‘I derive joy in what I am doing’
How an individual repaired dilapidated federal roads in Edo
FOR over four weeks, travellers using the Benin-Auchi-Lokoja Highway were stranded because a stretch of the road, near Iruekpen, had cut into two making it impassable.
Another stretch in Ekpoma, by Big Joe Motors, was also dilapidated that commuters had to spend endless hours and some trucks were stranded for days on these spots.
Some boys began brisk businesses in the failed portions, as they were able to cut a path out of the bush that could enable vehicles pass over the failed portion with a fee of not less than N1000.
A journey from Benin to Igarra and environs in Akoko-Edo Local Council could take not less than four to five hours instead of two hours 30 minutes. Motorists had to go through Ighoneki of Agbor Road to Ogwa, Igueben, Uromi to Ewu or take the axis that would take them to Sobe, Owan, Agbanikaka Ifon to Afuze and then through Otuo to Igarra.
The situation became worse when some part of the New Agbor Road in Uromi also suffered the same fate and some persons in Uromi town and parts of Ekpoma were now turning back vehicles especially trucks from passing through their towns for fear of further damaging the roads.
After several appeals through the traditional and social media, a civil engineering firm, Ray Royal Company, mobilised its equipment to the sites for palliative measures to enable road-users access the areas.
First it was rumoured that the repairs were carried out by a religious group and then later that it was the state government, since there was official position by the federal government, the roads in question being federal roads.
But investigations revealed that the repair works that has saved commuters and travellers the agonies was actually an individual effort by the Managing Director of the construction firm, Rev Matthew Okpebholo, who, it was gathered, spent over N20 million to purchase materials used for the job. This is besides the usually higher cost of mobilising equipment and labour required for the job.
After a visit to the spots in Ekpoma and Uromi, The Guardian caught up with Okpebholo who refused to give the actual financial implication of his philanthropic work adding that he did it without prompting. “That is my life, if I see people suffering and there is something that I can do about it, I am always motivated the more to do it. The Ekpoma axis of that road has become messy. Vehicles were stranded there for over one week, particularly trucks. In fact, before we could move our trucks and equipment there, it was very difficult. Smaller vehicles were passing through the town and they were being turned back. That was when I found out that the road was completely cut off into two. Nobody approached me, I just decided on my own to do something.”
He told The Guardian: “It is not Ray Royal that is doing it; it is Rev Okpebholo that is doing it. I have a Foundation called Touching the Heart and Saving Lives. It is the foundation that is working. So seeing Ray Royal there does not mean we have a contract. I own the company by the grace of God but that is different from what is happening, it is the Foundation that is paying.”
I really did not want to advertise what I am doing, but only recently, somebody else was taking the credit and that was why they called from a radio station that somebody was claiming credit for what I am doing. I really want people to know, I would have put a signboard there but I am not doing it for money. I am happy people are appreciating it, I am happy people are enjoying it. So you cannot quantify what is being done here and the prayer I have been receiving since these two projects started.”
Our roads are weak. Any standard road is not supposed to last for more than 25 years, and these are roads are about 40 years old. When they were built, those areas were not developed, there was no need for drains but now everywhere is developed and erosion is now flowing into the roads. All the roads are bad but the people are happy for the little we have done. I derive joy in what I am doing, not for any political reason, I am not a politician. I am not doing it for favour but because the Almighty wants me to do it for humanity.”
A resident on the New Agbor Road, Prince Kennedy Okoeguale said: “For the past four weeks, I have not been able to enter my house, there is a culvert that has been destroyed by all these heavy trucks coming from the North to this part and from the east to the north. They destroyed the road and I have not been able to come here. It was only two days ago that I was told that the Managing Director of Ray Royal has directed all his equipment to come here that they brought in here 18 trailer loads of stones; caterpillars, graders, low loaders and other equipment to work here. That is why I have come to see it with my eyes. We thank him and we beg the media to help us thank him. I live in Benin City but my sisters live here and I could not come home to see them.”