The Need To Fix Aba- Ikot-Ekpene Road

Aba- Ikot-Ekpene Road is unarguably strategic to the economy of Abia State. The road links Aba, the economic heartbeat of the state to Akwa Ibom ancd Cross Rivers State and extends to the neighbouring Central African country, Cameroon .

Traders from these neighbouring states form buck of the businessmen that patronise various businesses in the commercial city. Also during the heydays of made-in Aba shoes, markets such as Cameroon and Togo were captured.

To describe the Aba- Ikot- Ekpene road as the proverbial " goose that lays the golden egg" may not be out of place. Unfortunately, to say that the road, especially the Abia axis of the road is in a deplorable condition is an understatement. The road is a disaster begging for serious attention.

The road has been roundly neglected by previous administrations of the federal government. The road project was reportedly awarded in 2009 to Brent Investment Ltd, by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration at the cost of N2.9 billion with a completion period of 20 months; the contract was meant to reconstruct the failed section of the highway.

It has been alleged that inadequate budgetary provisions in the past years has been responsible for the delay and the gradual failure of the road hampering economic activities in the commercial city of Aba and other cities in the South-east.

For example, the federal government did not make budgetary provisions for Aba-Ikot Ekpene road in 2013 budget, and so the contractor did not do much in terms of coverage and project completion. Also, the 2014 budget which was tagged all inclusive with a provision of N120 billion for the Federal Ministry of Works for capital projects could not proffer the solution.

The deplorable state of the road is exerting serious negative impact both on the Abia economy and citizens of Aba, especially those communities located on the fringes of this federal highway such as Alaoji, Ntigha, Umuafukwu, Ohanze, Umuokpo, and Onicha Ngwa, just to mention but few.

These communities are mostly agrarian communities and depend, to a greater extent, their farm produce for a living. For these communities to access Aba, which is their nearest commercial city, is akin to the proverbial "camel passing through the eye of the needle". For them to access the town, they swim like amphibians and engage in a more tortuous odyssey than that of the "Magi" in T.S Elliot's "The Journey of Magi".

To compound the situation, a sister road network, Opobo Road, linking Aba and some parts of Ukwa with some communities in Akwa Ibom down to Uyo is also in a deplorable state. The road is characterised by some failed portions which are menacingly threatening to cut off these areas.

Thank God, all hope is not lost, and despite how dark the cloud is, there is always a "silver linen".Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has on different occasions pronounced some intended interventions on the road .He said that he has entered into discussions with his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Governor Emmanuel Udom for some interventions on the road. The second level of intervention is the proposed by-pass that will cut through Ururuka Road and burst at a point around Onicha ngwa, along the same Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road.

The AfDB team was accompanied by another team from the Federal Ministry of Works, Abuja and had on the spot assessments of Aba- Port- Harcourt and Ikot- Ekpene roads .The inspection tour offered them the opportunity of first hand information of the level of decay of the roads and the trauma and suffering of the residents and travelers in and around these two key roads .AfDB is currently doing the technical analysis and studies of the roads before releasing funds for repairs of the roads. The visit has offered new hopes that these roads would be fixed.

While Gov. Ikpeazu should be commended for his infrastructural revolution in Aba, there is a passionate appeal to the federal government for urgent intervention on the federal lying on the fringes of Aba.

Road infrastructure is very important to the people of Aba because apart from the fact that the city is the commercial nerve centre of the state, it is fast assuming the hub of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises of the country.

Ukegbu, a public policy analyst and communication strategist, writes from Umuahia, Abia State

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Articles by Okechukwu Ukegbu