By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
For almost a decade, Aba- Ikot Ekpene Road, especially the Abia section, has been in a deplorable state. This is because the road, which could be described as the proverbial ” goose that laid the golden egg” has been roundly neglected by previous governments.
But hope has risen for the Abia communities that are lying on the fringes of the road recently as the Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe narrated his efforts to see that the road is fixed during the Abia South Peoples Democratic Party stakeholders meeting held at his country home, Ohuru.
Sometimes last year, the South East Senate Caucus, which Abaribe is the chairman, had with the President Muhammadu Buhari.Discussions on the decayed infractures in the South East, particularly poor state of federal roads and some other major link roads that require urgent attention, were prominent. Among the roads were the Enugu- Port- Harcourt expressway as it affects Abia State, Aba- Ikot Ekpene Road, Port- Harcourt Road in Aba, and the Azumini- Aba Road.
Fortunately, the parley has yielded results as contractors have been mobilised to site on Azumini Road, a major road that connects Abia with some Akwa Ibom communities up to Uyo, and also leads to the residence of a former President of the Senate, Senator Adolphus Wabara.
More heartening for Abians is that has commenced on Aba- Ikot Ekpene Road from the Akwa Ibom end. It will be recalled that not only that the project was captured in the 2016 budget, as 2016 was winding up, a delegation of the Senat Committee on Works inspected the road for them to appreciate the extent of damage, following a motion to that effect.
The startegic nature of Aba- Ikot-Ekpene Road to the economy of Abia State cannot be overemphasised. The road links Aba, the economic heartbeat of the state to Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers State and extends to the neighbouring Central African country, Cameroon .Traders from these neighbouring states form buck of the businessmen that patronise various businesses in the commercial city. Also, as of made-in Aba shoes is seriously rebounding, the road cannot be relegated to the background.
Aba- Ikot- Ekpene road is indeed the proverbial ” goose that lays the golden egg”. Unfortunately, to say that the road, especially the Abia axis of the road is in a deplorable condition is an understatement. The road is a disaster begging for serious attention.The road has been roundly neglected by previous administrations of the federal government. The road project was reportedly awarded in 2009 to Brent Investment Ltd, by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration at the cost of N2.9 billion with a completion period of 20 months; the contract was meant to reconstruct the failed section of the highway.
It has been alleged that inadequate budgetary provisions in the past years has been responsible for the delay and the gradual failure of the road hampering economic activities in the commercial city of Aba and other cities in the South-east.
For example, the federal government did not make budgetary provisions for Aba-Ikot Ekpene road in 2013 budget, and so the contractor did not do much in terms of coverage and project completion. The 2014 budget which was tagged all inclusive with a provision of N120 billion for the Federal Ministry of Works for capital projects could not proffer the solution.
The deplorable state of the road is exerting serious negative impact both on the Abia economy and citizens of Aba, especially those communities located on the fringes of this federal highway such as Alaoji, Ntigha, Umuafukwu, Ohanze, Umuokpo, and Onicha Ngwa, just to mention but few.These communities are mostly agrarian communities and depend, to a greater extent, on their farm produce for a living. For these communities to access Aba, which is their nearest commercial city, is akin to the proverbial “camel passing through the eye of the needle”.
To compound the situation, a sister road network, Azumini Road, linking Aba and some parts of Ukwa with some communities in Akwa Ibom down to Uyo was also in a deplorable state. The road was characterised by some failed portions which are menacingly threatening to cut off these areas. It could have also relieved Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road some pressure mounted on it.
While we commend Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe for his efforts on these roads and appeal to him not to relent, it will be a great disservice to overlook the laudable interventions of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu on Aba- Ikot Ekpene Road. We all know that Governor Ikpeazu had entered into discussions with his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Governor Emmanuel Udom for some interventions on the road. The governor’s second level intervention was the by-pass thatcut through Ururuka Road and burst at a point around Onicha ngwa, along the same Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road.
It is also in the public domain that a team of the African Development Bank (AfDB) was sometime ago accompanied by another team from the Federal Ministry of Works, Abuja and had on the spot assessments of Aba- Port- Harcourt and Ikot- Ekpene roads .The inspection tour offered them the opportunity of first hand information of the level of decay of the roads and the trauma and suffering of the residents and travelers in and around these two key roads .
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