. . . Bishop Ezeokafor Sends SOS on Umueze Uga
. . . We’re Awaiting End of Rainy Season – Govt
By Jude Atupulazi and Ikeugonna Eleke
Memories of the days when Anambra State was described as the state with the best network of roads seem to be growing distant with each passing day. This is no thanks to the sorry state of roads across the state, report Jude Atupulazi and Ikeugonna Eleke.
To assess the state of roads in the state, a visitor may not need to go far as, starting from Awka, the capital of the state, and its surrounding towns, the dilapidation stares one in the face.
But most worrisome is the daunting fact that even inside the premises of Government House; the seat of power, potholes are found, right after the entrance. The case is also replicated inside the Ministry of Works, a place supposed to offer succour to members of the public looking for pacification. It is much worse at the Jerome Udoji Secretariat, particularly at the entrance of the old section. The secretariat houses virtually all the government ministries and is the seat of the state’s civil service.
It is therefore wondered how the rest of the state or Awka Capital City will fare if these three critical places experience what others are going through.
Another menace facing the capital city is flooding. Residents of the city and those doing business in it always have harrowing experiences each time it rains, with some areas being notoriously prone to such. Perhaps, the worst of such places is the Obunagu Road Axis. Here, the water level each time it rains is such that water gets into vehicles as the drivers struggle to force their way through.
Fides understands that the situation in Obunagu Axis has been on for years, without the government doing anything to combat it. In fact, in a particular year, the flooding there was such that businesses around it were forced to shut down till well after the rains.
Another place is the junction that connects Works Road with Zik Avenue by Zenith Bank. One of the people spoken to by Fides recalled how the flood water entered his jeep as he waded though it on his way home.
The area behind the Government House is also not spared by bad roads. This area is mainly dotted by potholes that keep widening almost on a daily basis, despite its nearness to the seat of power.
The Ifite Road by Unizik Axis which was recently reconstructed, has gone bad again at some portions, with floods threatening to sack some business premises during rains.
As for Zik Avenue, the situation there has become legendary as large swathes of that road are almost submerged by flood during rains. Same also applies to portions of the Unizik Temporary Site Road where large potholes threaten to pull out car tyres.
For a state which recently spent millions as part of her Operation Zero Pothole Policy, questions are being asked what has gone wrong, especially when there is a government agency charged with fixing potholes and failed portion of roads.
That agency is the Anambra Road Maintenance Agency, ARMA. Launched during the regime of Mr Peter Obi, this agency, situated inside the Ministry of Works, was provided with vehicles and sundry equipment for road maintenance. But experiences over the years have shown that the agency appears overwhelmed by its task. When they do some roads, such roads invariably get bad again soon after.
Fides went to town to feel the pulse of the public on the state of, specifically, Awka Capital roads; just as it met with the state’s Works Commissioner for his input.
One of those spoken to, Comrade Osita Obi, civil and human rights activist, was of the opinion that there was no government and governance in Anambra State presently.
His words, ‘Anambra State is not working under the present administration and I also blame the citizens. Until citizens begin to engage the government and demand for accountability the potholes and bad roads will continue.
‘Citizens must stand up to confront the government by way of civil disobedience. For us to solve these problems we need to replicate that action meted to Ekweremadu in Germany here in Anambra State to our corrupt politicians and public officials,’ he said.
For Mr Okechukwu Udemadu, a commercial bus driver who plies Government House area to Nibo, a town in Awka South Local Government Area, he said that Nibo, a town within the capital territory, was even better than Awka, despite being a capital city.
‘Our suffering as drivers begin from the time we come through the Governor’s Lodge in Nibo to Amawbia. There are bad roads everywhere, and even the few spots that have been fixed by the road maintenance agency still collapse after a very short while. We have to keep going to mechanics all the time because of bad roads,’ he lamented.
A trader at Aroma who simply identified herself as Mrs Uchenna, lamented that even aroma which could be described as the heart of the town still had very dangerous potholes which had lasted for months, both along the Ifite Road, Secretariat Road and House of Assembly Road.
‘The potholes behind the House of Assembly Road, which were mended about three months ago are already in a bad state now. If you go to Amaku General Hospital Road, it is also bad; and for me who has to push my bananas in a wheelbarrow from that side where I live to Aroma, you need to see how much I suffer because drivers have to keep dodging potholes as if they want to come and hit me. It is terrible,’ Mrs Uchenna said.
As bad as the capital territory is, indigenes of the 10 communities that make up Awka North Local Government Area have also lamented, saying that they are in severe pain over the alienation of their communities from the capital territory by bad roads.
The local government area which is predominantly agrarian in nature and referred to as the food basket of the state, has been stuck with their agricultural produce, as the people cannot move them to town for sale.
A former local government chairman of the area, Chief Dennis Ngene, said the condition had reached a time when the people of the local government had no choice but to cry to the governor of Anambra State to come to their aid.
‘The situation is no longer funny,’ Ngene began. ‘How can we be a part of the state capital territory and yet be alienated from it because of bad roads?
‘We can no longer go to our villages. I am a leader in my community but for two months now I have not gone home; I have been stuck in Awka, just because the road has broken down. My community is Ebenebe, and it is less than 20 kilometers from the Government House, Awka.’
Ngene said that food produced from the area was now useless because after harvesting, traders who bought in commercial quantity could not go into the area to buy as they used to do, while the people could not also bring them to town to make sales.
He said the condition of the people in the area was so bad that those in the village had remained there perpetually, and indigenes of the village who lived outside could not also visit.
‘The rainy season has worsened the situation for us. Governor (Willie) Obiano was in the area during the campaign period and he promised he was going to build the road, which is just a single road linking the communities to Awka, but he has abandoned it.
‘It is so bad that the communities cannot even visit themselves. For people from Achalla and other communities in the northern part of the local government, they have to travel through three local government areas from Awka here before they can get home. But for us at Ebenebe, you cannot access the community by any available road.
‘We have made several efforts to meet with the Commissioner for Works, but all efforts have been futile. We are calling on him to please help us alleviate the plight of our people,’ Ngene pleaded.
When Fides met the man saddled with the task of fixing roads in the state as the Commissioner for Works, Engr Marcel Ifejiofor, he blamed the attitude of the people as the major cause of flooding which in turn damaged the roads. He said that was particularly the case with the Obunagu area.
Ifejiofor, who attributed the blockage of water channels to the flooding, while condemning those who blocked the natural water ways as they built their houses, however said that government would soon come up with a remedy as designs for fixing the problem had been made.
He charged members of the public to report anyone found blocking natural water ways while putting up structures for appropriate action against such people to be taken.
He also said that government was committed to building durable roads in Awka and other places, but only after the rains subsided; even as he praised the Road Maintenance Agency of the state for trying their best.
He said that asphalt not being water friendly, the government was now trying to experiment with interlocking stones which he described as more durable.
He pleaded with the people of the state to be patient with the government until the end of the rains.
Efforts by Fides to get the views of the MD of ARMA did not yield fruit. Repeated calls and SMS to the Commissioner for Environment came to nought.
Fides however gathered that government had acquired machines known as Dura Patcher from the U.S to fix potholes at the end of the rains.