Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
The anguish among travelers and villagers along the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene federal road heightened at the weekend as more rains fell, compounding the already bad situation on the road which finally collapsed after years of traffic strain and absence of maintenance.
The Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene federal road spanning 65 kilometres was severed at Ndoro Oboro and Okwe Ukwu axis in Ikwuano local government Abia state effectively disrupting vehicular movements between the two neighbouring states.
Villagers in the affected portions of the collapsed road were alarmed when the raging floods sacked them from their houses, forcing them to take refuge in neighbouring villages.
The panic-stricken villagers, who abandoned their homes for fear of the floods, have been crying out over the social and economic dislocations inflicted on them by the collapsed road.
Faced with the bad situation drivers have carved a detour that take them deep into the heart of Ikwuano villages from where they burst at a safe distance to continue their journey to different parts of the country.
The S.O.S from the displaced villagers prompted Chief Sam Onuigbo, the member representing Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency to race down from Abuja to assess the level of devastation in his constituency.
The federal lawmaker was distressed after visiting the four worst portions of the tired interstate road where vehicles got stuck with no possibility of going forward or backwards. He immediately sent a distress call to the Federal Ministry of Works and the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and appealed to the two agencies to do something to mitigate the bad situation.
Onuigbo expressed regret that the Umuahia- Ikot Ekpene federal road has been allowed to remain in dilapidation over the years despite as the palliatives carried out by FERMA did not serve any purpose.
He said he and his colleagues in the National Assembly had ensured that the repair of the road was accommodated in the 2016 budget but he lamented that the funds eventually provided would not be enough for comprehensive repair as was recommended.
According to him, the interstate road linking Umuahia to Akwa Ibom is strategic and important for commerce as passes through rich agricultural area of Abia, adding that the road is the route from Abia and other northern and southern states to and from Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Cameroon.
Chairman of the Ikwuano local government Major Emmanuel Awa (rtd) told journalists that the stretch of the road contains over 17 deadly spots between Ikwuano and Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom state.
He lamented that his council workers were prevented from reporting for work following the collapse of the road and called for urgent action from the relevant federal agencies to rehabilitate the collapsed road.
The traditional ruler of Ajata Nigu autonomous community, King Larry Ogbonna also lent his voice to the call for rehabilitation of the road, saying that government should never again engage contractors for the road repairs.
He said the rehabilitation of the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road has become to a huge challenge to politicians as well as federal and state governments.