The condition of most major roads in the South-South and South-East of Nigeria, which link one state to the other and form a connection to centres of commerce, trade and industry, more often than not, leave much to be desired, to say the least.
To put it more succinctly, the said roads are mostly in deplorable states, often marked by deep gullies, treacherous ravines and other ugly features better imagined than beheld.
The trouble with most of the roads includes that they were poorly constructed, there were no drainages, or the drainages were inadequate, or yet still, that they had been left for too long periods without maintenance.
They make commuting and the haulage of goods, including food, raw materials and finished products to market, a nerve-wracking nightmare.
The condition of the roads accounts for damage to vehicles and the increased cost of their maintenance, which is then passed on to commuters and all Nigerians who must purchase the increased cost of the foodstuffs and other goods they convey.
The state of the roads is also the foundation of escalating vehicular accidents, resulting in multiple losses of lives and of limbs.
Most of these roads are designated ‘Trunk-A’ roads and thus come under the exclusive purview of the Federal Government for construction and rehabilitation.
The said roads include the Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi-Okene highway, the Benin-Sapele- Warri-Ugheli Road, Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene Road, Umuahia-Umudike-Ikot-Ekpene, Aba-Ossisioma to Port-Harcourt Roads, and the Onitsha-Owerri Expressway, among others.
Year after year, decade after decade, the roads get worse, more lives are lost and so are limbs, cost of living and doing business soar and Nigerians cry out, voices in the wilderness, often to no avail.
Most of the roads under construction have been abandoned, while the snail-pace work on others still under construction brings no succour.
Word on the street is that the Federal Government functionary responsible for the administration of construction and rehabilitation of the roads do not use them, and as such do not feel the pain of the commuters who do, or the pinch of the high cost of food and other goods that they cause to escalate.
For their part, functionaries at Federal Government level often explain things off to funding challenges, disconnections in budgetary cycles and lack of continuity in governance from administration to administration.
It seems however that a tiny light is starting to glow in the tunnel of despair, as some members of the recently inaugurated 10th National Assembly have drawn attention to the deplorable state of the South-South and South-East roads.
It is hoped however that this will not be another flash in the pan, or a passionate kiss at the start of a romance which will soon go sour.
The lawmakers are calling for the provision of immediate palliative measures to bring succour to distraught residents and commuters.
In the case of the Benin-Auchi-Okene road, for instance, the House of Representatives, days back, asked the Federal Ministry of Works and the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FEMA) to provide immediate palliative measures to ease the movement of goods and services.
Adopting a motion by Hon. Marcus Onobun on the current state of the road, the second in six days, the House also asked the House Committees on Works and Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FEMA) (when constituted) to investigate the causes of the road abandonment.
Onobun observed that the Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi Road, which is the only road that connects South-South to the Northern parts of the country, is currently in a deplorable condition.
According to him, road users currently spend between five and seven harrowing hours daily on the road, as a result of its deplorable condition. He disclosed that reconstruction of the road was awarded to Dantata & Sowoe Company Limited and MotherCat Construction in 2012, but has been abandoned since the past 11 years.
Onobun said the road has not witnessed any major work, leading to commuters and heavy-duty vehicle owners finding it difficult to transport their perishable and non-perishable goods en-route North to the South and from South to the North.
He said Section 10(f) of the Federal Highways Act empowers the Minister, Federal Ministry of Works, to carry out reconstruction/rehabilitation and maintenance of Federal roads across the country.
As is often said, where there’s a will, there’s always a way. We keep watching.