When Kelvin Odo’s uncle fell sick two years ago, he had hoped he could save him by quickly arranging for a vehicle to take him to the general hospital in Ogrute, a community in the South-eastern state of Enugu.
His hopes were dashed a few kilometres into the journey due to the bad condition of the Ogrute-Mkpamute-Igogoro-Ikpamodo-Okpo-Amaja road. The sick uncle died during the trip.
The roughly 16km road connects about five agrarian communities in Igboeze North Local Government Area of the state and its neglect has not only affected residents but has reduced economic activities in the area.
Repeated promises to fix the road have been largely shop talk, Mr Odo, the chief provost of the community’s vigilante group, said, adding that the bad state of the road “can kill the person before you get to hospital.”
“Our road is so bad that even if someone is sick, because we don’t have a hospital around here, to carry the person to Ogurute is a very big challenge,” he said.
Mr Odo shared the same plight as other residents in the community like Matthew Nwodo, a carpenter and farmer, who calls the road a “death trap” because his sick father who needed quick medical tending died while driving through the Ogrute road.
Mr Nwodo said he spends all his earnings on transport fare due to the bad road; making the returns he makes from his farm produce meagre.
He told this reporter in March that he spends about N7,000 to N8,000 to get to Ogrute, “but during the rainy season (one can spend) about N15000, which will be more than the goods you are going to sell.”
“At times, we carry our product to Benue State because when the rain starts, erosion would split the road into two. It is difficult for us especially during the rainy season,” he said. “It is always very difficult to transport our farm produce to the market. Before you get a vehicle to Ogrute or Obollo Afor, you’ll have to pay through your nose.”
“Several times our people used to die here. One day, one woman was about to deliver at midnight, no way to carry her to the general hospital in Ogrute because there was no road.”
When the project for the construction of the road commenced in 2017, it raised hopes among the people of the community.
In 2017, Enugu State budgeted N125 million – the same amount budgeted in 2018 – for the project, and it was awarded to Ferotex Construction Company.
By 2019, N750 million was budgeted for the project, while N200 million was earmarked in 2020, totalling N1.2 billion in four years. Officials of both the construction firm and the government refused to disclose the exact amount released for the project.
This reporter asked the Enugu State Ministry of works, in October, how much was actually released for the project. The ministry’s public relations officer, Ngozi Ngene, said the commissioner for works, Greg Nnaji, had travelled to represent the state governor at a function in New York, USA. He advised our reporter to check back the following week when he would be back in the country.
Before Ms Ngene was contacted last week, an FOI request was addressed to the commissioner for works and submitted on May 14. The ministry has yet to respond to the request.
Further calls and text messages to the commissioner’s known mobile number were not acknowledged nor returned.
Tales of hopes, promises and pains
Solomon Onyedikachi said in March that the road has been used as campaign points by politicians but it has never been fulfilled.
He recalled how the people rejoiced when Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi started work on the road while canvassing for votes before the 2015 general elections. The construction, however, stopped shortly after the election.
“During his second tenure, people were complaining that the government did not do anything in the whole Igboeze North local government. They completed two kilometres but they now said that 5 km will be added to it,” Mr Onyedikachi said.
“We can only make use of the road freely now because it is the dry season. The road becomes so bad during the rainy season to the extent that some people will not be able to pass through the road.
“This road is the only major road we have here that connects us to Kogi and Benue states. So one can get to Abuja through this road.
“There is nothing like development here because of the bad road. In some places, people from different communities, towns or even states do come to do business or some other things but here, there is nothing like that because of bad roads.”
“Look at this plaza here”, he said, pointing at a chain of unoccupied lockup shops. “There is nobody there because of the road. So people are not happy at all about this road.”
“I felt very happy when we saw that they had started the road work immediately. We asked about the name of the company in charge of the work and they said it is Ferotex. I don’t know why they abandoned the only major road we have here,” he said.
Also speaking to this reporter in March, Vincent Odugwu, a traditional chief in Amaja community, said the years of failed promises showed that his community has been alienated from the rest of the state.
“Every time the politician will promise us many things but after voting for them they will not fulfil their promise. In this case, we don’t even know what to say. If the Enugu State Government recognises us as part of Enugu State, we will be happy. They are feeling that we are off or that we are not among Enugu State. They are not doing anything for us. We are doing our road by ourselves. I will be happy if they will remember that we are part of Enugu State and come to our aid,” he said.
The distress of many is, however, the joy of a few residents.
This is the case of Christian Ali, an okada rider, who called the poor state of the road a “blessing in disguise” as it makes him charge as much as “N800 from Ogrute to Amaja; but once it rains, the price goes up to N1500.”
Mr Ali said as much as he would love the government to work on the road, he enjoys the high return he gets especially during the rainy season.
“I did not think that the work would linger up till this moment. I thought they will even finish the work by 2019 and now we are in 2021 and yet they have not finished it.
“The farmers are finding it very difficult because by then we the okada riders used to make a lot of money from them, because we used to charge them high like N1500. But had it been the road was good, we would charge like N500 or N800.”
Despite his higher profit due to the bad road, Mr Ali said he would like the government to complete the construction of the road.
“I want them to construct the road for us so that our road will be good so that even if you are driving a machine, you will be driving it without fear,” he said.
Godwin Onu, a leader in Okpo community, who spoke with this reporter in April, urged the government to, at the least, grade the road so that farmers can access local markets.
“From here to Kogi and Benue States is just a stone’s throw. It used to cost us N100 to get to the two states. They normally bring their farm produce to our market through this road. Like on Eke market day, you will be seeing different vehicles carrying things to the market. But during the rainy season, they will all stop coming because of bad roads. We share boundaries with Kogi and Benue states.
“If they complete the project, just as Benue State people are doing on their own, it means that this road will be an expressway and it will ease movement of the people,” Mr Onu said.
In his reaction, Patrick Okenyi, the traditional ruler of Okpo community, said the governor has ‘promised’ to fix the road, so “we are waiting for him.”
Onyebuchi Eze, the coordinator of Concerned Igboeze North Youths (CINY), said in April that the state of the road worries residents of the area.
Mr Eze, who hails from Okpo community, said he had organised several campaigns with the hope of drawing the attention of the government to the present abandoned state of the road but his effort was yet to yield the desired result.
“We praised our Governor to high heavens when the road was awarded in 2017 because it has been like this since I was born. But to our surprise, work stopped just at 200 meters.
“After the 2019 election, the work stopped completely. You (the reporter) are lucky to have come during the dry season. There is no way you can get this far during the rainy season. During that period, none of our people will dare drive his car home unless you have a jeep.”
A traditional ruler of one of the affected communities, who did not want his name in print for fear of victimization by the state government, said in March that lives have been lost on the road due to its state.
“At times, especially in the rainy season, we find it easier to go back to Benue because of the huge erosion that normally appears,” he said.
“There is a big gully between Ikpamodo and Amachalla. Why you were able to pass is because the local government graded that portion of the road. It is like we do not belong to this state.
“When you get to Orba, (the Governor’s village) they even asphalt the most insignificant road so why can’t they complete this one?
“Several times our people use to die on this road. One day a woman wanted to deliver in the middle of the night, there was no way to the general hospital at Ogrute because there was no road. Luckily she gave birth at home.
“When my late father developed sickness at night, I went through hell to get him to Ogrute. There have been several other cases of motorcycle accidents due to the bad road. This is a death trap,” the traditional ruler said.
This story was produced as part of the Udeme project, a Social Accountability and Transparency Project of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ). The content is the sole responsibility of the author and the publisher.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...