The rehabilitation of sections of the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja highway has brought great relief to motorists and traders in Cross State,Â Bassey InyangÂ writes
Early this year, Minister of Power, Works and Housing; Babatunde Raji Fashola, embarked on a nationwide-tour of federal roads in country.
On February 16, the minister was in Cross River State where he took a comprehensive tour of the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja federal highway, and Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene federal highway.
At the time of the ministerâ€™s visit, the sections of the roads were in very terrible state.
On the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja Road, the stretch from Uyanga to Adim, and indeed the entire Biase axis, and Iyamoyong, was in its most deplorable state, and constituted a complete nightmare to motorists who plied the road.
In some instances, transporters travelling along the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja Road spent days at the bad spots for days, with its attendant economic consequences.
Being a major route for the evacuation of agricultural products, especially farm produce, and cattle to the Southern parts of Cross River State, Akwa Ibom State, and some states in the South-south region, the losses suffered by traders whenever the trucks conveying their cargo to the markets fell at the bad spots of the road can only be imagined.
However, when Fashola visited in February, he saw the situation, and promised that the federal government will expedite action to ensure that roads are rehabilitated.
During the visit, the minister had promised that the intervention would be a kind of pain management solution that was meant to ease the trauma of road users during the rainy season.
He promised that after the immediate intervention project, the road would be expanded in the long run.
Before touring federal roads in the state, Fashola had paid a courtesy call to the state governor Professor Ben Ayade who was represented by the state deputy governor, Professor Ivara Esu.
Then, the minister told the state authorities that the inspection was geared towards the eventual reconstruction of roads in fulfillment of the implementation of the federal budget.
Also the Federal Controller of Works in Cross River State, Chinwoba Agbana, who was part of Fasholaâ€™s entourage, disclosed that four project contractors had been mobilised to site across the state for various road projects, particularly, the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja-Obudu axis.
Barely four months after Fashola made the promise that the federal government would embark on emergency maintenance, the situation of the road is now different from what it was hitherto.
The road had been subjected to the benefits of emergency intervention handled by one of the foremost construction companies in the area, Sermatech Nigeria Limited.
Commenting on the recent rehabilitation of sections of the road, Project Manager of Sermatech, Mr. Desmond Ewa, said when the minister visited in February, funding was the major problem hampering progress on the spoilt sections of the road.
Ewa said that despite the challenge, the company saw the seriousness of the federal government towards fixing the road, hence it obtained credit facility from the bank to rehabilitate sections of the road allocated to it.
Ewa said given the rainy season, funding was still a challenge as there was a limit to what the company can get from the bank, adding that if funds were released by the federal government it will help the company greatly to execute the project.
â€œThe points of intervention are between Uyanga to Okomita (1.25km), Okomita to Akpet (925 metres), Akpet, Adim and Iyamoyong (1.4 km).
â€œThe inclement weather has not favoured us because the project was not awarded on time. You know too that in emergency contract there is no mobilisation, so, we are working with the loans that we secured from the banks.
â€œWe are appealing to the federal government to release our funds as soon as we are rounding up so that we can pay back our creditors. At the moment, we have asphalted the Uyanga bad stretch of the road,â€ Ewa said.
But the efforts put in by Sermatech appear to have yielded the required result, at least for now, following the fixing of most of the bad stretches on the federal highway which links the South-south region directly with the Northern part of Nigeria through Benue State.
Comments from some of the motorists plying the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja Road indicate that indeed much has improved, and the long years of suffering they encountered before the intervention has been addressed.
A commercial bus driver, who plies the Calabar-Ikom Road regularly, Mr. Andrew Inok, said the intervention was timely as road users would have found it extremely difficult plying the road during the rainy season.
Inok specifically noted that several tankers used to be stranded for days in the Adim axis because the road became impassable.
â€œThis intervention by the federal government is a welcomed development. I recall how the road was before the intervention. At some points, trucks and lorries could no longer access the road while smaller vehicles took other longer routes to get to their destinations,â€ Inok said.
Another road user, Udeme Bassey, who commended the federal government for rehabilitating the road, especially sections within Akamkpa, and Biase Local Government Areas, however, stated that it was necessary for the federal government to intervene in two gully erosion spots at the Odukpani, and Akpet axis that is threatening to divide the road, and cut off the southern part of the road from the rest.
â€œThese two critical erosion spots might soon cut off Calabar from the rest of the country,â€ he said.
A trader who is a regular user of the road, Madam Mary Okon, said the rehabilitation of the road has brought succourÂ to traders who go to the rural markets to buy garri, and other food produce to Calabar in particular.
â€œBefore when we go to buy from farmers in the bush, we find it very hard to bring our garri, yams, plantain, banana and others to Marian Market, and Watt Market, because the road was not good. Some days we will sleep on the roads and what we buy will spoil because we cannot get to Calabar early to sell in the market. We have lost money on this road before, but we thank government for doing us well by repairing this road. God will bless them to do more for us,â€ Okon, who said she sells in the local markets in Calabar said.