As the Christmas and New Year approach, residents of Abia State and commuters on the nightmarish Umuahia-Ikot-Ekpene federal highway are excited that the Federal Government has commenced palliative work on the road.
The government, through the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), commenced work on the road at the weekend.
The deplorable condition of the highway has remained a source of concern to motorists and commuters following the high rate of accidents, destruction of life and property on the road.
The highway, which serves as the major link road between Abia and Akwa Ibom States, has suffered decades of neglect thus worsening the plight of commuters and communities living along the road, particularly on the Abia end.
At the commencement of work on the road project, the representative of FERMA, Mr. Abraham Akange, said that the government’s decision to fix the highway was due to the pressure from the National Assembly members from Abia State.
He particularly acknowledged the efforts of Senator Theodore Orji, representing Abia Central Senatorial District; and the member representing Ikwuano-Umuahia in the House of Representatives, Chief Sam Onuigbo.
According to him, their pressure on FERMA and the Federal Ministry of Works for the rehabilitation of the road was so tense that an emergency meeting had to be convened by the Minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, in Abuja, where the plan for the palliative work was unveiled and ratified.
Akange said that adequate provisions had been made for the project and urged the contractor to do a quality job.
Akange, however, blamed the frequent collapse of roads in Nigeria on the absence of functional railway system, which according to him, subjects the highways to severe pressure.
In his remarks, Onuigbo expressed joy that at last the government had decided to give attention to the road.
Onuigbo, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Climate Change, said that the rehabilitation of the highway was one of his major campaign promises. He said that full rehabilitation of the road would commence next year, having been captured in the 2017 Budget.
Describing the road as very strategic to the people of the South East and South-South geo-political zones, Onuigbo praised the government for the initiative and pleaded that the project should be delivered on schedule.
Senator Orji expressed delight that the plight of the people of the area and motorists would be reduced by the palliative work, especially during the Yuletide.
Orji, a former governor of Abia State, therefore, urged FERMA and the contractor to ensure that the project was not abandoned.
He pledged the continued support of the National Assembly members from the area for the completion of the project.