Agony in South-East as Failed Federal Roads, Extortion of Motorists Persist




Failed Enugu-Awka-Onitsha Expressway. Photo by: HARRY AWURUMIBE

By Harry Awurumibe, just back from South East

It takes strong will for anyone to traverse the roads in Nigeria at the moment especially the federal roads in the South East geo-political zone of the country as failed federal roads litter every part of the region.

Aside the bad roads, the massive extortion and intimidation of motorists in the South East zone has reached an alarming stage with transporters seeing increasing numbers of Security Check Points along the same failed federal highways in this part of the country.

Worse still, the region has recently seen an upsurge in security challenges with the entire five states in the South East knowing no peace again just as the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafran (IPOB) hold sway in the region thus forcing the people to work only from Tuesday to Friday.

With every Monday declared “unofficial public holidays” or Sit-at-home, the South Easterners especially those living in the urban cities have been bearing the brunt of the current state of affairs.

Prompt News Online investigations have revealed that the people of the South East are really facing untold hardships in the lights of the above listed problems.

This reporter who travelled by road to Awka, Anambra state capital and the entire state entire South East geo-political zone recently can attest to the bad states of the federal roads in the region including the Enugu-9th Mile- Awka-Onitsha Expressway.

Others are Onitsha-Owerri Expressway; Enugu-Okigwe-Port Harcourt Expressway; Ihiala-Orlu-Anara- Umuelemai and Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene-Odukpani single lane roads.

Travelling in vehicle through most of these federal roads that crisscross the South-East geo-political zone has become very agonizing as it is a security risk.

The Enugu-Abakaliki road, Aba-Owerri, Okigwe-Okwelle, Anara- Owerri, Oba-Nnewi-Okigwe and Owerri-Umuahia are not spared either as many others are in the region are in deplorable condition.

Specifically, they are ‘Death Trap’ as kidnappers, rogue herdsmen and their likes use the bad portions of the failed federal highways stretching long distances to attack motorists knowing that they don’t have escape routes.

Failed portion of Anara-umuelemai-Umuahia federal road. Photo by Harry Awurumibe

Although, at some places, contractors are pretending to be doing something especially between Nachi Community and Orji River town in the Enugu-Awka- Onitsha Expressway on the Enugu state side, the bad portions across the region are mind-boggling.

In Enugu City, both lanes of the Expressway from Abakpa junction are in grave degradation such that vehicles, particularly heavy duty trucks are in constant breakdowns on the road thereby compounding traffic problems in the area.

In fact, motorists have totally abandoned the 82 Division Military Barracks by 9th Mile section of the degraded Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, due to its impassibility, thereby forcing commuters to overuse the single lane of Trans-Ekulu bridge, which often results in a terrible gridlock all day round.

The gridlock caused by the failed portions of the federal roads often time results to the attack of commuters by hoodlums across the states.

Curiously, the huge number of Police and Military Check Points on the Onitsha-Owerri Expressway and all the federal roads across the South East geo-political zone have not reduced the rate of attacks on travellers.

Also, the increased numbers of road blocks have been worrisome as motorists lament the extortion they face on the routes in the region.

Commercial vehicle operators and even private car owners are not spared the extortion at the multiple Check Points across the South East hence the high cost of transport fares in the region.

For example, Prompt News Online counted no fewer than 20 Police road blocks while seating inside inter-state bus going from Okigwe to Owerri through Anara in Isiala Mbano, Atta-Ikeduru and Mbaitoli local government areas.

At each stop, the bus driver parted with the sum of N100 without which the bus will be parked until the driver played ball while any private vehicle owner who also refused to pay the illegal toll fare will be subjected to harassment, intimidation and long delay no matter where the person is travelling to.

Sadly, some of the extortions are perpetuated openly as the security operatives now give change to the drivers when they are given high naira denominations without blinking eyelids. It is that bad.

Also, it was observed that at some Check Points civilians who front for the operatives confront the drivers to pay money to them and should they fail to comply, their side mirrors are either smashed or ripped off.

For the above reasons, transport fares in the South East are higher than any other part of the country while the duration of time to commute from point A to point B have been made longer because of the twin monsters of bad portions of the roads and delay at numerous Check Points along the highways.

For instance, the journey from Enugu to Onitsha which, in the good old days, used to take less than one hour now takes about six hours or more. The same for Enugu-Okigwe- Umuahia-Aba and Onitsha-Owerri routes.

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