Home News Unending pains on Enugu-Onitsha expressway – by Cosmas Omegoh

Unending pains on Enugu-Onitsha expressway – by Cosmas Omegoh


Not many have feelings of any sort. They don’t have emotions, no matter what happens. Not even when their mother’s obituary is announced. They are adamant, unfazed, unperturbed. But not one of such persons who manages to meander through the so-called Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, a road that links Anambra with Enugu, the North and some parts of the entire East.

One will be compelled to drop a tear while pulling through the deplorable Enugu-Onitsha highway, which has depreciated beyond words. Those who make it through the road thereafter congratulate themselves for the feat. For those who do not know it, going through the Enugu-Onitsha road is akin to passing through the valley of the shadow of death. Nothing less!

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In the long gone years, when the road was first constructed, it was the star of the East and the lone Federal Government signature project East of the lower Niger – a master piece to behold. Racing on its perfectly-asphalted lanes was something of a huge delight. It took barely 1 hour and 30 minute to cruise from Enugu to Onitsha, a distance of about 100km. Back then, life was good. But now not anymore! You are lucky if you do Enugu to Onitsha now in 3 hours. Yet, that is with pains and enormous depreciation to the vehicle.

The road was believed to have been started by the General Olusegun Obasanjo military administration. It was inherited by the Shehu Shagari civilian administration before it was eventually completed.

As at today, the Enugu-Onitsha expressway is a living hell – a highway to the valley of death. Many unlucky ones don’t survive a ride on it. Those who do, have awful tales to tell. Not one of them is good music.

Two recent accidents on the Enugu-Onitsha road are sure to bring tears to every eye. Somewhere at Ugwuoba at the Enugu State end, the carcasses of a fuel tanker and a sprinter bus lay derelict, cleared out of the way, completely burnt out. Only those who witnessed the crash know what happened. It was evident that both vehicles had a collision. Then fire erupted. Both of them were completely consumed. Probably lives were lost. Now, all that are left are the charred remains of the two vehicles, a brutal reminder of the tragedy that occurred on that fateful day.

The other accident was just fresh. A big truck fully loaded with tubers of yam fell somewhere at a terribly bad portion of the road, also at Ugwuoba. The truck must be coming from somewhere yams are cultivated in commercial quantity. It was headed for either Awka or Onitsha. But it didn’t get to its destination. It crashed and fell on its side. Evidently, the driver was trying to manoeuvre through a terrible terrain. Then the unfortunate happened. Yam tubers were strewn all around the area. The motor boy was seen sitting and seething in untold pain inches away from the disaster scene. He sat forlorn, fatigued and famished, staring into space. He cut a pitiable sight. If you listened to the rhythm of his mind, he was evidently lost wondering why and how things ended that way. He could not fathom how the Enugu-Onitsha could be called an expressway.

On that occasion, if curses are indeed potent, and if indeed they can really kill as many are wont to believe, as many as have delayed or not done what they are supposed to do for the good of that road and humanity would have been struck dead – instantly. Why? Because seeing what happened, all the passengers en route to Lagos simultaneously burst out, releasing curses.

“May all those who are supposed to see to the completion of this road not see anything good. May the money they steal, meant to rehabilitate this road, never be of any good to them and their families! May such money be a purgative to their system,” one of the passengers cursed.

It was such a rain of curses. But as far as it goes that is the only weapon the ordinary persons can unleash. After that nothing happens. Life goes on. Now here is a quick throwback. The sorry state of the Enugu-Onitsha road has been on the front burner since ages past. Government after government makes the road a campaign point. Politicians come make inspiring promises; they raise hopes, but that is as far as it goes.

The present administration also promised to change the narrative on the road. But with seven years gone, nothing significant has happened.

But somewhere at Ugwuoba, a few signs are noticed: that a certain construction firm is on that road. A few of its machinery were seen too. But it is clear it is merely massaging the road. Not even one staff of the company was on the project site.

“This company is merely working with head pans and trowels,” the driver of the vehicle joked, headlining how slow their work had been if ever anything tangible was happening there.

“But for how long will they continue to deceive us, and themselves with this road?” a passenger queried.

“They are simply using this road to punish the East, but God is greater than them,” another passenger submitted, resigning to fate.

Then the driver went on to narrate incidents of kidnapping on the road by Fulani herders.

He pointed to an unpaved dusty road leading to a certain village.

“This junction is a flash point,” he said, adding that “some drivers have told how they and their passengers were waylaid here, robbed and driven into the bushes.

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“They take advantage of the bad road and block unlucky motorists. If you are caught here, there will hardly be any rescue; the marauders will take their victims as far as they can go. It is terrible; only God has been saving those of us who are regular on this road.”

He revealed how best the road is only in dry season: “Once the rainy season arrives, this road sometimes is practically impassable.”

And true to his testimony, there were visible signs here and there by the way side, showing how trucks that got trapped in the mud were freed.

Every passenger in the vehicle had one experience or opinion about what was going on the road, and the seeming insensitivity of the Federal Government to the road rehabilitation effort over the long years gone past. Every word of theirs dripped with sadness, sorrow, dissatisfaction and discontent with the authorities.

Our correspondent observed that from Enugu township, the only a section of the former dual carriage way inward Enugu is in use with motorists competing for the right of way. The other had been abandoned for a long time, and it was clear. The situation is the same up to the popular 9th Mile corner.

The area a long time ago used to be full of life. Vehicle drivers heading to Nsukka and the North from that axis usually stopover in the area to refresh. But on that occasion, the 9th Mile Corner looked deserted, derelict, its shine taken away. The bad nature of the road around the area looked like the devil had robbed it of its life, soul and bubbling spirit, leaving it with the husk, a shadow of its once promising past.

From 9th Mile, only a section of the road remains in use. Motorists manage it because they don’t have any alternative or so it seems. On and on, the story stays the same.

At every station, hoodlums believed to be working for themselves take advantage of the situation to waylay trucks. They burst out from a corner demanding toll. They are a government in an ungoverned space. They will block the remaining alley with big rock boulders or hewed out tree trunks. For first timers, it was learnt, tempers flare always. But the hoodlums always have the upper hand; they always prevail; otherwise they will smash every part of the vehicle they can, including the windshield.

On this occasion, some scruffy lads averaging nine in number were in supreme command; three of them latched on a truck conveying livestock. The truck occupants were adamant. But they were wrong. The driver of the vehicle conveying this reporter had to passionately appeal to one the hoodlums – about 19 years old – who held sway menacingly on the solitary drive way wielding a big stick. Our driver pleaded with him to let him go.

“Nna ooo, Papa ooo, (Brother, Father) he hailed him, “Please let me go!” Explaining some moments later, he said: “If you don’t do that he might turn his bile on you. Sometimes, it might end in robbery. Head or tail you are the loser.”

Nothing changes until you get to Amansea, still in Enugu State. Only one lane is still in use; this time the one inward Onitsha is fair.

As motorists cross a certain river and head into Awka, there is reprieve. The Anambra end is fair by miles. But still only a section of the road is fairly motorable. Former Anambra State Commissioner for Information, Chief Tony Onyima, once told our correspondent that things got to a point where the state of the road became a huge embarrassment to the state government. The deplorable state of the road was like a cancer on its throat; so it applied to the Federal Ministry of Works and opted to rehabilitate its own section of the road up to Onitsha including a flyover in Awada.

“The citizenry don’t understand who owns this or the other road. All they want to see is good roads to travel on. That was why the state government had to do the needful.”

But even now, a section of the road from Awka has gone bad again. Only the part inward Awka is being used by motorists. That is the story up to the new Anambra airport junction and somewhere around Umunya. From there, motorists can now enjoy a breather as they go into Onitsha.

In July last year, the Minister of Works, Mr Babatunde Fashola, announced that N8.6 billion had been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to continue work on the road, thus indicating that hope was in sight.

“The Ministry of Works and Housing presented one memorandum to council, which was for the revised estimated total cost for our project on the Enugu-Onitsha highway; it was to add the sum of N8.649 billion for a 22-kilometre section of the 100-kilometre road so that we can expedite conclusion of work there.

“The variation is to cater for change of the pavement surface, binder cost and the wiring cost, to increase the thickness and also to utilise the modified bitumen as well as strengthen the shoulders and some bridge work. So, the Council approved this variation of N8.649 billion.”

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