The people of Abakaliki, Ebonyi North and Central Senatorial Zone have suffered deplorable roads since 80s. The last time their roads were constructed was the time of former Enugu governor, Jim Nwobodo, when the state was under old Enugu State. Since that time, their roads, otherwise known as ring road, which cuts across eight out of the 13 local government areas of the state have remained impassable. In the dry season, it is also impassable and usually very dusty, which accounted for why the state was regarded as ‘dust of the nation’ in the past by its neighbours. During raining season, the deplorable nature of the road is usually worst with the people finding it very difficult to access the road. Some pregnant women died on the roads while being taking to hospitals. Farmers could not harvest their agricultural produce and evacuate them to the markets especially the markets in the metropolis for the people to buy and eat. There was general hunger in the metropolis in those days of the deplorable ring road.
Today, the situation is no longer the same. The 198km ring road has received intervention by the state government. The road is currently under construction and is now at advance stage of the construction. It is being sponsored by African Development Bank(ADB) and Islamic Bank(IB). The project is handled by many contractors with the worked divided into Lots 8 for speedy completion.
The road is being constructed with concrete to ensure durability. Chief Ken Eze, former Chairman Ezza South local government area recalled his ordeal on Onueke/Ekka/Nkomoro axis of the ring road before the intervention by Governor Dave Umahi. He said “this road has been very terrible before it is being constructed like this. It has been a pen in the axe for a very long time. During the time of Jim Nwobodo, I know that contract was first awarded by one company called C. Onu Sailor. We were primary school that time and since that time, it has been terrible that it remains impassable. Sometimes, you think about parking your car and using motorcycle just for you to get through. “Of course, I am a major beneficiary because I live along the road and sometimes when I get to the village, I must lose my bumper before getting there and coming back. Today, the people of Ezza South are very greatful for the construction of this ring road.
“Mind you, we were being called the dust of the nation because the ring road we very bad, you know the kind of road we had, very red and dusty. During dry season, you travel on it, you have to first of all stop at Abakaiki, take another bath but now, you cannot do it again because the road has been constructed. “Where we were in school at Presco, Abakaiki, I must stop at Vanco junction when I get to the capital city to change my clothes, I guess this up as psychological issues, I will take about the cloth to use and change and those things are the stories I will tell my children that it used to be like that but today, this is what God has used the Governor to do. “The ring road is one of the landmine achievements of the present administration that is going to outlive all of us because of the quality of work. We give kudos to the governor for fighting it out because there were a lot of challenges before it came on board and people were like doubting Thomases, that it is not possible and now they are seeing that it is possible and nearing completion. “We are happy that we the people of Ezza South are major beneficiaries. We are greatful to God almighty that it is happening in our time and the Governor who embaked on the project that seems to be impossible before the eyes of men.
Another road user, Chief Livinus Uhuo who is from Oshiegbe, Ezza North local government area of the state said the ongoing construction of Oshiegbe/Nkomoro/I35 axis of the ring road will save the people from the sufferings they have been passing through as a result of the deplorable nature of the road. “Before the construction of this road, it was so terrible. Some pregnant women before you take them to town or Onueke, at times, they get into trouble but with the construction of this road, such will no longer be experienced. “We are very happy, there are lots of benefits from constructing this road because travelling now will no longer be difficult and all our agricultural products can now be easily evacuated”, he stated. In an interview, Chairman, Elders’ Council in the State, Chief Ben Okah while inspecting the roads alongside members of the council, said the ring road when will ease movements in the rural areas and increase commercial agriculture in the state. He explained that the state government decided to use concrete to construct the road because of soil texture of the roads in the state.
He said “the ring road was built in the 80s and it collapsed and was never completed by Chief Jim Nwobodo. Since then, every government of Ebonyi State wanted to complete it and it fell on the present Governor who is constructing it.
Abakaliki terrain is a terrain of mudy road, a very slippery road. Concrete is used to construct this road and it can last as long as 100 years. We started from Onueke to inspect the road and we are now at Ekka very close to Ogboji and that means people from here who hitterto would have gone through quarry road to Abakaiki before they get to Onueke, can do a 7km journey under a few minutes and they are in Onueke. “What we have seen actually is very good. We asked the contractors to complete this road before the expiration of the governor’s tenure. We give the governor kudos for constructing this road. “Somebody here in the past would have travelled about 50kms before getting to Abakaliki but now, they have 7km road which will take about 3 minutes to get to Onueke. So, the ring construction has increased commercial agriculture and the farmers will now be selling their products very easy”. Special Assistant to Governor Dave Umahi on ring road project, Engr. Felix Otah, said construction work on the ring road started last year and that many kilometers out of the 198kms of the road have been completed. “It is 198kms ring road. However, state government has intervened and we have eight lots altogether. That eight lots is divided into two; four out of the eight is being sponsored by Islamic Bank while four out of the lot is sponsored by African Development Bank. “Construction work on the ring road started last year and different kilometers have been achieved by the contractors. The governor insisted that it must be on concrete because of the nature of soil we have. The type of soil we have may not support the regular asphalt because of the clay content, sometimes it will fail. So, we have our consultants, we have the contractors, we have the PIU. They go to the site day by day to ensure that qualities and specifications are followed”, Otah said.
The Project Manager handling section 2, Lot 1 of the ring road, Engr Uchenna Okeagu, assured that the section will be completed before the end of Governor Umahi’s administration. “It is 16.47kms road from Onueke to Nkomoro and we are promising Ebonyi State government our client that we are doing everything possible to complete the project.
Our promise is that before the end of this tenure, we definitely inch up and hand over the project. On his part, the Project Manager of Lot 3 of the ring road, Karl Hung said “I want to guarantee that we will deliver the work on time, we will deliver quality work and also involve more Ebonyi people to participate in this development.
“I have the confidence that this road will exist more than 10 years. For now, the traffic is not much but with the development coming here as a result of the construction of the road, it will be very busy place even though I have the confidence that this road will serve and you know this is concrete and concrete last long. There is no road that can last for 100 years but we make efforts to make our roads meet specifications to all the requirements”.