The Benin-Auchi-Okene federal road which is undergoing rehabilitation has become a death trap and hotspot for armed robbery and kidnapping. Daily Trust Saturday takes a look at the harrowing experience of motorists and commuters on the road.
Motorists and commuters plying the Benin-Auchi-Okene road go through horrific experiences daily trying to get to their destinations. The bad state of the road has turned it into a death trap and a hotspot for banditry, robbery and kidnapping.
Many people travelling on the road have had their goods perished after spending days on the busy road on account of its bad state.
The dualisation of the road that was flagged of by a former President, Goodluck Jonathan, in 2012 is divided into three sections, with three construction companies handling each.
Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) is handling the Benin to Ehor section, Dantata and Sawoe is handling the Auchi to Ekpoma section, while Mother Cat is handling the Okene to Auchi section.
Daily Trust Saturday learnt that as a result of the bad state of the road, the journey from Benin to Auchi which hitherto took one hour 20 minutes now takes between four to six hours.
It was observed that the Igieduma, Ekpoma, Ehor, Agbede and Ewu sections of the road are the worst hit due to the erosion, and whenever trucks break down, it results in gridlocks and blockade which usually last for several days.
One worker with RCC told Daily Trust Saturday that they were only doing a palliative work to ease the suffering of motorists and commuters, especially as the Christmas period was approaching.
He said the dualisation of the road was ongoing but that the palliative was to make the road motorable during the festive period.
It was also learnt that as a result of the deplorable state of the road, motorists, especially of smaller vehicles, go through Delta and Ondo states before connecting Auchi for onward movement to the northern part of the country.
One of the drivers at Ekpoma, Olawole Ganiyu, said, “I am going to Abuja from Lagos. I reached Ekpoma on Saturday, but today is Tuesday and I am still on the same spot because a truck broke down on the road, and unless they tow it away, we can’t move.”
On his part, Hamza Seidu told Daily Trust Saturday that he had been on the same spot in the last four hours and was not certain when the road would be cleared.
Seidu said, “I loaded my truck in Warri, going to Kano, and arrived here by 09:00am and this is 01:00pm and I don’t even know when I will leave here because another vehicle developed a fault, and until it is removed, no other vehicle can move.”
A driver working with one of the transport companies in Benin who gave his name as John, said they were going through harrowing experiences on the road.
John said, “The road is very bad, and once a truck breaks down, especially at the very bad section, it would immediately lead to gridlock due to impatience of drivers.
“Once this type of gridlock starts, we would spend three to five hours battling at the same spot, and at times it takes the combined effort of the police and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to clear the obstruction. On some occasions, trucks spend days on the road.”
He added that, “When the road was good, I used to run Benin to Auchi three times a day, but now, to even complete one trip is a big task, and we have to increase the price from N800 to N1,200 or N1500; depending on the situation.”
Mr. Edward Oki lamented the damage the road caused to his vehicle. He said, “Any day I ply the road with my car, I must visit a mechanic the following day to repair one or two things. It is better and cost effective to board commercial vehicles than travelling with personal vehicles on the road. The situation is very pathetic because the hardship is too much.”
He told our reporter that most of the transport companies had increased transport fares as a result of the gridlock, and that those who increased the fares had to take the long route through Agbor before connecting Auchi through Uromi in Esan Central Local Government Area of Edo State.
A truck driver with Dangote Group, Danjuma Abubakar, told our reporter that, “We only know when we start our journey, but we don’t know when we would reach our destinations. As you can see, only trucks are on this road because small vehicles can’t pass through any more because of the deep gullies.
“The road is even better now because of the rains have somehow ceased. If you had come during the rainy reason, you would have known what people are going through on the road.”
Another truck driver who gave his name as Elvis, said they kept plying the road because they had no option like smaller vehicles that took Agbor Road to connect Auchi through Uromi Township Road, and therefore called on the Federal Government to dualise the road.
A commuter, Lillian Johnson, lamented that she spent four hours on the road without reaching her destination.
Johnson said, “I boarded a vehicle at about 08:00am, it is now 12:00pm, and I am still at Ekpoma. The way it is now, I don’t know when I will get to Benin.”
She further lamented that the construction had worsened their plight, and that the work was moving at a snail’s pace.
Meanwhile, Abu Ahmed, a youth leader in Ehor Community, said, “Motorists have abandoned the road to the township road and the road is in bad shape now. The only good thing now is that they are repairing the bad section which forced them to the township road. We are already suffering the impact of their destruction.”
A community leader in Ekpoma, Samson Iri, said the bad road was taking a toll on the township road as motorists, especially smaller vehicles, had abandoned the express way.
Iri said, “Most of the vehicles are now taking the township road. The only vehicles using the express way now are articulated vehicles, and they spend three days on the road when there is gridlock, especially when a truck falls on the road.”
He said the development was affecting the economy of the area as it had reduced the number of vehicles plying the road.
When our reporter visited the Controller of Works, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing in Edo, Oke Owhe, he was out of the state on official duty.