In 2017, when Reynold Construction Company Limited, the company that originally constructed the Enugu/Awka section of the Enugu-Onitsha expressway rolled out several earth-moving equipment, heralding the commencement of the reconstruction of the Enugu-Onitsha expressway, both the old and the young from Anambra and Enugu states, applauded the President Muhammadu Buhari administration for coming to the rescue of residents of the area and millions of businessmen who commute along that section of the federal highway. Not only people resident along that corridor, merchants mainly operating businesses along the Eastern section of the country, comprising mainly of South-East, North-Central and North-East, who move their goods along that corridor, heaved a sigh of relief, believing that the harrowing experiences they pass thorough along that corridor would soon evaporate.
Political gladiators, especially of the All Progressives Congress (APC), chose that gesture of flag-off of the reconstruction to make a political mountain. They had pooh-poohed the erstwhile ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains from that section of the country, particularly, the former chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Works, Sen. Ayogu Eze and Hon. Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, respectively, for failing to ensure that the road was given due attention. The APC members, particlarly the incumbent Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, lampooned Sen. Eze and Hon. Ozomgbachi for allegedly not paying adequate attention to infrastructural development and rehabilitation in the South-East, even with the privileged portfolio they occupied at that time. Other APC chieftains, especially those of them from the South-East joined Okechukwu in the fray and even accused entire pre-2015 governors in the South-East and members of the National Assembly who served at that time of insensitivity and of extreme selfishness. They were also accused of allegedly conniving to divert the money made available for the reconstruction of the road. And in doing this, they cited several instances of failed attempt to remediate the road, which never saw the light of the day.
But, it has become unfortunate that the similar accusation leveled against the erstwhile PDP top-shots, who at the time, even produced a sitting Deputy Senate President in the person of Sen. Ike Ekweremadu and a former national chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, is not the lot of the APC chieftains from the same geo-political zone.
No sooner had RCC commenced the road’s rehabilitation mid-way along one of the dual-carriage lanes from 9th Mile Corner up to Obeleagu Umana in Ezeagu Local Government Area, than the company stopped work and packed up their equipment. All the noise, propaganda, name-calling, abuses and insults heaped on the erstwhile PDP chieftains and political leaders, fizzled off as the APG guys also are currently facing similar opprobrium. Reconstruction of the federal highway has since stopped and erosion has taken over, even washing away the section that was reconstructed because the road shoulders on the rehabilitated section had not been done.
Worst sections of the road include the 9th Mile Corner-82-Division Main Gate, Enugu, section and Oji-River to Awka and Zik’s Roundabout, Amawbia-Mkpor in Anambra State. The entire section which is less than 150 kilometers, witnesses the worst form of neglect since its construction over 30 years ago by the military administration Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. At the Onyeama Mine up to Okwojo, Ngwo section, erosion had devastated and completely washed away the tarred sections of the road, to the extent that the exposed earth road being plied by articulate vehicles is steadily being washed away and dropping off into the Milken Hills valley. The water channel constructed between the dual carriage way had eroded and had become deep erosion gullies, eating up the main access road, leading to serious road traffic accidents, involving mainly articulated vehicles. The smaller non-articulated vehicles have been forced to abandon the road for the old, meandering Milliken Hill road, to avoid being trampled on the expressway.
The situation is not any better along the Oji-River-Amansea-Awka axis or along the Amwabia-Ogbunike-Umunya-Mkpor axis of the other section of the road towards Onitsha. Even as some effort are being made to rehabilitate the old Awka-Oji River-9th Mile-Opi Junction road, the extreme slow pace of work on the road, is not helping matters as it is obvious that the few kilometers around Oji-River that was rehabilitated will be completely destroyed by the time one-half of that stretch is completed.
The AUTHORITY is worried that whereas it took the erstwhile Obasanjo’s military regime less than two years to complete the opening up of the bushes and fully completing the construction of the Enugu-Onitsha expressway, it is taking almost 30 years to rehabilitate less than five kilometer stretch of the same road. This attitude of flagging off road rehabilitation in the South-East with too much fanfare only to abandon such few months thereafter, is most unfortunate. It only projects government as unserious, deceptive and unconcerned. Governance is about bringing the greatest happiness to the people and not about inflicting pain on the people.
If the federal government did not consider the Eastern railway corridor of the country to be of any reasonable commercial value or priority contrary to what it was when the colonial masters analysed same, and for standard gauge up grading, then, making the major roads in that section of the country should be considered important, even if not the number one national priority, more than constructing railway line across the boundaries of this country, up to Maradi, in Niger, which is of greater priority to the present administration than internal infrastructure needs of several parts of the country.
If the federal government continues to allow the Enugu-Onitsha expressway to dilapidate and gather deep gully erosion along its course as is currently the case, then, the government would not have any reason to convince the ordinary people from the area that it cares. It would also amount to making chieftains like Okechukwu, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, Presidential Assistant, Juliet Ibekaku, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and even Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi who recently defected to the APC from the PDP, to appear stupid before their constituents and project them as liars, whereas they have no powers on their own to get this road and other infrastructure fixed. President Buhari should act fast and save the teeming supporters and relations of these his political allies, even if the fails to find nothing else to latch on to, to upgrade general public infrastructure in the South-East zone, and the 9th Mile-Onitsha expressway in particular.