FEATURE: Ebonyi residents lament bad roads despite multi-million naira allocation

‘The road has been this way for a long time. It is hard to access with vehicles and on foot due to potholes. But it gets much worse in the rainy season as one cannot pass this road with ease due to the wet and muddy ground’

Ebonyi, a state located in the South-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria, has an estimated 3.2 million inhabitants according to projections based on a 2006 population census of the National Bureau of Statistics.

Populace of which 25% life in urban areas of the state and the remaining 75% reside in rural zones.

While it is commonly held that urban areas are characterized by faster-paced development, advanced technology, and infrastructure, this is often not the case, as in reality, some areas within the urban zone are typically sidelined, leaving its inhabitants to enjoy half-baked benefits.

This is the story of Favour Chukwudi, a young mother living in the urban zone of Ebonyi, its capital city, Abakaliki. She is a resident of the Rt. Hon. Chukwuma Nwazunku Avenue has to live each rainy day in fear of flooding.

“The road has been this way for a long time. It is hard to access with vehicles and on foot due to potholes. But it gets much worse in the rainy season as one cannot pass this road with ease due to the wet and muddy ground,” lamented Ms Chukwudi, as she bathed her toddler on the warm Friday afternoon.

“If you look at the sides of the road, you’ll see that there are no gutters. Because of this, water cannot flow into any drainage when it rains, so it enters and fills the entire compound. Although, it doesn’t enter the house”, Ms Chukwudi stated.

The Rt. Hon. Chukwuma Nwazunku Avenue is located in Mile-50, opposite Ntezi-Aba, in Abakaliki local government area of Ebonyi State. The road is a long branching road off the main Enugu-Ogoja road and has other smaller spur roads within.

The two ends of the road, the anterior and the rear are in conflicting condition as the latter is mostly in good condition while the former on the other hand, is in a deplorable state.

Ogechi Egede, a 12-year-old student who walks to school on that road daily, has recounted her experience plying the route.

“I walk on this road whenever going to school, although I haven’t been going to school for a while now due to an injury I sustained on my foot. When it rains, other students and I have to struggle while walking on this muddy part of the road so we don’t slip and fall. Sometimes, we even fall and our bodies and uniforms get stained with the poto-poto (wet mud). Then, we’re forced to either go back home to wash it off or go to school looking dirty.

I remember one morning, while I was going to school, a man’s car bumper fell off when it hit one of these rocks around the steep potholes”, recalled Ogechi, carefully detailing the battles car owners and drivers face when using the road.

Victor Agbo and Emmanuel Ede, business partners, who run a tailoring and clothing shop, narrated their ordeal of having their shop at the horrid anterior of the road.

“Due to the state of this road, people find it hard to come to our shop to patronize us, especially on rainy days. They’ll rather look for alternative shops elsewhere where the roads are good to avoid being stained with the mud,” lamented Mr Ede.

He said the road, usually a puddle of sticky wet mud in the rainy season, hinders customers and potential clients from visiting their shop, which affects his daily movement.

Mr Agbo chipped in that in the dry season, the dust constantly blowing in from the road often stains the clothes displayed on dummies outside their shops, eventually affecting their quality.

“Due to the dust, it’s not every cloth we sample outside, we have to select carefully. The dry season has not come yet and we’re already seeing a lot of dust,” he said, wiping off a little dust on the surface of his table.

Afamaefula Igwe, a businessman who owns a provision store at the street’s entrance shares the same sentiment.

“In the dry season, the dust is enough to change the identity of my goods. In the rainy season, using my motorcycle is a struggle,” he said jokingly, describing how the dust makes his goods look old over a short while.

Abandoned Anterior

Mr Agbo, who has been a resident of Ntezi-Aba for over 24 years, recounted how the whole Rt. Hon. Chukwuma Nwazunku Avenue had been in poor condition over the years until construction started in 2022, but stopped midway.

“The whole road was so bad. It has even gotten broader over the years. For more than 24 years I’ve been here, the road was never worked on until last year when the government tarred only the end part of the road.”

Mr. Igwe added that residents of the abandoned anterior were left to wonder why it was abandoned. “Funny enough, they left our side untarred till now. No one knows why. If they can tar one side of this road, why leave the other side?”

Asphalting Roads Within Mile 50

In 2022, N70 million was budgeted for a constituency project with the title, ‘Asphalting Of Roads At Mile 50 Ntezi-Aba In Ebonyi/Ohaukwu Federal Constituency Of Ebonyi State’.

The project was facilitated by the former lawmaker of the constituency, Chukwuma Nwazunku, and executed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, to be supervised by the Federal Cooperative College, Oji River.

Documents from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation obtained, indicate that all 2022 Zonal Intervention Projects had been funded.

Contacting Relevant Bodies

UDEME’s attempts to reach the then lawmaker of the constituency, Chukwuma Nwanzunku, to ascertain the exact locations of the asphalted roads paid for were futile as the phone number attached to his official site online was switched off and the Yahoo email offered read nonexistent.

The reporter visited the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Abakaliki. An engineer simply identified as Jude, disclosed that the ministry was not in possession of the documents for the project as it was handled by the ministry’s parastatal, Federal Cooperative College, Oji River.

The reporter contacted the contractor for the project, Oluebube Logistics via email and a representative by the name, Vincent Okereke responded thus: Rt. Hon. Chukwuma Nwanzunku Close, Rt. Hon. Chukwuma Nwanzunku Avenue and a third road at Obegu were presented as the beneficiaries of the project. The road at Rt. Hon. Chukwuma Nwanzunku Close had evidently been recently asphalted and was in good shape.

However, UDEME’s attention was drawn to the road project at Rt. Hon. Chukwuma Nwanzunku Avenue which had a different project title as indicated on the sign post at the side of the road.

“Part of it (the road) belongs to the former but it was done at the same time. They all have a bill of quantity on what is to be executed,” Mr Okereke narrated, explaining that the road was budgeted for under another project but was added to this project based on the bill of quantity.

The road also was noticeably split in two different parts as the middle to the rear-end of the road were asphalted while its anterior all the way to the middle was left untouched.

One Road, Two Different Scenarios

During the commencement of the street’s asphalting in 2022, residents, car-owners and business-owners in Rt. Hon. Chukwuma Nwazunku Avenue excitedly held their breath in anticipation, certain they were finally going to enjoy the convenience of using a good road.

However, residents living at the street’s anterior had their hopes dashed as the construction was halted halfway, leaving the anterior abandoned in its poor state.

UDEME enquired from Mr Okereke if the construction company was contracted to asphalt only half the road. He explained that the frontal part of the road was exempted from the project due to plans of restructuring, hence, they were directed to begin asphalting from the end and stop at the middle.

“The entrance of that street was not part of it. We were instructed to start from the back. They have issues to settle because some structures will be demolished before that entrance can be constructed,” he disclosed.

Source: Ripples Nigeria

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