By Samuel Oyadongha
OGBIA—overflow from a contiguous river has submerged a section of the road from Onuebum-Otuoke, the hometown of the former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The rampaging surge has also overrun some farm settlements in the area and given the continuous upwelling with predictions of high water volume this year, by experts, several communities including Onuebum, Otuokpoti and Otuoke are under threat of plunging.
The NDV reporter, who visited the area, found that the Elebele-Imiringi-Emeyal flank to the oil and gas-rich Ogbia council is also riddled with deep craters, constraining motorists to desert the motorway. The roads in Ogbia were generally in a horrible stated.
It was gathered that the flooding was caused by escalating water from the river and adjoining forest and it has been a perennial problem along the low lying section of the highway, where water runs across the road from the forest with a very strong current, washing away portions of the road in the process.
Some travellers recalling the six years of Ijaw presidency, expressed sadness at the development, regretting that the opportunity to transform the area was unexploited. They said the problem would not have solved if Jonathan’s government constructed a suspended bridge across the marshy land, as the Federal Government did at Ikorodu, Lagos State.
Traders displaced: Meanwhile, petty traders operating bush meat and palm wine joints on the Elebele-Imiringi-Emeyal route have been put out of business by the spiralling water. One of the traders, who simply identified himself as Eddy, was sighted in a canoe conveying what he salvaged from his flooded thatched camp to higher ground.
Eddy, who pleaded that his photograph should not be taken, said: “The development has forced me to close shop and relocate my family to safe zone. I have my fear for the communities due to the speed at which the water level is moun-ting. As for the already troubled road, I am sure that it would be worse off due to the powerful water current. Most of the smaller vehicles have abandoned the route, leaving it for haulage trucks, SUVs and other bigger vehicles.”
Road may be closed to traffic
A staff of the Federal University, Otuoke, established by Dr. Jonathan, told NDV: “Who would believe that the immediate past President of this country is from this area? He was in a position to get this problem fixed for us by ensuring the construction of a hanging bridge across the swathe of lowland, but we missed the rare opportunity. Ogbia Kingdom is where crude oil was first discovered in commercial quantities in Nigeria, but here we are still reeling with neglect. With the way the water level is soaring, communities here are also not safe. This road might be closed to traffic in the next couple of days if the water keeps rising.”
Drivers, traders count losses
Motorists, who pass the deplorable Elebele-Imiringi-Emeyal route, complain about the discomfort they encounter on the many failed portions, while traders sacked by flood on the Onuebum-Otuoke road, rued their losses.
Some commercial drivers asserted that unless urgent remedial steps were taken, they would be left with no option than to increase transport fares or pull out from the route because of the damage done to their vehicles. “It is sad to note that I spend more money on maintenance these days as my car develops one fault after the other due to the terrible state of the road. The situation on the road is even worse when trucks break down at the bad spots,” lamented Tayo, a commercial taxi driver plying the distressed road.
Lamentation: A resident, Aziba, cut in: “Perhaps, if we had taken advantage of our opportunity, our people would not have been subjected to this continuing pain. Lagos is a good example of where the Federal Government constructed a suspended bridge along Ikorodu because of its low marshy land and that road has been in use for ages.”
He called on the state and federal governments to come to the aid of the road users and communities along the swathe of lowland, some of which are in the throes of dipping by finding a lasting solution to the stubborn problem.
FERMA, NDDC, Bayelsa govt interventions
The Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA, had in the past carried out repair works on the failed Imiringi-Emeyal road, but the measure hardly stands the test of time because of the nature of the terrain. In the case of Onuebum-Otuoke road, constructed by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, it is on a flood plain and frequently subjected to flooding whenever there is water surge at the height of the flood season in the area.
The state government and NDDC had also intervened by way of rehabilitating failed portions of the road, but the efforts hardly last because of the nature of the terrain. For the perennial flooding of the Onuebum-Otuoke road, the menace would have been averted if a comprehensive EIA study was conducted on the water channel and where to erect bridges so as not to alter the ecosystem. Obviously, the solution to the perennial menace is the construction of bridges at the lowest portion of the road for free passage of the surging water.
Jonathan tried for us—Villager
An Otuoke native, who maintained that the problem was not caused by Jonathan, asserted: “At least, Jonathan brought the Federal University to our community; there is also the Skills Acquisition Development Centre at Otuoke built by Niger Delta Ministry, which has since been converted to an Engineering faculty of the university. There is shore protection for the community and several concrete internal roads within our community.”