By Ogbonna Uzor
The Government of Enugu State, led by Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has flagged off the construction of new roads within the state. The government recently awarded contracts for the construction of eight roads, which are strategic in the economic and social activities in the state. Road construction and rehabilitation is considered the number one priority in the South East where some federal roads are in total disrepair, and gully erosion has practically cut off so many communities.
The indigenes of the state were full of excitement and jubilation on Tuesday as Governor Ugwuanyi flagged of construction work for the first set of the roads. These include the 9th Mile By-Pass Road, Ameke Ngwo-Nsude-9th Mile By-Pass Road, Abakpa-Nike Road and Nike Lake Road. The governor has a big plan for the Ninth Mile Corner, which he considers as a long overlooked economic hub that needs to be harnessed to enjoy the full benefits of the newly acquired status as a Free Trade Zone.
His promise to give attention to it has begun to be fulfilled. His plan is to speed up urban development, create fresh economic opportunities and reduce pressure on the Enugu metropolis. The construction of the by-pass is in recognition of the location as a major transit hub linking the state to the northern parts of the country.
It is expected to ease the traffic gridlock in the area. The By-Pass was first conceived by the administration of Chimaroke Nnamani but has since then been abandoned for inexplicable reasons. The importance of the By-pass cannot be over emphasized. When finished, it will divert traffic off the main express way to the various parts of Enugu State, including Eke, Afa, Mkpologu, Nsukka and even neighbouring states. The project is Ugwuanyi’s response to the persistent complaints over the dismal state of the 9th Mile road, which is one of the federal government’s roads in the state and the threat it posed to the lives and economic activities of the people.
According to an official schedule from the office of the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Patrick Ikpenwa, the flag off exercise will continue on Thursday for the rest of the roads. These are the Opi-Nsukka Dual Carriage Road; Obechara Road Junction-Umuakashi- Mechanic Village-Ikenga Hotels Junction Road; Post Office Roundabout-Odenigbo Roundabout-Ogurugu Road-Ikenga Hotels Junction Road; Enugu Road (Nsukka) Junction-Umezedi-Nru Junction –University Gate Road and Ohum Orba Junction – Imilike Ani- Ezimo Uno-Ezimo Agu-Imilike Ogbodu Aba- Obollo Affor (Udenu Ring Road).
Some of the roads listed above are meant to open up agricultural villages and create access to link Enugu market for the agricultural produce. The area has become quite strategic in view of the priority the governor has accorded agricultural activities under his administration. A few months ago, the communities within the Udenu area donated a large expanse of land, covering 680 hectares to the state government for commercial agriculture.
The government’s infrastructure development and investment drive for Enugu State exercise are seen as a move that touches the people’s lives where it really pinches them most. Despite the critical funding situation at the moment, Ugwuanyi appears quite determined to fulfill his electoral campaign promises to the people. He sees the exercise as the commencement of a new chapter of aggressive road development in Enugu State. According to an official statement, this is line with the governor’s new ethos of leadership which is completely geared towards the wellbeing of the people.
The road construction works in the state are being commissioned at the time of serious revenue crisis in the country and when state governments are experiencing untold financial strain. Both federal and state governments are unable maintain existing roads due to lack of funds. The ability of the governor of Enugu State to move against the general trend at this time is seen as a clear indication of his commitment to maximize the resources at his command to provide dividends of democracy to the people.
This is in spite of the fact that the bailout funds from the federal government is yet to reach Enugu State, according to a statement by the governor while inaugurating the construction of the Abakpa-Nike Lake road in Enugu. Both the Enugu State Executive Council and the State House of Assembly authorised the state government to procure a total sum of about N14.2bn from the bailout fund through the Central Bank of Nigeria as far back as last September. According to the governor however, “we have not received any money in the name of bailout from the Federal Government.” The bailout money would have taken the state a long way forward in the liquidation of outstanding salaries as well as the execution of more infrastructural projects.
To have a good road in the south east is indeed a real dividend at this time when the situation has reached a point of a general outcry. Just a few days ago, Most Reverend Paulinus Ezeokafor, Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese in Anambra State, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the contracts awarded for South-East roads by previous administrations. The bishop described the federal roads in the south-east as deathtraps and demanded for a probe into the award of the road contracts in the zone.
The state of the roads speak for themselves that the approach in handling federal road maintenance and repairs in the area is undeniably faulty. The roads need urgent attention in order to save lives and further neglect of the roads would worsen the hardship being experienced by the people, the bishop warned.
Such a high level of lamentation over the state of roads in the South East really underscores the value the people of Enugu State place on what Ugwuanyi is doing right now. The governor made a promise in his inaugural speech to pay special attention to rural development where the majority of the people reside and create more urban areas to boost the economic growth of the state. The people of Enugu State are quite impressed that he has begun to match words with action.
Besides the immediate relieve the road construction will bring to the people, the multiplier effects of the multiple road construction on the economic activities in the state can only be imagined. Hundreds of youths will be engaged directly and indirectly throughout the duration of the construction and one can imagine what such ample opportunity will do to the rising unemployment among the future generation of Nigerians. The positive effect of the supply-chain for the next 24 months in the minimum will bring succour to many families. Most importantly is the active engagement it will offer to the people in those locations.
To buttress how much they cherish the road projects, market women, school children and other well meaning Ndi-Enugu came out in numbers to cheer up the governor and his entourage at various points, just to echo: “We are solidly behind you and we appreciate your laudable initiatives and timely intervention, our able governor.”
- Uzor, a freelance journalist, writes from Enugu.