Atop their motorcycles, waiting despondently for the next clients, these motorcyclists popularly called “Okada” roared thus, “We’re tired of this Flyover Bridge, go and tell Okezie Ikpeazu to either hasten its completion or terminate and dismantle it completely. It’s blocking our way here”.
“Okezie Ikpeazu is our Dede” (elder brother), “we put him there, but right now, we longer understand what he’s doing. We’re hungry and famished and to avoid being idle, we took to this Okada business (commercial motorcycling and now the road from here, Osisioma/Ngwa High School junction to Ekeakpara is so terrible that we find it very difficult to operate”, chorused the duo, Bright John and Azara Ochieze.
Without an iota of doubt, these are ‘Okada riders’ at Osisioma/Ngwa High School junction who on daily basis come out of their homes to eke out a living by offering logistics services with their motorbikes to commuters. They’re young men in their late twenties and were chatting excitedly besides their ‘machines’ under the yet-to-be completed Osisioma/Ngwa High School overhead bridge, (Flyover Bridge) in Abayi, Aba when they had an encounter with this reporter.
As the newshound sought to know their feelings over the Flyover that has taken many years to complete, the cyclists (John and Ochieze) didn’t hesitate to unleash their venom on the Abia State government over its continued rhetorical and fitful approach towards delivering the Flyover Bridge to the people.
Indigenes of Ekeakpara, the two Okada men lamented that Ekeakpara and other neighbouring communities in Osisioma have suffered untold hardship because of the deplorable state of the Osisioma junction-Ekeakpara-Ugba junction-Owerri-Owerr,i made worse the bridge construction.
“This road is impassable and as such, we’re almost out of business. Remember, Ekeakpara leads to Ugba junction and from there you can move to Owerrinta and off to Owerri. If Governor Ikpeazu rebuilds the road, left in this deplorable condition by the activities of the Chinese firm handling this Flyover, the traffic jam will seize”, Ochieze said, pointing to the traffic gridlock few metres away”.
“Our machines have broken down because of bad roads, particularly the Osisioma-Ekeakpara-Ugba junction-Owerrinta-Owerri road; we’re virtually doing nothing. Most of our colleagues don’t come out anymore for business”, remarked John, while Ochieze thundered “why don’t they dismantle the Flyover and concentrate in giving us good roads since the Flyover has become impossible to build? Now, people derogatorily call it a center-table for Ndi Ngwa? It’s a shame!
However, this reporter moved over to another set of the inhabitants of the yet to be completed Flyover Bridge. Messrs Emmanuel Obinna and Chinonso Umogo, who are both from Ebonyi State, weren’t prepared to speak; preferring rather to concentrate on their brisk business under the belly of the Flyover. However, persuaded to air their feelings, they said the project was becoming embarrassing. According to them, they were not shocked by its snail speed unlike the Ebonyi ‘miracle’, adding, “Because Okezie has godfathers, who after collecting the money from Abuja give him anything they like. In that wise, how do you expect him to complete the project? They asked rhetorically.
“I don’t think he will ever complete this Flyover unless his godfathers change their minds and decide to give him everything they collect from Abuja”, Emmanuel submitted. “See”, said Chinonso “in my state, Ebonyi, Governor Dave Umahi has no godfather and therefore anything he collects from Abuja, he invests it, but it’s not so here. The earlier he, Ikpeazu, expedites action on this the better, for now, it serves as a shield for some of us who don’t have stalls”.
“Please tell them to stop procrastinating. For now, let them repair the adjoining roads, they’re in terrible state of disrepair and forget about the bridge”, Chinonso added.
However, four metres away, beside the tarpaulin market, Mr Ebere Nwachukwu insisted that he had no qualms if the Flyover was completed or not, but swiftly added that “paramount importance now is the reconstruction of the Osisioma-NNPC Depot-Ekeakpara-Ugba junction-Owerrinta-Owerri road by state government. Am an Ngwa man, but what am seeing today concerning the Flyover and the adjourning roads is not encouraging at all
“Yes, the state government says it’s a federal road, but why not provide some palliative measures to enable the people have access to their homes. Many trucks that came to load fuel yesterday from the NNPC Depot fell down on the road and blocked it, the road is now inaccessible.
“Or they should rebuild the Expressway- Umuaguru-Ekeakpara road; that will make motorists to avoid the Osisoma junction and make a detour from the Expressway before Osisioma junction en route Ekeakpara, Owerrinta or Owerri”, Nwachukwu counseled. Indeed, a walk to Osisioma Local Government Council Headquarters that sits nearby confirmed the assertions of the residents.
When this reporter visited the project on Tuesday, site workers were busy doing their normal chores of directing sand excavators on the appropriate areas to offload the red mud, while some were busy leveling the already deposited mud, thus depicting the fact that the project is on a long journey to completion.
Meanwhile, the hope of Abians and indeed motorists plying the route that the Osisioma Flyover Bridge will be completed in December 2020 for Xmas festivities and will thus be handed over to them as a Christmas gift has now been dashed.
This was indeed confirmed by one of the site workers who insisted that the project is far from being completed contrary to what the government says. “This Flyover project will not be completed in December 2020 that’s all”, he submitted.
Nonetheless, Sylvanus Udeze, the Quality Controller of the project who was seen at the site, said the Osisioma Flyover is on course, but dismissed the assurances that it will be completed and delivered in December 2020. “If everything moves according to plans, then this Flyover will be for public use soon. What we’re doing now is the N Move (Riser) Section, when we complete it, we’ll fix other areas that need to be fixed and then put finishing touches before delivering it to government’”.
in Umuahia, a competent source said despite the recent posturing by government officials, the state has not funded the project lately, adding that the poor funding was the major reason top management of the Chinese firm went back to China. “When you visited there, did you see any Chinese on the site? The source asked, saying “They won’t be there unless serious financial commitment is made”.
It will be recalled that project was started in January 2016 by the Okezie Ikpeazu administration as part of its efforts to reduce the traffic gridlocks at Osisioma junction in Aba and give the city aesthetic beauty it deserves as well as also enhance the state of infrastructure in the commercial city. For now, the long stretched bridge is anything worth taking to the bank.
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.