Special Report by Ebuka Onyekwelu
As heavy downpours continue across Anambra state, the condition of most roads in the state is only getting worse, with many nearing total collapses, even as some are experiencing diverse levels of erosion. From Awka the state capital to Onitsha the commercial never centre, and to Nnewi the industrial hub of Anambra state, and down to suburban areas and villages, the story is the same.
In Anambra state, road infrastructure is very important to residents because of the high level of business activities. Many business people in the state move conveniently from Onitsha to Nnewi or Awka almost daily, for one business activity or another. Simply put, the people are usually on the go and therefore mostly using the road as that is nearly the only existent means of transportation in the state, except in few places around the riverine where boats are used for transportation. That is why the road is very important to Anambra residents.
A careful observation of criticisms of the government in Anambra state steams of the government’s inability to construct roads, maintain or repair failed portions of roads. With this, it is an unspoken rule that to be a good governor of Anambra state, one must pay serious attention to road conditions in the state.
Not surprisingly, many Anambra residents are heavily criticizing the government of the day because of the prevailing conditions of major Anambra roads. In Awka, the section from Amansea to Ugwu Oba in Enugu state is in a terrible condition. Although this is a federal road, however, it is counted as a failure on the part of the Anambra state government. At Amansea junction, the road linking it to Ebenebe is also in a terrible condition. On the other side, the road linking Amansea to Ufuma in Aguata area which was nearing completion only a few years ago but was suddenly abandoned, has comprehensively failed, creating pockets of erosion along with the abandoned project.
From Awka to Onitsha, despite some ongoing work which has been suspended for some time now, Amawbia to Umuokpu through Ukpo is in bad condition. One lane of that long stretch of road around Umunnya in Oyi local government has been dormant for long now because commuters simply cannot use the road anymore. This is one of the most important roads linking Awka and Onitsha. Along this road, there is developing gully erosion on the lane coming from Onitsha towards the Ukpo junction, which is threatening to cut off the road. Then the Onitsha and Owerri road, though a federal road, is one of the busiest roads in the whole of Anambra state, most part of the lane going to Onitsha has failed and are no longer in use. This development has increased traffic jams along that road and one can hardly imagine how that place will be during December. Yet, federal government is constructing rail from Nigeria to Niger Republic.
In Nnewi, it is a harvest of bad roads all around, with no palliative, no sign of any kind of work or intention of work, soon. Nnewi to Oraifite is in bad shape, perhaps, only Nnobi to Nnewi is in good shape. Ekwuluobi to Awka is in bad shape. The Uga to Ekwulobia road has been in a very bad condition for so many years now. Despite that Uga as a town has produced Sen. Ugochukwu Uba who served as a senator for four years and Sen. Andy Uba who served as a senator for eight years, yet, the road remains as bad, and only getting worse. The road links Anambra and Ideato Imo state and is in constant use by commuters connecting Imo, Aba and Umuahia from Anambra state.
With the rain and increased flooding being experienced across Anambra state, these roads irrespective of their classification remain of utmost concern to Anambra residents and it remains to be seen how the government will rise to the challenge. Although it is not clear what the government is doing or intends to do to address the concerns of the public, however, most of these roads are in very bad condition and there are chances that it could only lead to an increased number of erosion sites in Anambra state which government is working hard to contain. Like in Nnewi, the government is working on two erosion sites that have cost the state some billions of Naira to control, yet the challenge ahead appears even more precarious with the conditions of Anambra roads many of which are fast degenerating into gullies.
As the election season draws even closer, it is far more uncertain what becomes of the conditions of these roads as the government may likely put up a theatrical show of repairs, while the opposition will mount pressure crying wolf. The government may also be more eager to leave a signature project as its own legacy, thereby not given to pay sufficient attention to the roads. In any case, the honest question however remains; can either of the divide be trusted? This is considering that it is common for the government to mobilize contractors to move to sites just close to the election and pretend to be working on bad roads only for the contractors to disappear after the election. It is also common for opposition to claim they can perform only to abandon their promises after winning the election. With about one year to the governorship election in Anambra state, it remains to be seen how the government of the day will handle the growing criticism based mainly on the conditions of roads or how the opposition will as usual politicize this for their own ends.
Considering the texture of Anambra soil, any serious government in Anambra state must prioritize road construction alongside standard drainage in an attempt to control the incessant erosion problem across the state. This is a long term solution that requires more careful planning and not the haste in scoring political points. There is also need for synergy between Anambra lawmakers especially at the National Assembly for collaboration so that the state is favourably disposed to get ecological attention and funding, which must be judiciously utilized. Development transcends political or party differences, and for any long term sustainable solution for Anambra roads, this synergy is key to good results.
The state must also have an established culture of maintenance. The Anambra State Road Maintenance Agency must be up and doing. Little portholes in the road should get maximum attention across the state not just within Awka city, as against the persistent order where potholes are mostly ignored and they go on to provide the leeway for constructed roads to degenerate and continue till the roads become altogether impassable. There is need to show seriousness in managing government properties by the authorities in charge. Also, residents of Anambra state must desist from converting constructed drainage into their refuse dump. This blocks water channels, thereby creating flood problems and washing away constructed roads like in Arthur Eze Avenue in Awka.
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