By Ramatu Ali Ohioma
If you have travelled along the Lokoja-Okene and Ajaokuta-Itobe roads in Kogi State recently the horrible experience will certainly make you wonder if the authority is really concerned about safety on our roads. Reckless driving and bad roads are the main causes of the frequent accidents on our highways.
This is why the decision of the present government to focus on road construction and rehabilitation came as good news. And one had thought that with that people oriented decision, efforts would be promptly made to commence work on crucial routes like the Okene -Lokoja road which links the North to the South, just as it facilitates economic activities. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to repair this road.
The rainy season has further damaged the narrow Okene road, making the movement of vehicles very difficult. My recent trip on that road to and from Lagos was a nightmarish experience. Coming from Lagos on a Sunday, the journey was smooth till we arrived Okene and were held up in traffic for three hours instead of spending only 30 minutes if the road was in good shape.
Trailers took over the narrow pot hole-filled road while smaller vehicles struggled to manoeuvre out of the traffic jam. Movement was at a snail speed while the sight of so many trailers, some struggling to control faulty brakes was quite scary. Broken down vehicles dotting the bad road is a common sight.
Throughout the duration of our stay on that dangerous route my heart was in my mouth. Several crashes have claimed a large number of lives on this terrible road that traffic jam has become a permanent feature. It is the same sad story along the Ajaokuta – Itobe road. This short distance that should take a motorist just 15 to 20 minutes to make is now one hour or more because it is very bad.
The activities of trailers that have taken over this road due to the three industries in the area have further worsened the plight of travellers. This road equally has large pot holes while the bridge is of no help because it is beginning to give way. Commercial activities are hampered because farmers find it difficult to transport their products from rural areas to the state capital, Lokoja. These roads are nothing but death traps. Since they are federal roads it is necessary that they are given urgent attention before the situation worsens.
The Federal Ministry of Works should rise to the occasion. Although, nothing concrete can be done now due to the rainy season, the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) should carry out temporary repairs to ameliorate the suffering of commuters, considering the strategic location of the roads.
The fact that most Nigerians can only afford road transportation while the railway project is still on-going makes the need for the rehabilitation and building of roads more compelling. Our leaders should travel more by roads rather than fly to appreciate what people go through.
*Ramatu Ali Ohioma wrote this piece from Abuja.