Anambra used to be one of the states with the best network of roads in the South East. But today, these roads have become shadows of themselves as users face horrific experiences. Our correspondent, OKEY MADUFORO, took a look at the challenges before Governor Charles Soludo in salvaging roads in the state.
Umunze community in Orumba South Local Government Area is one of the towns located at the boundaries of Anambra, Imo and Abia states. A trip to Umunze between 1999 and 2003 used to be a nightmare for both travellers and motorists as the topography of the area speaks volume of clay and swamp and the rice farm between Omoghor – Ndikerionwu- Ajali and parts of Isulo and Ezira couldn’t help matters, because the swam flows across the major road, hence making it impossible for roads to remain intact as it was constructed. Deepening the state of Anambra roads as it were was a major case in the roads in Idemili North and South council areas as well as the roads in Nnewi North and South and Ihiala council areas.
From Awka to Ekwulobia in Aguata council area is also a tale of frustration, as vehicles feel the harsh impacts of gravel, the chain of gallops and deep pot holes, while panel beaters and mechanics smile to the banks. However between 2003 and 2006 came a revolution that transformed Anambra roads into a masterpiece of civil engineering, as the then administration of Dr Chris Ngige took on road construction head on, closing gullies caused by erosions and running a ring round the entire state. At some point, a commercial driver tasked himself when he took off from Awka to Onitsha then to Otuocha, returning to Ifitedunu in Anambra Central and linked up Idemili North and South and Nnewi North and South to Ihiala.
The driver, while returning to Awka took off from St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Isseke up to St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Awka Etiti to Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area and anchored at Arroma junction before 5.30 pm the same day. It is not in doubt that the tenure of Mr Peter Obi sustained the road construction process and added more networks of toads linking areas such as Igbarim, Ogboji Aguluezechukwu, Nodu and Okpuno as well as Amansea to Ugbenu and Ugbene in Awka North, Orumba North and Anambra East Local Government Areas.
Deepening the state of roads
Perhaps the immediate past governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano may be absolved with the construction of the Anambra Airport as well as the International Conference and Convention Centre. Obiano also got more feathers to his cap for the construction of the three flyovers in Awka capital town and the construction of four bridges linking communities that share boundaries with communities in Kogi State and lighting the entire state with street lights, hence restoring night life and night transportation back to Anambra State. However, Obiano’s administration has roundly been scored zero in the area of road construction and even maintenance.
This indeed resulted in the hopeless and sorry state of all the roads in Anambra State. The entire road network in Onitsha North and South Council Areas have collapsed, while those in Awka cuts the picture of a badly scripted horror movie, evident by blocked water channels, resulting from the absence of public works department, made worse by buses, keke and private vehicles which pass through the challenge of damaged tires, broken exhaust pipes and shock absorbers with worn out bolts and linkages.
From Zik Avenue to Amaenyi, Amawbia Expressway to Amansea, Arroma to state Secretariat, Unizik to Okpuno, connecting Mkpakwu, Isuanochs are all hell on earth. Also from Nodu down to Goodwill junction as well as the entire Awka Township Roads have all become bad reminders of themselves. At some point, villagers and communities resort to self-help by covering the potholes, opening the drains and dumpling building debris on middles of the roads as palliatives to make the roads motorable.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Just Ceasar Nigeria Ltd, Mr Ceasar Sam Obidile took up the task of filling pot holes at Ifite Road, Arroma junction, Nodu and the little industrial layout behind the Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN). According to Obidile; “The governor announced that he has declared war on Anambra roads, promising that from inception there would be massive road construction in all parts of the state.” “So, while we await the commencement of the road construction, we as citizens must do something as palliatives to make those roads passable.
“I am an Estate and Urban Planner and I know what it means to give our roads what it deserves and I wish to urge our governor to open up and where necessary widen those flood channels and relocate most of the refuse dumps that have been contributing to the bad state of our roads. “We need to open up roads leading to neighboring towns within Awka Capital Territory to decongest the capital city, so that development would get there and provide all the basic amenities needed. “Some roads need total scraping and better earth works and fresh asphalt overlay instead of patching them or sand filling of pot holes and I would be ready to assist government with professional advice in that regard,” he said.
Soludo hits the ground running
Soludo appears to have heeded the professional advice of Obidile, when late last month till date he embarked on the flag off of over 120 roads in Anambra State. These roads have 50 percent payment made upfront by the state government and subsequent payments would be made as the contractors generate certificates. According to Soludo during the flag off of Immiata Anam, Oroma-Etiti, Ezi Anam, Umienwelu Anam and Nzam Owelle roads; “Every time I pass through Okpoko in Ogbaru Local Government Area as well as Awka North and Anambra West Council Areas, what comes to my mind is the fate of these most backward areas. “So, we have commenced the construction of a fourteen kilometer road project in Okpoko to open up the area and bring development to the area.
“The project will cost N4.9bn and would be completed in record time as was agreed by the contractors in charge of the project and what I saw at Okpoko was shanties and over hundreds of thousands of people, children and women are trapped inside the slum and swamp, but after the project all would be a thing of the past.”
At the flag off of Mmiata – Nzam Road section, Soludo recalled that; “The project was started in 2014 and about N600m was said to have been owed to the contractor and in 2022 the contractors left the site, but we had to call them back to complete the project.” “That was eight years ago, but we are paying the contractor 50 percent of the total cost of the contract and when completed, we pay the remaining 50 percent to make it 100 percent.
“This project is significant to us in Anambra, because it is closer to Abuja and we shall also add the 1.2 km road to access the headquarters of Anambra West Local Government Area which is Nzam. “The project would be ready by the end of January next year and we shall celebrate the New Year in Nzam, the headquarters of Anambra West Local Government Area. “We will discuss with the government of Kogi State so that when we get to the boundary, the government of Kogi State would continue from its end and when completed it will take us three and half hours to get to Abuja,” he said. Speaking at Okpunoeze Uruagu Nnewi Road, the governor who has been working round the clock to ensure Ndi Anambra enjoy true dividends of democracy, stated that the road has already been awarded for construction, saying that he came personally to inspect the road and feel the pulse of the people by himself.
“This constructed road will go all the way to Teaching Hospital and Nkwo Nnewi. We are very particular about roads that play very vital roles in the lives of the people. We want to ensure that communities are linked together because that is one of the ways to enthrone economic prosperity in the state,” Soludo said. At the flag off of Nanka – Isuofia road project, he noted that; “It’s a small road, but it’s very strategic. If you are coming from Nnewi to Oko, you won’t need to follow Ekwulobia roundabout. “We will decongest roads that will be motorable from Awka to Aguluezechukwu.” Soludo at the flag off of the Nawjija to Ogbunka road which leads to Akpu, Ufuma, Ajali all the way down to Ogbunka, crossing three rivers, he noted that; “Roads at Okpoko, Mmiata, Amansea through Ebenebe, Awba- Ofemili shall be constructed and a bridge from Awba-Ofemili to Anyamelum shall be built. “Also, roads from Ufuma to Awa, through Ndiukwuenu to Amansea will be fixed.” The governor also promised to build roads from Nanka, Igboukwu to Ikenga, Obosi, Abagana, Nimo and Awka, in order of priority. According to him, Ndi Anambra is in major need of roads.
“I inspect every road that shall be constructed before embarking on the construction. “We will fix roads in Ezira to Achina. This project is our own. The quality of roads we are building has never been done in the state, they are guaranteed to last for 20 years.” At the flag off, of the construction of 14.48Km Unizik-Okpuno Awka-Isuaniocha road at the state capital, he explained that; “After my inspection around Awka, I found out that all the roads are in very bad state. I was grieved about the deplorable conditions of the roads and the excruciating pains being experienced by the people on daily basis.
“Every community in Awka, I must admit have road crisis. The 181 communities in the state are largely affected. We are targeting strategic roads that have impact on traffic and economic activities in the state. “When I first visited this road, I walked all the way down from Unizik Junction to Y-Junction to assess its situation.
“We need to re-develop Awka and build pedestrian walkways where people will be walking. “There will be a distance from where people build houses to the gutters. We will expand the roads and make it a double lane road from UNIZIK temporary site junction to Y-Junction. “Not forgetting Club road, INEC road, Millennium industry, NECO Office, Regina Caeli and its environs. “Between yesterday and today, we flaggedoff more than 60km of roads in the state. “When you develop strategic roads, the value of assets will increase.
We shall be building roads gradually because we can’t build all the roads at a time. “As the people pay their taxes, we will continue to build more roads, because your tax money is at work. “We will complete over 250km of roads after our one year in office and show practical results of our achievements. “We don’t flag roads off and go away. Any road we are flagging off, we have saved the money for it. “I am not a conventional politician that flags off roads and doesn’t construct them. It’s not just the awarding of roads. Any road we start, we must complete it with a guarantee of 20 years. All the roads we are embarking on in the state are quality roads, because the solution is here. “We have heard of NigerCat, but if you do a standard road, we will employ you for subsequent roads because we need quality roads delivered to our people. We don’t want our people to go through this hardship ever again during the rainy season by next year.”
Post flood projects
Soludo still have yet another battle to fight following the effects of the perennial flooding that swept across the state. As the flood recedes, the dilapidated state of most roads in Anambra North Senatorial District would be made manifest, as the flood would dig deep holes and wash away both the earth works and the asphalt overlay of those roads. Local government areas such as Ayamelum, Anambra East and West, Ogbaru, Onitsha, Ekwusigo and Awka North Local Government Area would need its roads almost reconstructed by government.
However, the Soludo administration appears to have captured most of such roads in the budget for road construction and have almost been awarded awaiting flag off. At Awka North Local Government Area recently, the governor noted that the area is one of the food baskets of the state, adding that the short fall in food production is as a result of the inaccessible roads to the communities. “When you cannot get to Ugbenu, and Ugbene or Oba- Ofemili, how can you get to the farmers?
This has also affected the level of food production in those communities, because when they cannot get to the markets, most of those food items would perish and that is a minus for our state,” he said. The post flood projects will include larger canals to channel flood into the water ways without destroying already constructed roads.
It is being canvassed that the Anambra State government should exploit the massive road construction taking off in the state to construct irrigations while building roads at the communities that are along the water ways. Mr Chijioke Okeke, the State Chairman, Chattered Institute of Builders told this reporter that with such canals running into irrigations for agriculture, it would save the newly constructed roads, reduce flooding and also enhance food production in the area. “These things are very vital, because if we factor in the issue of building large and deep drains and connect same into the vast farmlands in those areas, we would have saved our roads and enhance food production on a long run,” he said.
Absence of Public Works Department
During the First and Second Republics in Nigeria, there used to be public works department within the ministry of works. The department is charged with the responsibility of clearing bushes that encroach into major roads and highways. The department also carries out periodic clearing of blocked drains thereby saving the roads from collapsing.
But today, that department has become history as there are no staff nor a department bearing such name. It is being posited that the reviving of the Public Works Department by the Anambra State government would serve as a stop gap measure in checkmating the failing of roads and also reduce the cost of embarking on billion naira road reconstruction. However, Soludo has a great task ahead of him in restoring the glory of Anambra State which used to boast of the best road networks in the South East.