From Joseph Amedu, Lokoja
Motorists and commuters plying the ever busy Lokoja-Okene federal road have expressed worry over the deplorable condition of the road.
Our Correspondent in Lokoja reports that the federal road, which serves as a gateway between the northern and southern part of the country had remained in a deplorable condition for a long time.
Dozens of articulated and heavy duty vehicles conveying goods such as grains, vegetables, fruits, livestock, agricultural products, building materials and host of others products that pass through the road further worsening its condition.
Due to the deplorable condition of the road, many of these articulated vehicles more often fell on the highway while trying to negotiate the myriads of potholes and deep craters resulting in traffic gridlock, which sometimes takes a whole day to clear.
A cross section of motorists and commuters, who spoke on the development, described the current state of the road as a “national embarrassment” and “nightmare for road users”.
A motorist and pioneer chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the state, Comrade Ibrahim Obansa said it was embarrassing and unfortunate for the Okene-Lokoja road to have deteriorated to that level.
“Sometimes if you are going to Okene, you will be afraid because you don’t even know how many hours you would spend on the road.
“Sometimes you could spend as much as a whole day and considering the fact that Okene or Kogi state is a gateway to many other states calls for serious concern.
“The government says it wants to fight insecurity and when you have a road that is as bad as that one, how would you fight insecurity because when you stay at one point for a long time due to the bad road, hoodlums take the advantage to attack commuters”, he said.
He said the heavy vehicular movements from East and South towards the North and from North to the southern part had placed a lot of pressure on the road.
He appealed to the federal government to find urgent solution to the situation particularly as the yuletide period is currently on.
“It is going to be hectic on that road during this Christmas period. We have had cases during the last Easter where people had to sleep on the road with some spending as much as two or more days before they could get to their destinations.
“This is very unfortunate and frustrating. I also feel that the state and the local governments where the road passes can, in the meantime, provide some interventions by filling the bad portions with laterite so that our people can have peace on this road.
“I’m calling on our son, the Governor of Kogi State to use his privileged position of being close to Mr President to impress on him to do something urgent about the road because if you leave it like this, Kogi State will continue to sink money in tackling security challenges occasioned,” he said.
A commuter, Mohammed Anda from Nagazi area in Adavi LGA, who usually plies the road described it as a “deathtrap”.
He said the worst portion of the road stretched from Itakpe Junction to Kabba Junction in Okene town.
“Itakpe Junction to Okene, which is less than 10km, will sometimes take you three hours because there’s virtually no road. Trailers on daily basis keep falling on the road with their goods thus causing traffic gridlock.
“We are appealing to the Federal Government to fix the road for us. The road is one of the major roads in the country and should be attended to. Those going to West, East and North use the road. I don’t think people have to beg government before they do it. Fashola should take a look at the road”, he said.
He however, warned that people of the area would not hesitate to vote against President Muhammadu Buhari come 2019 if nothing was done to fix the Lokoja-Okene road.
Also speaking, a commercial driver, Aliyu Jimoh lamented that the condition of the road usually gets “terrible” especially during the rainy season.
He said most commercial drivers were no more willing to put their vehicles on the road because of its deplorable condition.
According to him, the few drivers that still risk their lives plying the road were forced to be charging extra money to take care of the “tear and wears” their vehicles go through.
Our correspondent also learnt that commuters now pay between N600 and N800 from Lokoja to Okene instead of the usual N400 to N500 due to the deplorable condition of the road.
A motorist, Al-amin Onimisi said he was forced to take a longer route by going through Lokoja-Obajana to Kabba before connecting back to Okene due to the deplorable condition of the Okene-Lokoja road and the associated risks therewith.
He also called on the federal government to give urgent attention to the road so as to save commuters and motorists the hassle they are currently going through.
When contacted, the Federal Controller of Works in Kogi State, Engr Jimoh Kajogbola told our Correspondent that work was ongoing on the by-pass from Itakpe Junction-Ajaokuta-Okene.
He, however, said that the Itakpe Junction to Okene township road which most of the commuters complained about, was not within the ongoing contract.
“They have started patching the potholes from the Okene end. They are about finishing Okene by-pass, which will be opened before the Christmas by the grace of God. The contractors are working on the by-pass which we are doing to link Itakpe Junction to Okene-Ajaokuta road, by-passing the Okene township.
“The Itakpe Junction to Okene township is not within the ongoing contract but we have requested and it has been approved that the contractor should come and do it and charge it to another contract but the contractor has not mobilised yet. The letter was written at the end of last month so government is doing something about it”, Engr Kajogbola said.