Movement between Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State and Port Harcourt, the oil and gas capital of Nigeria, by road is becoming increasingly difficult.
The busy Aba-Port Harcourt Expressway has become almost unusable by motorists and the road users are calling on the Federal Government to save them from frequent loss of goods due to the terrible nature of the road.
They say they have been losing goods worth millions of naira on the 41.4km Aba-Port Harcourt section of the expressway on a daily basis.
Abuja recently approved a total sum of N25 billion for the reconstruction of the Enugu-Lokpanta section of the road that also leads to the Federal Capital Territory.
The deplorable road directly links five states- Enugu, Rivers, Abia, Imo and Ebonyi – with diversionary link to Anambra through Umunneochi axis of Abia State. It has a total length of 231.8 kilometres.
It starts from Enugu metropolis, passing through: Awgu, Lokpanta, Okigwe, Umuahia, Isiala-Ngwa, Aba, Obehie, Oyigbo and finally terminates in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
A commercial driver who plies Oyigbo-Obehie-Osisioma route, David Nzeduru, says the dilapidated nature of the road has increased the time of their trip from Aba to Oyigbo from 40 minutes to over two hours.
“When you enter the road because of its deplorable state, there is much traffic jam because of trucks that broke down in the middle of a bad portion of road or goods and containers that fell off trucks and blocked the road.
“If you want to pass from one lane to another, your vehicle can get stuck on a bad portion, in fact, the problem we go through because of this bad road is inexplicable.
“We beg the federal government to work on this road even if it means doing some patchwork on it pending the time it will be completely rehabilitated, let them do it to save us and our businesses”, he says.
A truck driver with TSL Lagos, Onaze Osas, says the terrible nature of the Aba-Port Harcourt section of the expressway, his main route, is affecting the company’s income as it has reduced the rate at which the company meets its target and pays them their earnings.
According to Osas, “moreover, when our company loads our vehicle, our company and the company they are to deliver goods for have time targets.
“But when our company fails to meet our own time target by not getting to our customer’s location on time, it affects our customers (the company we are delivering goods for) for which they will deduct our company’s earnings.
“This deduction will, in turn, affect our own earnings because our company will reduce our trip allowance from say N10,000 to say N5,000, this affects us and our families in a very bad way.
“So we ask the government to repair this road and make life easier for struggling citizens; Nigerians are hard-working and our governments need to encourage them.”
Another driver, Ibitamuno Inemoweri, said that using the Aba-Port Harcourt stretch of Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway has become a nightmare for drivers, travellers, business people and vehicle owners.
While saying the road users are suffering on the road because it has failed extensively and needed repairs to make it motorable again, Chinweike Sunday, a road user says the suffering of the road users is a very pathetic issue.
Sunday lamented that although the bad road affects their businesses and returns on their investments, the government still makes them pay taxes and levies as road users and citizens which is not fair.
The road users are praying for urgent action from the federal government to save them from losing their jobs, business and means of livelihood.
Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola, in April 2018 announced the award of a N6.3 billion contract for the 41.4km portion of Aba to Eleme Junction in Port Harcourt section of the expressway.
It was awarded to China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) which has since suffered rehabilitation setbacks resulting in extensive road failure and posing a danger to lives and businesses.