One of the cardinal promises of the Buhari-led government of Nigeria was the construction of a second Niger Bridge to further link the Eastern part of the country with the rest part of the nation. This electoral promise was based on the obvious fact that the current bridge has become grossly inadequate to contain the heavy vehicular traffic associated with the Benin-Onitsha Express road, other roads and beyond.
To actualize the dream of the federal government along this line, Buhari created a three-in-one portfolio for the former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Babatunde Fashola. While a state like Delta has no full fledged minister, Lagos has three under the headship of Fashola. These include power, works and housing.
The idea of creating a second bridge across the Niger was first muted by the former government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. This was captured in the 2015 budget of the federal government.
However, with only about six months left for the President to complete his first tenure in office, the people of the south-east geo-political zone are yet to witness any sign of the fulfillment of Buhari’s promise of 2014 before the election.
Meanwhile, as the 2018 Christmas approaches, one expects that if the government cannot offer new roads or bridges, it should at least maintain the existing ones as were handed over to it by the previous regime.
Apart from the usual congestion often witnessed by the federal roads from Lagos to the east, these roads have degenerated from dilapidation to death traps. This condition of federal roads is dangerous for all those intending to visit their loved ones at the end of this year.
There are about nine major bad spots needing urgent attention on this busy high way. They include the Benin byepass, the Ugoneki axis, Uromi junction Agbor, between Dr. Whyte and Mariere area Agbor, Umunede/Mbiri junction, Issele-uku, Otulu, Onitsha Headbridge, between Onitsha and D’nokofia and shortly before Awka on the way to Enugu. Of all these, the worst hit remains Umunede and Issele-uku which have claimed many lives and damaged a lot of vehicles that are normally ‘brought down’ by the gullies on the road.
The Federal Road Management Agency (FERMA) owes Nigerians a duty to perform minor repairs on Federal high ways in the country. And beyond the maintenance of these roads, the government ought to critically examine the causes of their rapid deterioration with a view to finding enduring solutions to them.
One of the obvious steps that can stem the tide of things as they stand now should be adequate provisions of men, materials and other resources for regular repairs of bad spots on federal roads.
Since the toll gates have been dismantled, the government can device a means of placing minimal charges per annum on heavy trucks that ply the roads. To eliminate the ugly corrupt incidences that led to the scraping of the toll gates, relevant agencies such as the Federal ministry of transport can be permitted to collect these charges from commercial truck owners. In this wise, the emblems that represent official permit from government should be placed on vehicles as stickers that cover them for one year.
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) should intensify efforts aimed at providing necessary road signs to help motorists know when to slow down as a result of any bad area of the roads as they approach such spots.
It is not enough for the Nigeria police officers and other agencies at check-points to identify and punish drivers with expired driving licenses. They should go further to identify those who may have merely purchased their licenses without attending any driving school or who are not old and educated enough to understand traffic rules.
As with the case in civilized societies, the appropriate authorities should device scientific means of identifying motorists who drive under the influence of alcohols and hard drugs.
Public education of motorists and passengers as often carried out by the Federal Road safety Corps must not be neglected. Instead, more premiums should be placed on it by the authorities concerned. Public vehicle drivers can be made to show evidence of having attended such trainings within specified periods of time which must not be more than two years.
It is high time our Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) began to improve on their traditional methods to embrace technology in carrying out their functions of ensuring that only road-worthy cars and trucks are permitted to ply Nigerian roads.
Health officers with ambulances are required to patrol the roads to ensure that accident victims are evacuated in time from scenes for attention in hospitals after accidents. This will no doubt check incidences where victims have been known to bleed to death after accidents
Between now and November, if the Federal government fail to fix these roads, it simply means that imminent danger awaits all who are likely to go through them during the yuletide. Life, they say, have no duplicate. This is why all hands must be on deck to forestall the carnage on our roads at this period of the year.
Communities and well-meaning individuals that live around the areas where the roads have gone bad should partner with government to ensure the safety of Nigerians who have survived the scorch of hunger in the land. Even the State and Local Governments can intervene on beh alf of the Federal Government in this regard.
Now this… Kudos to Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa for his leadership and political acumen as manifested during the last PDP primaries that produced Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 general elections.