Federal Highway Death Trap In Cross River
SEPTEMBER 4, 2015, was a lucky day for 16 passengers and the driver of an Akwa Ibom State Transport Corporation (AKTC) bus, as they escaped death by the whiskers at a damaged culvert near Pamol plantation in the outskirt of Calabar. (There are over 100 such culverts along the affected highway.)
A tanker laden with petrol had veered off its lane, apparently to avoid falling into the ditch precipitated by the broken culvert. The gulf has eaten up almost half of the narrow and worn Calabar-Itu and Calabar-Ikom Federal Highway.
The tanker was face to face with the AKTC bus, which was returning from Uyo. The bus driver, in a split second, swerved off his lane and into the bush, to avoid a head on collision, as passengers screamed for divine intervention.
“We thank God that we are all alive. This would have been a disaster. God, we thank you!” one shocked passenger said with relief.
A journalist, Mr. Okon Bassey, who was in the bus during the incident, said it was a huge relief to have seen the bus veer into the bush and emerge again without any incident.
“For me, it was just a miracle and God’s intervention, otherwise all of us would have been crushed,” he said, calling on government to fix the Calabar-Itu and Calabar-Ikom Federal Highway before Cross River is cut off from the rest of the country.
He decried delay in the construction of the much-talked about Oron-Calabar axis of the East-West road, saying: “If that road is in place, there will be an alternative route for people driving to Uyo, and the pain motorists and commuters go through will be a thing of the past.”
The occupants of a red Toyota saloon car, however, were not as lucky. Five persons died on Tuesday when their car plunged into a river in the Adim axis of the road in Biase Local Government Area. Barely a month ago, the road claimed the lives of 16 persons who had been travelling to Ogoja for a ceremony.
It was gathered that the vehicle, which picked seven passengers at Obubra Local Government Area, was heading to Calabar when a tanker veered into its path, forcing it off a bridge and into the river.
The Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja-Obudu Highway has claimed several lives in recent time and motorists are worried. The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in its congress of September 9 decried the deplorable condition of federal roads in Cross River State and urged the Federal Government to urgently address the problem.
The communiqué issued at the end of the congress and signed by the chairman, Mr. Ndoma Akpet, and the secretary, Mr. Gill Nsa, said: “The government’s attention is being drawn, especially to the collapsed portions of the Calabar/Ikom/ Ogoja highway as well as the federal highway axis of Atimbo/Akpabuyo road, which has become a death trap to commuters and has made commuting challenging. Congress notes that without prompt repair of the collapsed portion, Calabar, the state capital, would be isolated from the rest of the country.”
Similarly, a councillor representing Ikot Nakanda ward in the legislature of Akpabuyo Local Government Area in Cross River State, Mrs. Bridget Nakanda, condemned the poor state of federal highways in the area, while moving a motion on the matter.
Recalling how youths in the area recently staged a protest to the legislative chamber of the council lamenting the poor state of federal roads in Akpabuyo, Nakanda demanded that the road be given the priority it deserves. And “if no urgent measure is put in place, Akpabuyo might be severed from the rest of the state, due to the dilapidated road.”
On his part, leader of the legislature, Mr. Bassey Ekpo, called for concerted effort on the road in Akpabuyo Local Government Area. He solicited the intervention of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) towards reconstructing the road, adding that it is significant to the economic wellbeing of the people.
Another member of the legislature, Mr. Bassey Bassey, representing Edet Nsa ward in Akpabuyo, said that at the moment, the road requires nothing short of a complete reconstruction. He said during the building of the road, years ago, it was not anticipated that it would accommodate heavy-duty trucks as is being experienced now.