By Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
The federal government has finally decided to end the suffering of road users on the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road as the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, at the weekend gave the nod for immediate commencement of palliative work on the road while total reconstruction would start next year.
As a sign that the ever busy federal road was now receiving attention, the palliative works was kicked off at the weekend by the senator representing Abia Central, Theodore Orji, and the representative of Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency, Hon Sam Onuigbo.
In his directive to the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Fashola said the agency “should commence repair of the road within the available budgetary provision in the agency’s 2016 budget while preparation would be towards total reconstruction in 2017.”
To underscore the importance of the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road, the minister further noted that the reconstruction would be carried out “with the possibility of providing rigid pavement (concrete road) due to high volume of heavy duty vehicles plying the road.”
Speaking at the ceremony held at Okwe Ukwu community in Ikwuano Local Government Area, Orji commended the federal government for realising the importance of the road to the economy of not only the states it serves but also the national economy.
He said the road has always been in very bad shape due to the heavy vehicles that ply on it on daily basis, adding that both him and Onuigbo joined forces to draw the attention of the federal government to the sufferings of road users that travel on this road.
The Abia Central senator urged FERMA and the contractor it engaged for the palliative work “to do a very good job” as any shoddy job on this problematic road would not go down well with the people who have been enduring so much pains and loss of man hours just to travel from Abia State to Akwa Ibom State through this route.
Onuigbo assured all involved that the palliative work was just the beginning of the journey to permanently fix the road, adding that “despite the dire economic situation in the country, which has stalled the execution of capital projects, we have been determined that our people deserve some respite.
“We are not done yet. The road serves as an important channel through which petroleum products, cement and other key economic materials are moved from Akwa Ibom State, Cross River State through Umuahia to Aba, Port Harcourt and other parts of the country.”
He called on the minister of works to keep his promise of reconstruction of the road in 2017 so that “our suffering on this road will be a thing of the past.”
In his remarks, the state Director of FRMA, Abraham Akange, stated the problem of the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene federal road was that it was not built to carry heavy traffic hence the road could no longer cope with the weight of heavy duty vehicles plying on it.
He lamented that the absence of haulage rail transportation has put much stress on the country’s road network and urged the federal government to lay more emphasis on rail transport in order to ease the stress on the roads and make them last longer.
Akange promised that FERMA would not allow shoddy job to be done by the contractor as the agency would ensure that quality materials were used, adding that all the materials meant for the road would be subjected to analysis to checkmate constant failure of roads.