The seven-seater Sienna space bus the reporter took from Abuja to Edo was quite uncomfortable, but the trip was made worse by the terrible state of the Auchi-Benin highway.
Ridden with potholes, damaged trucks, fuel tankers and other abandoned vehicles parked on one side of the road causing a gridlock.
Yet, if that was bad, residents felt the situation in many communities was worse.
“So many lives have been lost, a lot of cars and tricycles damaged because of the terrible state of Nomayo Road,” a resident, Silas Ebonyi, said as he narrated the ordeal of Nomayo community, a community in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo State.
Mr Ebonyi, 28, is a commercial tricyclist. He said the poor state of the road has caused lots of pain to residents of the community.
Nomayo is one of the communities that benefitted from road construction projects awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
In May, 2012 NDDC awarded contract for the construction of 2000 metres Nomayo Road, in Benin.
Eight years after, a PREMIUM TIMES investigation has shown this project and several others have either been abandoned or were not done at all.
NDDC was established by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000 as an interventionist agency in response to decades of complaints of neglect by the oil-rich region.
Its major assignment includes developing the Niger Delta region and addressing the yearnings and agitations of the people who felt short-changed by the Nigerian state for years.
However, 19 years after its establishment, swathes of the region remain undeveloped, infrastructure is sparse and the people appear to have become poorer.
Billions down the drain?
According to a report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) on revenues, deductions, disbursement, and application of funds by NDDC, N19.8 billion was released for contracts awarded in Edo State between 2007 and 2011.
Out of this, N17 billion was reportedly spent on roads/bridges projects in Edo State between this period.
The report also indicates that about N543 billion was spent on roads/bridges in all the states under the commission between 2012 and 2016.
Despite billions of naira released for road projects in Edo State, residents say no major improvement has occurred as potholes, flooding and poorly constructed roads litter the communities.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently ordered a forensic audit of the commission. He said the impact of the commission did not match the resources invested since 2001.
Tagged ‘ongoing’ but never done
Though, NDDC listed the road project at Nomayo in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area and boundary road to University of Benin, Ovia North East LGA as ‘ongoing’, our findings revealed no road construction has been done in these locations.
At Nomayo community, Christian Andrew, a mechanic said “this Nomayo road has been bad for years now. Car drivers and some Keke riders take time out to pour sand on the road to make it better.
“This is affecting everyone in this community. Sometimes, cars break down, there is hold-up and sometime, the water flows into these shops,” he said.
“When children pass through this road, they fall into the potholes filled with water. Cars and Keke (tricycles) get condemned when they drive through this road,” Mrs Omigwe, who owns a beer parlour at Nomayo Junction, said.
According to the commission’s documentation of projects, the Nomayo road contract was awarded to Goodnews Trans-construction Co. LTD but like others, the sum paid for the project was not stated.
The NDDC 2016 Appropriation Act revealed that about N248 million was budgeted for the Nomayo Road project, of which about N92 million was released until 2016.
Also, the commission’s claim about an “ongoing” road construction next to the University of Benin has not started.
The only evidence showing that the project exist is a signpost indicating details of the project.
Residents of Ekosodin community, where the dilapidated road passes through insisted that work was never done on the road.
A resident, Esther Moses, said “this road has been like this for many years. Once it rains, residents park their cars at the junction. If anybody is coming to visit you here, they will have to park the car far away and pass through the water to get here.
“We always pray it doesn’t rain because it becomes worse when it does,” she said.
Another resident, Michael said “My car has been parked inside my house for three months now. Those cars you see over there, the owners don’t live here. But they cannot drive cars to their houses because of the terrible state of this road,” he said.
This road project was awarded to Dantoka and Co. Ltd on May 31, 2012.
According to the NDDC Appropriation ACT of 2016, about N248 million was budgeted for the project; over N233 million has been released.
A large portion of Adolor Road, in Egor LGA of the state, is in a terrible condition. The road is one of the projects awarded by NDDC.
The project captioned “Construction of Adolor road with drains” was awarded to Wintrakk Mega Limited on December 18, 2014 and is said to be ongoing.
According to the NDDC budget for 2016, N240 million was budgeted for the Adolor project and over N40 million was released in 2015.
PREMIUM TIMES’ inspection of the road revealed that work was not completely done.
A portion of the road which is completely damaged has caused severe flooding in its environs
A taxi driver, Isaac Bright, said his car engine ”has gone bad so many times due to the terrible state of the road”.
“My sister, this road has been like this for several years now. The government cannot tell me they don’t know about this road because it’s a major road.
“On several occasions, my car has been damaged on this road. I have to pay boys to push it out. At the end of the day, my engine is either gone or another problem will arise. The road is a car damager,” he said.
Just as the reporter was trying to find her way past the road, a car got stuck in the centre of the road.
After successfully pushing the car out with the help of passersby, the car owner, Hassan Amidu, said angrily “I thought this was a normal road I have passed before but it has gone really bad.
“I don’t know how to explain what just happened. Though there are many bad roads in town, the government should try and fix them,” he said.
Efforts to reach the spokesperson for the commission, Charles Odili, failed as he did not pick his calls or respond to text messages from the reporter.