In order to avoid the death trap, some commuters go through the Adolescent Project (TAP) junction to Mbano Camp, while others prefer the Eleme junction –
Umuebulu bye-pass. It is true that these alternative routes are better than the main road. But they however have their respective challenges.
Peter Kalu said he prefers the TAP- Mbano Camp route, but “the problem is that it is not always open.” The TAP – Mbano Camp road is under reconstruction, and is yet to be tarred. And as such there are portions that are very bad, and are yet to be worked on. Moreover, the construction company handling the road project restricts the use of the road to enable them concentrate on their work.
The other option which is the Eleme Junction-Umuebulu road is tarred to a great extent, but it is not as safe as the Port Harcourt – Enugu expressway. Irrespective of the presence of two major check points on the route, stories are rife of the activities of armed robbers and kidnappers.
The dilapidated state of the Port Harcourt – Oyigbo road did not start today. Residents of the area have suffered in many and varied dimensions just for living there. Those travelling through this route to Uyo, Calabar, Aba, Umuahia, Owerri, Okigwe and Enugu are not left out of the ordeal. There appears to be a conspiracy of some sort among successive regimes in Rivers state and the federal government against the repair and reconstruction of the road.
While it is the responsibility of the federal government to fix the road, it is known also that state governments rehabilitate federal roads in their domain, and get reimbursed for such by the central government. No serious work has really been done on the Oyigbo road right from Dr, Peter Odili's administration till date, which is why the road is in its sorry shape today.
Late last year, the federal government seemed to have woken up to its responsibility when China Civil Engineering Construction Company moved in their equipment and started excavations and filling in between the ongoing and in coming lanes of the expressway. Many were gladdened by this development. Expectations rose to high heavens. But till today, not a single portion of the road has been tarred by the company. Instead, the filled portions of the road raised the water level which now erodes, and wears down the existing tarred road, eating into them and making them worse than it was before.
According to Mr. Stanley Ugo, a resident of Okpulor near Location in Oyigbo, “the road is very bad. We are really suffering.” Ugo also revealed that commercial cyclists, popularly known as Okada, now ply from Eleme Junction to Oyigbo at a fare that is 100 per cent higher than the normal rates buses and taxis charge. Instead of the usual N100, the bikes collect N200, and not only that, they convey two passengers at a time.
A modest projection of the 2006 census to 2016 from the National Population Commission of Nigeria put the population of Oyigbo at 176,100. Out of this number, a lot of the people from the area go to work and do businesses in Port Harcourt. That aside, many from the north, middle belt, south-east and other parts of the south-south bring in their goods through this route. This, and others such as the need to save lives, property, loss of man hours, accident prevention, among others, underlines the socio-economic importance of the road which engender growth and development of Rivers state and the Nigerian society at large.
It has become very pertinent to fix the Port Harcourt - Oyigbo road now because the experience is not only frustrating, but also traumatic. Both the federal and state government should partner to ensure that this route is well reconstructed to ease the sufferings of citizens. Every responsible government should treat this as a priority.