How broken Aba-Ikot-Ekpene Road hurts Abia economy

There were looks of abandonment on the faces of passers-by along Aba-ikot- Ekpene road on September 19. The road links Abia to Akwa Ibom— two states in the oil-rich South- East and SouthSouth regions of Nigeria. In the 1990s, Aba shoe and textile makers ferried their products to Akwa Ibom through the road. But the road now looked as forlorn as its passersby. The Aba section was overrun by dirty water. The middle of the section bordering Umuokpo and Onicha Ngwa communities in Obingwa Local Government Area was covered by comfortably sat green grass.

“They have abandoned us to our fate,” Nonso Obima, a shoemaker at Ariaria, who lives in Ogbor Hill area of the road, said.

“They have cut off the section through which we supply our shoes and textiles to neighbouring states and Cameroon,” he cried.

Talking about abandonment, the road was awarded on December 13, 2012, to Arab Contractors OAO Nigeria Limited at the cost of N3.780 billion. The road links Aba to Akwa Ibom and Cross River in Nigeria, and Cameroon in Central Africa. It was supposed to start from Ikot-ekpene, criss- cross Aba and end in Owerri. The road was to be dualised, but much of Aba—ikot-ekpene axis was not. Those who live around confirmed that the project was started in 2012 but abandoned midway. Reliable sources said after a long period of abandonment , the contractor ran to the Ministry of Works complaining that the contract was undervalued. The federal executive council thereafter approved additional N6.17 billion in 2018, which is yet to be released.

Strangely, Minister of Information Lai Mohammed listed this road as one of the 69 ongoing projects in the South- East in August 2018. When Businessday visited this road in 2018, work was not going on as it was discovered that the contractor merely parked vehicles at a private residence in-between the United Evangelical Church and Onyedika Industries, Alaoji Ntigha. The long and short story is that the contract is yet to be completed seven years after being awarded.

Around 2011, this road had over 40 filling stations, 50 restaurants, seven hotels, over six manufacturing firms, three farm settlements and tens of super markets, among others, Ben Ihu, a resident of one of the towns along the axis, told Businessday.

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“But most of them have closed shop,” he said.

Past presidents have neglected this important road, using it as a bait for the state during general elections.

The road has been in this state for more than 15 years, with federal govenment officials playing politics with it.

In March this year, Solomon Akpulonu, deputy majority leader of the Abia State House of Assembly, said the state of the road was impacting negatively on the economy of Abia.

“I’m begging the Federal Government to urgently commence rehabilitation work on the abandoned Aba–ikot Ekpene Road. Many communities in Obingwa East State Constituency have been cut off from Aba and the neighbouring towns in Akwa Ibom State due to the deplorable condition of this road,” he said, while addressing his constituents.

He said ov e r 500 business outlets located along the Aba-ikot Ekpene Road had closed down due to the poor condition of the road, pointing out that the then visit of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola to the road was yet to bear fruit.

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