Yinusa Sanni, who sells onions around Vegetable Market in Benin City, the Edo State capital, was not happy when two of his customers declined to buy onions from him in quick succession. These were regular customers who would usually not haggle over prices. On the two occasions, however, they refused to patronise him because they could not agree on price.
“My customers don’t know what transporters go through along the Benin-Auchi Expressway when bringing us food items. The road is terribly bad,” Sanni lamented.
The terrible state of federal roads in and out of Edo State has combined with persistently rising inflation in the country to push the prices of food items almost beyond the reach of the common people. From Benin-Auchi Expressway to Benin-Agbor Road to Benin-Sapele Road, it is the same story of dilapidation and disrepair.
Food inflation rose for the tenth straight month to 31.52 percent in October 2023, according to the latest data by state-owned statistical agency, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
States in the South-South geopolitical zone recorded some of the highest food inflation rates in the country, higher than the national average. Akwa Ibom State recorded 37.0 percent food inflation rate in the month under review; Rivers 36.9 percent; Delta 36.9 percent; Edo 32.2 percent; Bayelsa 33.2 percent, and Cross River 31.7 percent.
The South-East, South-South and South-West recorded the highest prices of onion bulbs as of September 2023, according to the NBS, with the item costing N723.63, N697.34 and N670.41 in the sub-regions, respectively.
On a state-by-state basis, Abia recorded the highest price of onion bulbs across the federation, at N862.35, while the item cost the least in Nasarawa, at N295.73.
Field survey by The Nigerian Observer revealed that a small-size onion bulb, which sold for N50 a month ago, now sells for N100. The price of an average medium size onion bulb has increased to N200 from about N100 a month ago. The bigger bulbs cost even more.
Some of the sellers who interacted with The Nigerian Observer attributed the sharp rise in the prices of onion bulbs to the state of federal roads in Edo State as well as the rising cost of petrol.
“Roads are bad. The big trucks find coming to this place difficult; only the small pick-up trucks bring onions to us here. How many trips will they make to bring enough onions to Edo?” Ahmed Waziri, an onion seller, queried.
He said because the quantity supplied is not enough to meet demand, prices of the item have been going up.
Recently, Edo State lawmakers in the House of Representatives decried the deplorable state of federal roads in the state and the South-South sub-region, urging the concerned federal agencies, such as the Federal Ministry of Works, Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, to urgently do the needful in order to alleviate the sufferings of the people.
On Sunday, October 1, while Nigeria celebrated its 63rd Independence anniversary, a petrol-laden tanker upturned and caught fire along Benin-Sapele Road, resulting in five deaths and the loss of several millions of naira worth of properties. Eight buses, two tankers, five trailers, two cars, and one motorcycle were burnt completely in the fire.
The Nigerian Observer had previously reported that the Benin-Sapele Road, which spans about 64 kilometres and should ordinarily take an estimated 50 minutes to travel by car, has become broken into deep muddy ditches and gulleys, which now takes bus drivers about six hours to navigate, while truck drivers reported being stranded for upwards of five days.
Our report added that several trucks also routinely tip over and fall, further hindering the flow of traffic and spewing goods onto the roads, which often get damaged or pilfered, causing irretrievable losses to the owners.
Senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Ede Dafinone, said recently that efforts had been made to reach out to the concerned authorities to fix the bad roads in the sub-region.
“We have written to the NDDC as an interventionist agency. They have put it in their 2024 budget to get the job done. Roads will be a major part of their budget for 2024,” Dafinone said during an Arise News programme.
He advised state governments to press to repair deplorable federal roads in their domains.
“Where a state government sees that a road is bad and people are suffering and there is no solution, or it is taking too long from the Federal Government, the state governments should take action,” he suggested.
Late September, Minister of Niger Delta, Abubakar Momoh, while on assessment tour in Delta State, canvassed collaboration between states in the sub-region and federal government with a view to addressing the state of federal roads in the Niger Delta.
Delta State governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, announced recently that work would soon commence on the N78 billion flyovers, cloverleaf and road expansion projects in Effurun and Warri axis of the state after the state government fully mobilised the contractor, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, with 25 per cent of the total contract sum.
“These are all federal roads and if a governor can approve N78bn to construct federal roads, then we need to collaborate to work for the people. Politics has come and gone and it is now time for us to see how we can develop the region,” he said.
In Edo State, the government has also commenced palliative work on the failed portions of the Federal Government-owned roads to ameliorate the sufferings of motorists and other road users.
Earlier this month, following the failure of the Federal Government to attend to the failed Benin-Agbor Road in Ikpoba/Okha Local Government Area of the state as well as other federal roads across the state, Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, directed the reconstruction of the old Benin-Agbor Road to mitigate the hardship the people were being put through due to the poor state of the roads.
Governor Obaseki explained that the new Benin-Agbor Road is a federal road and the Federal Government would not allow the state to do any work on it.
“This road as you know is not our road. It’s a federal road and the Federal Government has sold this road to somebody. They said they did a concession many years ago, about three years ago. So, they will not allow us to touch it. This one we are doing is by force because they know they cannot stop you and us but they are not going to refund us one kobo and we are not even going to worry asking them to refund us,” Obaseki said while on inspection of some of the palliative work.
“The permanent solution is, because this road is not our own and the Federal Government has refused to fix this road, we will now go and construct the old road which is ours.
“So, we will start the reconstruction of the old road this dry season and as usual we will put up barricades. No trailer or truck will follow the road. If the Federal Government likes, let them not do this road. The minister is from the South East and this is the main road to the South East. So, if he doesn’t want his people to go for Christmas, he is on his own. We will look for a way to get to our homes,” he said.