The controversial East-West road which has pitched some prominent sons of the Niger Delta against themselves is one of the many headaches of President Goodluck Jonathan. Osa Okhomina examines the perception of many Niger Deltans on this project which may rob Jonathan his political ambition in 2015.
Going by the original plan under the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo, the East-West road should have been a clean route into the states of the Niger Delta with smooth roads all the year in order to raise the status of the region from a disadvantaged oil region to a prosperous supplier of wealth to the nation.
Years after, the East-West road has remained an eyesore that has consumed blood of thousands of victims who died in series of accidents along the dilapidated stretch of highway. Even the emergence of the President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan failed to accelerate works on the road.
Summing it up last week, a group of youth leaders including ex-militant Generals, Ateke Tom and Boyloaf, argued that the number of deaths recorded along the East-West road was more that the total numbers of freedom fighters and Niger Delta indigenes that lost their lives along the road.
According to the ex-militant leaders, though President Goodluck Jonathan did well in sustaining the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the sustenance of the amnesty deal by the Federal Government and the appointment of some indigenes of the region, certain things are not done to check the huge failures recorded in the Niger Delta ministry. The President has not done enough to satisfy the people that voted him into power in the area of supervision of the failed ministry and committees.
According to the statement, “With the recent happenings, we have come to the conclusion that the ministry that was set up to look into the issues of infrastructural development of the region has turned into a total, catastrophic failure and an embarrassment to the government and people it was set up to look into their affairs. When the ministry was set up, we saw some levels of seriousness on the part of government to address issues of our region and we accepted and supported an indigene of the region.
Little did we know that we were endangering our future and that of our next generation in the hands of an incompetent man.” “Those we supported are not helping in the development of the region but are busy amassing wealth for their personal gains.
There are evidences everywhere in the East-West road contract, shoreline protection contracts, empowerment and skill acquisition, design and development of coastal roads. Issues have been raised in many quarters and yet everybody folds their arms and watch for things to take the worst turn. Just a week ago, another petrol tanker fell because of the deep portholes and it roasted Nigerians to death. From statistics, people that have died along the East-West road is now ten times those that died during the Niger Delta struggle.”
For those who are new on the road, as you enter into the Delta portion of the road, it is like entering a paradise. But as you approach Patani bridge end of the Delta State and move towards Bayelsa, you are faced with a gory sight of port holes and dangerous collapse of bridges and roads. If care is not taken, a plunge in the tempting river may occur.
The recent flood however, did not help matters. It washed off the feeble effort of the construction firm working on the site. Many politicians, civil right activists and elected officers are against the perceived shoddy handling of the East-West road project.
Some youth leaders from Bayelsa and Delta States explained why notable indigenes of the region are engaged in poor rating and open campaign against the re-election bid of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, declaring that the dismal rating was provoked by the shoddy execution of the East-West road project linking the states in the region.
While the Former President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and the Caretaker Chairman for the Patani Local Government area of Delta State, Dr. Chris Ekiyor urged the present administration of Goodluck Jonathan to speed up work on the construction of the East-West road and ward off criticism, the Former State Secretary of the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO), Comrade Morris Alagoa argued that though the present administration of Goodluck Jonathan may have claimed to have done much in the region, the recent criticism including the verbal attack from Alhaji Asari Dokubo showed the level of disappointment in the President and other elective officers from the region over the state of the East-West road and others.
According to Ekior, “The people of the region were eagerly awaiting the completion of the strategic road connecting states in the Niger Delta together. The long stretch of the East-West road takes off from the Benin end of Edo State connecting Warri in Delta State, Bayelsa State, Rivers State, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. The road project which began few years back is yet to reach an appreciable stage despite the huge contract sum.”
The Former IYC President who refused to castigate the present administration said “The people are expecting so much from President Goodluck Jonathan, who incidentally is from the region to complete the road. He wants the government through the contractor to expedite action to deliver the popular East-West road with 8 lanes to open up the region to more investments.”
In his position,Comrade Morris Alagoa said though the present administration of Goodluck Jonathan claimed to have implemented some development plans in the region,” I am very sure that if Late Yar’Adua were alive, we would have noticed more development in the Niger Delta Region. The UNEP report would have been acted upon in more positive manner. This is my very candid view. I am not only a Nigerian, a concerned Niger Deltan.