300,000 groan as road claim lives, property in Rivers
THE collapsed portion of the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway which caved in at around Kiliometre 18, within Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, has started to claim human lives.
On Thursday, a petroleum tanker loaded with with product crashed at the bad spot and caught fire with claimed no fewer than three lives. Before now, cement dealers, and traders who transact business at Aba, the commercial town of Abia State, have been the major victims.
As at Friday, it took motorist a minimum of two hours to cross the death trap, thus crippling socio-economic activities between the two neibouring states.
For those who cannot stand the ordeal including the operators of a metro-line buses popularly called ''Amaechi buses'', they have resorted to a risky Igbo-Etche route from the Oyigbo axis of Rivers, a boundary community with Abia.
A handfull of commuters and mptorists who spoke to our correspondent on Friday claimed that some 10,000 citizens are subjected to undue agony at the spot on an hourly basis.
It is however, a common sight to see citizens wade through the river-like flood at the dangerous spot. School children, market women and workers are trappped there on a daily basis with some motorists always abandon their vehicles in a bid to get to their destinations before 1.00am at night.
Rivers state Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, says it is the responsibility of the Federal Government and not his administration's to fix the road.
Amaechi, however, claims that a cost analysis by his state Works Ministry indicate that fixing the road will gulp some N12 billion. Beyond the usual patch work, the governor said the heavy flood water has to be re-channeled, and the road itself refortified to carry heavy-duty vehicles.
On Wednesday, a media group, Journalists for Niger Delta (JODEL), called on President Goodluck Jonathan, to urgently do something about the road in order to mitigate the suffering of citizens.
The group which is concerned with the affairs of the oil and gas region, said it was disturbing that government for two years have abandoned citizens who used the collapsed Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway at the Kilometre 18 end to their fate.
JODEL is claiming that on a daily basis heavy-duty vehicles fall at the bad portion which is massively flooded thereby exposing motorists and the travelling public to risk.
JODEL said it is a fundamental human rights of the Nigerian people to have good motorable roads.
''The sorry sight of a river at Kilometre 18 along what is supposed to be an expressway, like any other death traps across the country for us is a breach of the human rights of Nigerian citizens'', JODEL said.
Continuing, they said, ''we are of the view that if President Jonathan cannot fix all the major highways in the country, address the serious unemployment situation, and provide food for citizens, there is no basis for him to continue in office. He should resign''.
According to JODEL, ''we support the clamour for a sovereign national conference to address Nigeria's problematic national question, electoral reform before 2011 elections, transparency and good governance''.
On integrity and human rights, the media group claimed that Nigerian leaders often pay lip service to these concepts, pointing out that it takes more than the usual awareness-building to instill these values.
For them, ''it requires a more systematic approach, spearheaded by responsible partners and also right to food, freedom of expression, right to information, right of people to elect their leaders, must be the basis of fundamental change''.
''The Nigerian people'', they went on, ''must inquire from the 2011 candidates about integrity to their political platform – What values, rights, principles do they represent? How devoted are they to these values.''
Meanwhile, JODEL has called on Abuja to liaise with the Rivers State Government on how to salvage the crisis at the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway.