Residents of Ekehuan road in Edo State, on Wednesday, blocked the access road to the city centre over the alleged abandonment of some sections of the 8.3km road dualisation project which is now in deplorable condition.
The Ekehuan-Ugbiokho road, which leads to the site of the Benin River Port project in Gelegele, the Ekehuan Army Cantonment, and several communities, had been in a deplorable state before the state government awarded the road project years ago to construct an underground drainage system and dualise the road.
Aggrieved by the alleged abandonment of the road project, particularly the Ugbiokho axis in Egor local government area, the residents, including market women and youths, barricaded the bad portions of the road, thereby preventing motorists, commuters as well as schoolchildren from reaching their respective destinations.
The situation subsequently led to a hike in transport fares as commercial bus drivers and taxis had to make a detour in order to reach their terminal points after spending hours on the road.
Speaking with BusinessDay, one of the protesters, Desmond Onaiwu, lamented the delay in the completion of the project, saying the bad state of the road has made transporters hike fares to recover the money spent repairing their vehicles.
“We are here to air our grievances. Last year, we came out like this and the governor sent an official to address us. The top government personnel assured us that the road will be fixed in no distant time. But, till now, it hasn’t been completed; it was abandoned around NIPCO filling station,” Onaiwu said.
Another resident, Courage Obaro, said “They blocked the road because the construction is slow. They are not even doing any palliative to enable the residents to pass through. I was on my way to Ekehuan Barrack from Ring road but on getting here, I saw the road was blocked, so I had to park my vehicle and trek to my destination.
A 73-year-old school bus driver, who was also affected by the barricade, said “We are suffering. Our vehicles break down every day. I was coming from the barrack axis to pick up the school children. The children had to alight and trek to the school.”
Also, an INEC official who was caught up in the protest said “I can’t get to my destination. I am supposed to be doing the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) for eligible voters but this protest has kept me here while prospective registrants are out there waiting for me”.
Ojior Osikhena, the permanent secretary, ministry of roads and bridges, told BusinessDay that “We are aware that the community is crying because of the state of the road but people need to understand that there isn’t much one can do at this time. We are trying to see what we can do to ameliorate the suffering of the residents.
“We have spoken with the contractor and they will do something about it. The contractor is only trying to be pragmatic so as not to put materials that will be watched away by rain.