…Residents mourn October 1st tanker accident victims
… Governor Oborevwori sad, says ‘never again’
The Federal Government is receiving torrents of blames from residents, government of Delta State as well as commuters over the deplorable state of federal roads in the state.
The blames heightened this rainy season as the roads, especially most parts of the East-West Road are rendered impassable leading to loss of lives and destruction of goods running into billions of naira.
The worst of the incidents was the tanker accident that occurred recently. A tanker ladened with fuel crashed at the Koko Junction of Sapele Local Government Area which ended up exploding and killing about five persons instantly while razing 17 vehicles that were trapped by traffic gridlock along the road. The incident happened on the very day Nigeria was marking its 63rd independence anniversary.
Read also: Petrol tanker explosion claims 5 in Delta
After a few days, it was reported that more corpses were recovered from the swamp, apparently people who fled for safety during the incident without knowing they were fleeing into their death.
The news of petrol-tankers spreading death on the roads seem to spread faster than news of other vehicles that often fall at the various locations of the failed portions of the federal road.
For instance, there are some spots along Asaba-Onitsha Expressway where trucks and trailers fall on daily basis, resulting in road users and commuters using only one lane or veer off into the adjoining streets before navigating into the expressway again to continue their journey. Several manhours are also lost due to traffic congestion caused by the fallen heavy-duty vehicles.
Those who reside along those dreadful roads say they always pray that similar incidents like that of Koko Junction would not replicate itself.
Recently, another petrol-laden tanker fell along Ibusa Road in Oshimili North LGA, spilling its content in the process. Like in many other cases where residents wave aside the possibility of imminent death while they are beclouded by the quest to cash in on the opportunity, some residents of Ibusa trooped out, scooping petroleum products from the fallen tanker.
Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State has reacted sharply over the seemingly neglect of the Federal Roads in the state and the incessant accidents that occur on them as a result of their deplorable state.
While Nigeria marked its 63rd independence anniversary, many Nigerians said that the state of infrastructure did not show that there has been a government in place all of these years.
“It shows we are really in bondage if our federal roads could be death traps, always drinking the blood of the citizens even on a day marked for the celebration of Nigeria’s freedom from colonial masters. This is a bad omen because it is a sign that the people are in bondage. What saddens my heart is that Koko tanker explosion occurred on the day Nigeria was marking its 63rd independence anniversary,” Eugene Israel, a resident of Asaba, said.
“Is there any better way to confirm that we are being enslaved in this country?” Israel asked in an interview with BusinessDay.
“On a day Nigeria is marking its 63rd independence, blood of citizens spilt on the soil of the areas called the federal road in Delta State, courtesy of tanker explosion caused by the failed federal road. This is an abomination that shouldn’t happen a second time.
“All we saw was petrol tanker falling, exploding and fire burning over 15 vehicles and killing people in the process. Are we supposed to celebrate? If the Federal Government had worked on the road, there wouldn’t have been any incident of such, neither would there be a loss of this magnitude.
More worrisome is the fact that Delta State ranks first among the states that contribute to the economy, yet the people are forsaken when it comes to infrastructure,” he lamented.
About five dead bodies were recovered from the swampy water the previous day while others are yet to come up, disclosed a community source who pleaded anonymity.
He narrated that when the fire broke out, several persons made attempt to escape through the swamp water without knowing its depth and were trapped inside.
He also said some others have been buried by the roadside close to the scene of incident by their relatives.
David Ugolor, executive director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), who paid an on-the-spot assessment visit to the scene of the fire disaster at Koko, said such a colossal loss could have been averted if the Federal Government had fixed the road.
“We stand here today with heavy hearts, burdened by the weight of yet another tragedy that could have been averted. This incident has left us in a state of mourning and deep sorrow,” he said.
He said it was disheartening to note that the Ologbo portion of the Sapele-Benin road has been a nightmare for travellers, especially during the rainy season, who are often trapped for hours, and at times, an entire day, losing man hours that could have been translated to undertaking productive economic activities and earning income for the family.
He said the trouble caused by the state of the road has not only constituted discomfort to travellers but also hinders economic activities in the region as movement of goods and petroleum products have become difficult.
According to him, the challenge has also increased transportation costs, thereby increasing the suffering of the people who are already living in hardship and extreme poverty.
Ugolor said that the East-West Road remains a crucial artery for commerce and trade, connecting a section of the South East, the South-South and South-West regions of Nigeria.
He noted that several appeals had been made to the Federal Government to urgently address the issue but their pleas had fallen on deaf ears, adding that only recently, the Minister of Works, Dave Umahi, visited the areas for on-the-spot assessment. He said following the visit, he expected rehabilitation work to commence immediately, but this has not happened.
He appealed to the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on the East-West Road and take immediate decisive action to remedy the failed portions of the road, and even take a step further to complete the entire mega project which was started many years ago to avert a repeat of what happened on October 1st 2023.
Governor Oborevwori’s appeal
Governor Sheriff Oborevwori had also blamed the Federal Government on the deplorable state of the federal roads but warned citizens to run for their lives once they see a fallen tanker. He warned at the Koko incident and now the Ibusa. Who knows which other area that would be affected to attract the governor’s warning? Many residents wondered.
Oborevwori, who recently approved some remedial works to be done on some roads in the state, also approved a N78-billion flyover and drainage projects contract to be done by Julius Berger in Warri/Effurum axis of the state. While commending the governor, some residents have however, expressed the opinion that he should intervene in the reconstruction of the federal roads to save the lives of the indigenes, residents and other road users.
Oborevwori, in the condolence letter signed by Festus Ahon, his chief press secretary (CPS), reiterated his call on the Federal Government to expedite action in reconstructing the failed portions of the federal road.
He bemoaned that citizens of the state and commuters encounter harrowing experiences navigating the road and called on the authorities to as a matter of utmost importance and urgency fix the road to avoid further regrettable incidents.
Commiserating with victims’ families on the sad incident, Oborevwori said the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) led by Ejiro Terry,
commissioner for Special Duties, was already at the scene to provide help and support for the victims.
“This sad and unfortunate incident would have been avoided if the Federal Government had lived up to its responsibility of maintaining the roads,” he lamented.
Dave Umahi, former governor of Ebonyi State and new minister of works, had recently visited numerous portions of the federal roads in the state and expressed shock how people of the areas were surviving economically.
Umahi had, while inspecting the roads, decried the state of East/West Road, especially at the boundary between Delta and Edo States.
“For more than 10 kilometers, vehicles are lined up, no movement, so, economic activities are totally grounded between Delta and Edo States; this is not acceptable!”
He told Monday Onyeme, Oborevwori’s deputy, who represented his boss that, “Mr. President asked me to come and inspect the roads and see the immediate relief we can give the people while major construction will start soon.”
The governor’s representative had expressed confidence in the ability of the minister of works and the Federal Government to fix the failed federal roads in the state, saying the construction of federal roads means a lot to the people.
He also expressed the optimism that with the track records of Umahi, an engineer, when he was the governor of Ebonyi State, federal roads, especially those in Delta State, would be fixed.
Now with the minister’s latest disclosure that the ministry needs a total of N217bn to reconstruct 260 road projects and eight bridges across the country of which the Benin-Warri dual carriage way is one, the people of Delta State and commuters continue to wait for action.