roads and makes sure that any identified pothole is attended to on time and in that way, it will reduce much stress. We watch our contractors very closely and we don’t wait until they finish. As they work, they are rated. So if a contractor is not doing very well, we will check him. There are many of them we have dropped while others have done very well. The contractors we have now are working very well.”
Managing Director of one of the companies working on the roads, Chief Festus Onuh gave kudos to the leadership at the Senate, especially the senate committee on works and FERMA for organising the rehabilitation, supervising the activities of the contractors and ensuring the contractors were paid for the jobs that they did.
He however suggested constant maintenance work on the roads, adding that serious retainership should be put in place for the maintenance of the road.
While praises are being showered on the rescue mission that had restored the Enugu-Port Harcourt highway, efforts should be made to hurry contractors, the CCC and RCC handling various areas of the Abakaliki-Onitsha highway to speed up efforts so as to complete the road before the rainy season peaks.
Till now, users of the highway are still being restricted to one lane of the road, the other lane having been closed completely awaiting rehabilitation