By Codratus Godson
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has made a major move by stepping into two important rescue missions. It has decided to step into two critical interventions in Rivers State on two roads that carry weight of the Nigerian economy.
The Commission has just announced decision to rescue the Etche Road that leads to Okpala from Rivers to Imo State. The other is the collapsing bridge in Eleme, near Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
The collapse of the Port Harcourt Aba Road has forced motorists mostly mass transit and trucking vehicles to revert to Okpala-Etche Road to sustain movement of goods and humans. Village vigilante groups keep vigil along the forest areas to discourage kidnapping, all in support of police units. The road began to collapse due to pressure leading to falling of trailers and blockage.
Now, the Eleme Road is gateway to Nigeria’s only oil/gas free trade zone in Onne where over 200 companies dwell. Many have closed shop due to many factors including harsh economic conditions since 2014 and striping of the free zone of its oil port exclusivity. Intels, the promoter of the zone, has been mired in crisis following hostile political relationship between its major partner, Abubabakar Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the ruling All progressives Congress (APC).
The collapsing Aleto Bridge at Eleme located immediately after Indorama gate has caused huge pains on that key economic route that stands 40km between the Port Harcourt International Airport at Omagwa and the Onne sea port.
Now, the NDDC says it is taking steps to restore the inter-state road linking Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State and Okpala in Imo State. The Commission has also started an assessment of the Aleto Bridge in Eleme with a view to saving it from imminent collapse.
Speaking during the inspection of the dilapidated portions of Igwuruta-Chokocho-Okomoko-
Brambaifa, who was accompanied by NDDC directors and engineers, said that having inspected the dilapidated road and failing bridge, the Commission was going to ensure that work begins without delay to avoid a total breakdown of the critical infrastructure.
He told the people of Etche: “I can assure you that in the next one month, this road will be restored to a standard that will stand the test of time. Your current pains and inconvenience will be a thing of the past. We will put all machinery in motion to achieve this goal.”
The NDDC CEO directed the contractor engaged for the project to mobilise his equipment to the site straightaway, stating: “We want this important route to Port Harcourt to be restored as quickly as possible.”
Earlier, the President General of Ogbakor Etche, Machy Nwodim, said that the people were grateful to the NDDC for its prompt response to their ‘Save-Our-Soul’ message, requesting urgent attention to the repair of the major highway connecting Etche to Port Harcourt and the South-East states.
He stated: “The road is today the major route taking Lagos, Abuja and Enugu commuters into Port Harcourt, Rivers State. This is also the major route for the people of Etche to their state capital and other parts of Rivers State.”
Nwodim said that the Etche people had been subjected to untold hardship following the deplorable condition of the road, expressing hope that the visit by the NDDC would be translated into quick, effective reconstruction of the failed portions, as an immediate remedy.
At the Aleto Bridge in Eleme, an indigene of the town, a one-time commissioner of sports in Rivers State, Fred Igwe, said that the people in the surrounding local governments were pleading for the immediate intervention of the NDDC to save the bridge from collapse.
He said that the bridge connects two states, nine local government areas and many industries like the Indorama Petrochemicals, Port Harcourt Refining Company and the Onne Port. These big companies attract a heavy traffic of articulated vehicles.