Umuahia — Senator Nkechi Nwaogu representing Abia Central Senatorial zone, shed tears over the deplorable state of federal roads in Abia State, particularly the impassable Enugu/Port Harcourt expressway, which has almost paralyzed economic activities in the state as most vehicles especially trucks plying the highway either get trapped on various failed portions of the road or fall by the road side.
Addressing newsmen in Umuahia, after an on-the-spot assessment of the federal roads in her constituency, Senator Nwaogu called on the Federal Government to commence immediate rehabilitation of the roads, describing them as " valleys of death".
"These roads have totally collapsed. They are death traps. They no longer require repairs. It is complete reconstruction not repairs, she said."
Saturday Champion observed that the Abia portion of Enugu/Port Harcourt expressway stretching from Okigwe in Imo State to Obuaku, a border town with Rivers State, is in terrible condition.
Nwogu also called for devolution of powers from federal to state governments such that states would assume the responsibility of repairs and maintenance of federal roads in their localities, while funds for such projects would be remitted to them from the Federation Account.
This, she argued, would put paid to the cases of abandonment of federal roads in the country as each state would be held responsible for the maintenance of federal roads in its soil while the Federal Government should only supervise the roads.
"I am an advocate for devolution of power. I do not believe that we can sit in Abuja and talk about federal roads by federal people. I believe that the money earmarked for execution of road construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance of federal roads should be given to state governments. Every thing should not remain at federal roads. The federal Ministry of Works can restrict itself to policy formulation and regulation, monitoring and evaluation, and not in actual execution of projects, she said".
The senator expressed disappointment over the inability of the Federal Ministry of Works to have Zonal offices in the 36 states for constant monitoring of the condition of the roads.
Nwaogu further lamented that the contractor who had been awarded the right lane of the Enugu/Port Harcourt expressway has long abandoned the project for yet to be established reasons, and called on Federal Government to force him back to site.
"Another thing of cncern is that one side of the expressway from Enugu to Port Harcourt which was awarded to CCC has long been abandoned by the contractor who, to our greatest surprise has been given a letter that he has concluded 95 per cent of the road.
" But we have seen the condition of that road, but that road has not even attained five per cent completion," she said.
Continuing, she said "I know that the rainy season is here but it is not a total excuse for abandoning such important road", while advocating the award of road projects in the state to competent construction firms.
" It is not good if we keep repairing our roads every six months because as we were driving, we saw that some of the roads were done about six months ago, but today they have been totally washed off. Therefore we require the type of contractors handling road contracts in Abuja and Akwa Ibom State to also take road projects in Abia.
"The Federal Government should not give us quasi contractors again", she warned, expressing fear that the N6 billion voted in 2011 budget for the repair of the highway might not be implemented.
Senator Nwaogu also called for immediate re-opening of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) depot Aba, contending that pipeline vandalism is not enough reason to permanently close down the depot which she said had crippled economic activities in the state for the past five years.
"There are so many gadgets that can be installed to monitor all oil pipeline layout nation wide. Telling us that because pipelines are vandalized on daily basis is the reason Osisioma oil depot is permanently closed down is not acceptable", she stated'.