By Evangelist.com.ng edition, Tuesday, November 14, 2023. Admin.
Owners of ancestral shrines, traditionalists and ’emergency farmers’ as well as local youths on the fringes of the Calabar-Uyo federal highway have been accused of allegedly blocking ongoing rehabilitation work on the very deplorable link road to many southeastern states.
Motorists, travellers and residents made the allegation at the weekend when there was a total traffic shutdown, leading to attacks by robbers and hoodlums.
Whereas the Akwa Ibom State axis of the road is witnessing steady rehabilitation progress by construction firms, yet work seems to have been abandoned at the Odukpani axis of the road in Cross River State.
A staff at the office of the federal controller of works in the state who gave his name as Effiom Andem complained that a series of reports have been received on how youths, some disguised as farmers, landlords and owners of tombs and ancestral shrines, have threatened construction workers, blocking them from executing their works.
“They claimed that the federal government must pay them first before the construction of the road will continue.
“Government has maintained that they will not pay for shrines or such hurriedly elected structures, like houses, farms, shops, on the fringes of the highway which were not earlier documented for compensation.”
However, some stakeholders claim that the government has not mobilized the contractors, which is why construction work has dragged on for several years since the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari.
Chief Francis Cobham, a community leader who spent seven hours from Calabar to Uyo in Akwa Ibom State last week instead of the normal one and half hours, spoke on a local radio phone in a programme, “The government has not released enough money to the contractors. This rainy season has contributed to the delays in the rehabilitation of the highway.”
Meanwhile, armed robbers, miscreants and cult gangs are reported to be unleashing terror on innocent travellers and motorists who are usually stuck on the very terrible and impassable highway on a daily basis.
Also, travellers who have experienced untold stress and difficulty on the Odukpani axis have raised the alarm over incessant attacks by armed robbers and deadly gangs.
One of the unlucky passengers, a former Publicity Secretary of State ruling party, Prince Bassey Ita who also was caught up and had to be evacuated by Okada riders with four others at cutthroat price.
Ita said, “My Experience travelling on a motorcycle along the Calabar-Itu Highway penultimate weekend was a most frightening and traumatic one. As thankful as I was to God that the Bike man ‘artfully’ and or tactically manoeuvred his way through the high and mighty road users to arrive at the destinations to and from that experience was better imagined than experienced.
“A fellow passenger had a different story about it altogether. In fact, for Asuquo Effiong it was a great exciting adventure to see that the Biker could be so clever to dodge all the bumps, manoeuvre through all the high and mighty ‘Road Masters’ to get to Okurikang community and back again to Odukpani junction where it all began.
However, the losses in terms of economic, social and even health implications were beyond the ordinary. For instance, my adrenaline level was a nose-dive for the traumatic effect, and it plunged my entire pocket size over the edge of a cliff. My sanitary condition as well as my sense of aesthetics were an eyesore. It was the most horrible and breathtaking experience for me in ages.
”Incidentally, this is worth sharing, like others have done, for prompt attention to be given by the relevant bodies involved in fixing the highway.”
Another traveller who was robbed alongside other passengers, Ernest Udo, a businessman from Akwa Ibom State said, “After spending over seven hours, we ended up spending the night as there was nowhere for many of us to abandon our goods and trek or ride on Okada. As we were inside the 18-seater bus, the boys came with small guns and knives. They disposed of our money, handsets and other valuables. They moved from one bus to another, robbing passengers..”