The deplorable state of the Ugwuonyeama-Ninth Mile axis of the Enugu-Onitsha highway is eliciting renewed concerns from road users, especially truck and tanker drivers plying the strategic road, as the rainy season sets in.
The dual carriageway, from the New Market axis in Iva-Valley Enugu to the Ninth Mile corner, has worn out dangerously to the point of being abandoned for articulated vehicles and tankers. The other users are herdsmen tending their cows.
While these vehicles alternate the roads in an attempt to manouvre dangerous potholes and gullies created by galloping erosion, it is also common seeing automobiles falling freely or broken down.
It was gathered that the highway has been abandoned for years, forcing commuters to negotiate the Milliken Hill-Ngwo road, rehabilitated by the Enugu State Government, as an alternative.
During a tour of the infrastructure yesterday, The Guardian observed that movement was majorly on one lane due to the yawning gaps in several places.
On one of the spots, was an articulated vehicle that fell and covered the entire stretch. While the tanker drivers wriggled through the dangerous spots, soldiers, who mounted a checkpoint, increased the agony by levying transporters between N500 and N1000.
A number of motorists regretted that the wet season would worsen the situation.
A tanker driver said: “Ugwuonyeama to Ninth Mile can ordinarily take about 10 or 15 minutes as the case may be, but we spend as much as one hour or thereabout on this road. This is because, it has been washed off. You queue at times and the military mounting the checkpoint here has not helped matter. They stop every vehicle and insist on settlement. You don’t go anywhere unless you settle them. We call on the government to do something about this road and help our people.”
Another truck driver, Musa, submitted: “Our motors collapse easily on this road. I usually bring in foodstuffs to Enugu from Benue. You could manage other bad roads but this one is a bit difficult because of the hilly nature. It is a difficult thing taking this road, but there is no alternative. This is the only road we can use.
“I don’t know what will happen with the rains now coming. It will compound the situation. I don’t know why the government decided to abandon the road. The truth is that it has not been easy for us.”
Chairman of Water Tanker Drivers Association, Enugu State, Chief Ifeatu Igbodike, while lamenting the poor state of the road, stated that three or four of his members die yearly on the highway.
He said the nature of the road was behind the exorbitant price charged by his members to bring potable water to consumers in Enugu metropolis.