BY RICHARD DIRIM ODU.
Works Minister Dave Umahi recently visited Imo State during his tour of federal government projects in the southeast. The minister, according to reports, marveled at the quality of roads the state’s governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, had initiated and completed in Imo State.
In his eagerness to fast-track development in Imo, the governor secured the consent of former President Muhammadu Buhari to work on vital federal roads in the state, under the agreement that the Federal Government would refund money spent on these roads to the state government.
Umahi, reportedly, expressed satisfaction with what Gov. Uzodimma did on the Owerri-Orlu Road and described the Owerri-Okigwe road as “one of the best roads in all the roads.”
Three major roads in the state that fall within the responsibilities of the federal government were involved in this rehabilitation meant to reposition Imo for greater development. The roads were Owerri-Okigwe, which links the state up with the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, the Owerri-Orlu, and the Owerri-Umuahia roads. Of the three, Owerri-Orlu has been perfected and commissioned. The Owerri-Okigwe road, to a reasonable extent, has received a facelift. The last on the list is Owerri-Umuahia, which is currently receiving attention.
The road had for some time begged for rehabilitation until Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha arrived on the scene to give it some palliative treatment at the time he was governor for seven months.
Since the commencement of reconstruction of the road in the present dispensation in the state one year ago, its users have had to endure bumpy rides and the difficulties of traffic jams occasioned by the activities of heavy duty vehicles at work on the sites.
This is in anticipation of a road that is worthwhile. As the project goes on, these commuters continue their critical appraisal of the work done, all from the layman’s angle. Some had expressed satisfaction with the reconstructed Okitankwo Bridge, adjudged to have been rebuilt solidly. Others praised Gov. Uzodimma just for thinking about repairing the all-important road that dates back to the Douglas days in the colonial era.
However, complaints had been made about the width of the road. The users had expected an expanded thoroughfare only to see a rather constricted road that could hardly pass for a dual carriageway, which it was supposed to be. More so, the demarcation on the center of the road at some points poses a serious barrier to vehicles wishing to overtake others. When slow-moving and heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks, tankers, and trailers are involved, motorists behind them have no option but to queue over a long distance, resulting in traffic buildup.
Any attempt by the smaller vehicles to overtake would either throw them into the gutters that are gaping menacingly on both ears of the road or set them in collision course with the demarcations. If these vehicles break down on the track, it’s road-closed.
The commuters are also dissatisfied with the handling of the Afor-Egbu axis, where flooding has been a constant feature every rainy season. The result is perennial traffic jams and environmental hazards in the ever-busy spot.
According to indications, so much work still needs to be done on the road. It will only be fair, at this point in time, for the federal government to take over the responsibility of the Owerri-Umuahia road and build it to a standard that befits a federal road, using federal might.
The Works Minister rightly commended the state government for what it had done so far within its lean resources. However, it is important that the federal government honor the agreement to refund the state all the money that has been spent on the projects. If that does not happen, it would amount to a loss of funds for Imo, and the people of the state would be counting yet another instance of deprivation they may have suffered in the country.
This is in addition to the fact that a meaningful and productive federal government venture is yet to be sited within the state, and neither has the central government catalyzed any private endeavor in the Eastern Heartland. This, coupled with the poor state of roads and other infrastructure, has left the Imo business climate so lukewarm as not to actively lift up the people from the clutches of unemployment and poverty, compared with other states.
It is easy to link this state of affairs to the unnerving insecurity in Imo, resulting in a heavy presence of security operatives that creates a life of uncertainty for both the guilty and the innocent among the youths.
The visit of Dave Umahi as minister of works has given hope to the people of Imo and indeed the south-east, given that the minister is an astute engineer whose records of road building in Ebonyi State when he was governor speak eloquently in his favour.
Whatever politics it was that surrounded the rehabilitation of Owerri-Umuahia Road, the desire of the people is to have a good road to ply, and they have confidence that the minister knows what to do.
Dr. Odu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“However, complaints had been made about the width of the road. The users had expected an expanded thoroughfare only to see a rather constricted road that could hardly pass for a dual carriageway, which it was supposed to be. More so, the demarcation on the center of the road at some points poses a serious barrier to vehicles wishing to overtake others. When slow-moving and heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks, tankers, and trailers are involved, motorists behind them have no option but to queue over a long distance, resulting in traffic buildup”