Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
The failure of the federal government to reconstruct a collapsed bridge connecting Ekiti State to Lokoja and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) yesterday stoked protest and public disapproval among commuters and residents.
However, the founder of Afe Babalola University (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) quickly saved the situation by preventing the aggrieved public from disrupting the reconstruction of the bridge along Ado-Ijan-Ikare road.
The Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi and the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adejugbe also appeased the commuters, drivers, residents and other road users who were set to protest the failure of the federal government to rebuild the bridge.
Almost one year after a section of the bridge collapsed, the aggrieved road users came together to protest the failure of the government to rebuild the bridge.
They lamented the outright closure of the state’s most important road constructed 90 years ago by Royal Niger Company.
The protesters, also, lamented that the federal government’s approach to reconstructing the collapsed bridge had subjected commuters, residents and other road users to untold suffering, cutting their means of livelihoods since the reconstruction began a week ago.
Addressing the protesters and contractors yesterday, ABUAD’s founder urged the residents to endure the pains in the interest of the generality of the people, though chided the federal government for starting the project late.
Babalola said the project and the closure of Ado-Ijan-Ikare road had disrupted the day-to-day activities at ABUAD and the Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti, among other residents that were adversely affected by the closure.
He said this road was constructed “over 90 years ago. It was a very narrow road. It is the only road that links Lagos to Lokoja and to Abuja. Royal Niger Company constructed it. But unfortunately, it has been neglected ever since.
“Since I started my university 11 years ago, I have been maintaining it. I have written several petitions to the federal government. I thought they would do their repair during the dry season. Now, ABUAD community and many other areas in Ado Ekiti have been cut off.
“I expected that they would have done the repair earlier. There are two alternatives, it is either they divide the bridge and let one section be used or the contractor should grade the road àt Igirigiri along Ado Local government as an alternative route, so that the people will not suffer.”
Babalola claimed that Ekiti was the most neglected state in Nigeria with no visible federal owned infrastructure that could boost the economy.
“If you look around, there is no seaport in Ekiti. There is no rail line here. The roads in the state are just too bad. Ikare-Ado road, Ado-Otun road, Ado-Efon road, Ado-Akure roads are all in bad shapes. I do not know the crime we have committed to warrant this neglect.
“Some people came to report to me that they will disrupt this project and open up the road forcefully. But I beg the road users to endure this situation. But if the contractor fails to do the right thing, then we will take them up.”
Also speaking, Egbeyemi directed the contractor to quickly provide alternative roads to prevent the people from venting their anger on them.
“I have interrogated the contractor. I asked them to provide an alternative road. They said they have identified Igirigiri road. I have instructed them to grade the road. This road cannot be blocked without an alternative.
“It is a major commercial route. We have university and polytechnic along this route. Though, they said the road would be opened for use in six weeks. I know if they do what they are doing sufficiently, then we will have no problem in the end.
“The best remains that they should look for alternative roads and make it passable. Over 800 motors were stuck on the alternative road yesterday and that is not acceptable to us,” the deputy governor explained.
The Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba Adejugbe agreed with Babalola and Egbeyemi. He appreciated the federal government for attending to the bridge, but hinted that the construction commenced so late .
The Federal Controller of Works in Ekiti, Mr. Isiaq Lawal said it was never the intention of the Federal Ministry of Works to inconvenience anybody, urging the populace to cooperate with them for the success of the project.
He explained that a structure of this nature “requires 28 days to get its strength and it is the national and international standard. We are pleading for understanding so that we can get out of the problem we are encountering.
“What will be the federal government’s interest to inconvenience anyone? I met with the Ekiti government to inform them before we started. We identified alternative roads, but we are going to make it motorable, people should bear with us pending the time the bridge will be completed.”