Residents of Oba, in the Idemili South Local Government Area; Awada, in Idemili North LGA; and Okpoko, in Ogbaru LGA, of Anambra State, have decried the deplorable condition of the Onitsha-Owerri Expressway and adjoining streets to the road.
The Punch observed that on Wednesday, the expressway was filled with water, while motorists and passersby struggled to avoid the gullies.
The federal road, which also links Onitsha from Upper Iweka to other South-East states, has been in a bad shape for years, causing gridlock daily.
The checkpoints mounted by some men in military uniforms, where they collect bribes from commercial vehicle operators, including lorries, also worsened the pain of the road users.
A resident of Oba, Ngozika Udeh, lamented that the Amanator section of the road was covered with refuse.
Udeh said, “As you can see, this is the horrible experience those of us who live along the Oba and Nnewi axis go through. We trek every day, as most bus operators have refused to go beyond the Amanator junction. When they get to that place, they forcefully drop off their passengers and make a U-turn.
“Both the federal and the state governments have not looked at the area, including the local government.
A food vendor, who identified herself as Mama Kelechi, said commercial buses and tricycle riders charged as much as N300 for a journey that was supposed to be N50 or N100.
A commercial bus operator told Punch that plying the road was a high risk to drivers.
He said the fares were increased because of the huge amount they spent on the maintenance of their vehicles and at military checkpoints.
The Chairman, Awada Central Community Development Association, Chief Gabriel Nkasi, noted that the CDA had observed the increase in robberies on that axis of the road and had informed the police to increase surveillance in the area.
“The FRSC should also assist us to coordinate movement on this road as it is always highly congested especially at night because of the bad portions. The road is really affecting us,” Nkasi added.
A senior official of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency in charge of Anambra and Enugu, who identified himself simply as Nnamdi, said, “FERMA categorised all federal roads across the country into Groups A, B and C. The Onitsha-Owerri Road falls into Group A. But the major challenge we are facing as regards that road is the presence of the Ministry of Works on that particular road. Any road the Ministry of Works is working on, FERMA cannot go there until they finish their work.
“Again, the problem of funding has hampered palliative measures on the road over the years. Most times, we will raise a proposal and there will not be funds to execute it.”
A senior official of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said contracts for most of the bad roads had been awarded for full rehabilitation, but there was no fund to finance them because of the Second Niger Bridge, which would soon be opened.
The Press Secretary to the Anambra State Governor, Mr Christian Aburime, said the state government had earmarked a lot of roads in the state for rehabilitation as soon as the rainy season was over.