A few weeks to this year’s Christmas, travellers planning to visit states in the eastern part of Nigeria are agitated following the countless number of checkpoints on Lagos-Benin-Onitsha Road, which is the major artery into the South-eastern part of Nigeria from the West.
Roadblocks and checkpoints mounted by uniform military and paramilitary officers on Lagos-Benin-Onitsha Road and beyond are now making the journey to states in the Southeast geopolitical zone unattractive.
It has become a traumatic experience to travel to the Eastern part of Nigeria by road because in most cases, 8 to 10-hour journeys are now taking up two days for the traveller to arrive at his or her destination.
Aside from the menace caused by checkpoints, the bad state of the road is also adding to travellers’ trauma and helping to elongate the journey.
Some of the highways in Nigeria that are in a bad state, including Benin-Auchi Highway, Benin-Warri Expressway, Ibadan-Ilesha Expressway, Abuja-Lokoja Expressway, Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Calabar-Itu Road, and Obollo Afor-Makurdi Road, and even the Benin bypass.
“When I was travelling to Enugu on Wednesday, November 21 2023, the road was relatively free of traffic but there were more than 100 checkpoints from Lagos to Enugu such that there is a checkpoint at less than a kilometre. This made a journey of 10 hours to take more than 18 hours even though the road was free of traffic congestion,” Ikechukwu Ugwu, a recent traveller told BusinessDay.
He said despite leaving Lagos around 6 am on Wednesday, that the Sienna car that he drove in did not get to Nsukka, Enugu State till midnight the next day due to the delays experienced on the numerous checkpoints on the road.
“The checkpoints were not without tolls as the security agencies, especially the police use it as an avenue to extort drivers and this does not allow for free flow of traffic. At one of the points, our driver was detained for over 30 minutes for refusing the pay the toll and that further delayed us.
“There is a place called Ugwu-Ogo in Enugu, notorious for kidnapping and other terror exhibited by criminals. The government also deployed security operatives to that ‘kidnappers’ den’ and it has helped to reduce the incidents of kidnapping but the delays caused by the pillar-to-pole checkpoints are becoming unbearable,” Ugwu further revealed.
Ugwu, however, disclosed that there was significant improvement on the dreaded Benin bypass especially the Benin-Onitsha bound lane while the Benin-Lagos bound lane was still in a bad state as of Sunday, November 26.
Meanwhile, Basil Chibuzor, who came to Lagos by road earlier in November, said the bad portions of the road, especially the Benin Bypass axis caused them to sleep on the road and made him fear for the potential Christmas travellers.
Chibuzor said aside from the delays caused by the checkpoints, having to follow Benin-Auchi Road only to return to Benin to avert the traffic congestion at the bad Benin Bypass in Edo State caused them to spend an additional 5 hours on the road and to contribute an added N1,000 per passenger to enable the driver to buy additional fuel.
He said he slept at the bus terminal in Lagos because he got to Lagos at 1am the next morning due to all the delays.
Esther Mbah, another Southeast traveller, said she slept at Owerri bus terminal during her last trip to Aba in October only to continue her journey the next morning due to the delays caused by traffic and checkpoints.
“It has now become a traumatic experience travelling to the Eastern part of Nigeria because on getting to my destination the next morning, it took me another two days to recover from body pains, headache and other health challenges that I faced spending two days on the road for a journey of originally 8 or 9 hours under normal circumstances,” she said.