Residents of Umuahia Abia State capital particularly those passing through Orpet axis of Umuahia-Ikwuano-Ikot Ekpene highway had some excruciating pains Monday morning when some protesting students of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, (MOUAU), near Umuahia, staged a peaceful protest against the bad state of the road as a result of which one of their students was crushed by a speeding truck on Sunday evening.
The city was held hostage on Monday for hours as the large crowd of students marched through the road, peaceful though, terminating their march at the Abia seat of power in Umuahia. This indeed caused logjam, disrupting the movement of human and vehicular traffic for hours.
The MOUAU is located at the Umudike axis of the Umuahia-Ikwuano-Ikot Ekpene highway. It was gathered that deceased student, Miss Chidinma Ogbonna, a final year student of the Department of Fishery was trying to cross the road when the truck whose driver allegedly sped away crushed her. The driver was said to be driving on top speed and suddenly met the potholes at the university frontiers and lost control.
The unidentified truck driver, reports said, hurriedly drove away on the discovery that his victim had no chance of surviving the accident.
Placards-carrying students sang solidarity songs. The placards had some inscriptions such as“Enough Is Enough”, “Federal Government Save Our Souls, Repair Your Roads” etc. At the Government House, Umuahia where the Secretary to the Government of Abia State (SSG), Barr Chris Ezem, praised them for the peaceful conduct of the protest, the students through their leader, called for the immediate reconstruction of the road.
The SSG used the opportunity to plead with the federal government to urgently rehabilitate the road to stop the incessant cases of human and vehicular wastages on it.
The president of the Students’ Union Government (SUG), Comrade Chukwuma Ogochukwu decried the deplorable state of the road and disclosed that the Umuahia-Ikwuano-Ikot Ekpene has become a death trap, not only to students, lecturers and staff of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, but to the entire people of the areas the road passes through such as Ndume, Umudike etc.
He insisted that the students were determined to stay on the streets until the road is fixed. However, the Abia State government swiftly pledged to perform some palliative measures on the road from Wednesday this week.
The State Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu in reaction to the sad report said in Umuahia that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has ordered for the partial rehabilitation of the road for easy passage pending when the federal government, whose duty it is to do it, will do a total reconstruction of the dilapidated road. The Umuahia-Ikwuano-Ikot Ekpene leads to Cameroun.
The measure, he added, is to ease the sufferings motorists and people plying the road encounter on daily basis. Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, said Okiyi Kalu, was worried over the depreciating state of the road and the sufferings of the people using it and has decided to intervene quickly.
It will be recalled that the Umuahia-Ikwuano-Ikot Ekpene road has been in a deplorable state disrepair since the past six years even as the government awarded N13billion for its rehabilitation since 2019.
In an interview with newsmen, the Member, representing Ikwuano/Umuahia North/Umuahia South Federal Constituency said following his intervention, the Federal Executive Council awarded the contract for its rehabilitation at the cost of N13billion in 2016.
Onuigbo stated that even after awarding the contract, the relevant authorities refused to properly fund the project, pointing out that it was why the contractor to pulled temporarily out of the site.
He disclosed that following his appeal, the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), was directed in 2016 to start rehabilitation work on it with a rigid pavement due to the high rate of heavy truck vehicles that ply on the road.
It was gathered that before the COVID-19 lockdown, FERMA did some palliative works at various points, but disappeared out of site when the lockdown began. The Abia State government in its self has done some palliative work on the road sometime.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.