The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, will soon start emergency repairs on some of the failed portions of the Itu-Calabar highway, the only road linking Cross River and Akwa Ibom States.
The NDDC Acting Managing Director, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, who inspected the road yesterday in the company of other directors of the Commission, said the poor condition of the road required urgent action, adding that intervention was critical at this point.
Mrs. Semenitari said that the NDDC state office in Calabar reported on the serious condition of the road and made a case for urgent action. She said: “We got a detailed report from our office and several other requests from residents in Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, calling for urgent action.”
The NDDC boss said the Commission would see what it could do to make the road useable in the interim. She added: “We are trying to get contractors working around here to help immediately. We want to engage contractors with financial capacity and equipment within the area to quickly move in to alleviate the problem. What is actually needed is a total reconstruction of the road.”
Mrs. Semenitari said that the NDDC was set up to intervene in such situations, stating that the Commission would start the repairs after its engineers had fully assessed the situation to advise on how best to tackle the challenge.
Briefing the Acting MD/CEO on the road, the NDDC Deputy Director Utility, Infrastructural Development and Water Ways, Engr. Etim-Etim Eyoette, said that in the last three months, the road had been cut at seven different locations.
He said the road which was built over 30 years ago, needed total reconstruction, noting that any remedial action taken now would just be a temporary measure. He said that the situation of the road was terrible. “Flood water has totally cut off the road at several points. It is a terrible experience,” Eyoeete said.
Several commuters plying the route were stranded a few kilometres after the Itu Bridge, as they could not continue with their journey. One of the commuters, who gave her name as Mary Okon, said she boarded a bus from Akwa Ibom en route to Calabar, but had to disembark at the bad spot to join another vehicle at the other end to continue her journey.
A bus driver heading to Calabar, Mr. Henry Bassey, lamented that traffic gridlocks due to the bad spots had become regular occurrence on the road in the last three months. He said that commuters were being forced to spend several hours and even days on the road.
He pleaded: “I beg the government or whoever is responsible to come to our rescue. The road has been neglected by the government. What the road needs now is a total reconstruction but as a remedial measure, let them see how they can patch up the collapsed places.”
Mr. Emmanuel Akpan, another user of the road, said that the highway was critical to the economic activities of the south-south region. “It is a very busy road in the region driving commercial activities between many states. It is also an important link between the south-south and south-east,” he said.