The bad condition of roads in the North-east has been attracting bitter complaints from the people of the area. OHONBA VINCENT, our Gombe State Correspondent, examines how the deplorable condition of the roads is affecting socio-economic activities in Gombe and other states
Despite major breakthroughs in communication industry, road is fundamental and will continue to be the most vital element in human communication. Road naturally galvanizes socio-economic development, while the absence or depletion of it leaves a community in doldrums socio-economically. Gombe State, which is located in the middle of Northeast of Nigeria shares common boundary with the other five states in the sub-region, making it the major gateway to four of the said five states – Adamawa, Borno, Taraba and Yobe States. Regrettably, Gombe is presently at the danger of being cut-off from the remaining part of the country because the main entrance road from the country’s capital, via Bauchi is fast getting washed out by floods. In fact, virtually all the entrance/exit routes from the other states are facing different forms of related threats. A drive through Gombe – Bauchi, Gombe – Biu, Gombe – Dukku – Darazo, Gombe – Potiskum and Gombe – Numan – Jalingo roads reveals death lurking on the highways due to dilapidation, failing bridges and threats of washouts. Bad portions of the roads have become spots for notorious activities of criminal elements. Many lives and valuable property have also been lost on some of the bad spots and more are still on the line if appropriate measures are not taken. Apart from wear and tear which come with age and usage, flood is a major threat to these roads and the effects are increasingly worrisome for existing culverts designs across the roads. Gombe – Dukku – Darazo Road is destroyed by potholes caused by washouts. For instance, kilometre 56/100 from the state capital has become a major source of worry. Some of the bridges along Gombe – Biu road have the problem of ‘abortment’. The same goes for the bridges on kilometres 46 and 64 along Gombe – Potiskum Road, while at kilometre 11 on the same road, water over flood the road thereby causing obstruction. The kilometre 12 bridge on Gombe – Potiskum Road that was constructed is begging for fortification. The props have developed cracks while washout on the embankment is already eating into the road. Sadly, this bridge, numbering 6,121 was commissioned barely three year ago, June 11, 2013 to be precise. The terrible condition of Gombe – Numan – Jalingo Road is no longer news. All travellers along this road can testify of the trauma they go through. Although rehabilitation work has started from Gombe, it is not yet uhuru until it is certain where the work will terminate. Lately however, kilometre 34/200 on Gombe – Bauchi road has become the most notorious in terms of dilapidation and auto crashes. Drivers and commuters plying the road are crying out to the government to come to their rescue by speedily fixing the kilometre 34/200 among other bad spots on the road because the rains are here once again and it is fast cutting the road into two. Their cry is that the road, which is the major link for north eastern states of Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Yobe Adamawa and Taraba to the rest of the country is about to be completely severed. Motorists that stopped to speak with Nigerian Pilot at that horrible spot on 34 kilometres away from Gombe metropolis described the road as death trap, especially during the rainy season and feared the worst could still happen if the federal government does not intervene fast. Now that the rains are here again, they are strengthening calls on the federal and state governments in the north east to find permanent solution to the road, which is considered a major contributor to the socio-economic development of the sub-region. Road users and residents are imploring government not to wait till the road is completely destroyed or cut- to access their destinations before doing something. Kilometre 34/200 lies between Bauchi and Gombe States and travellers to most other parts of the northeast use it regularly because Gombe is in the heart of the northeast. For some years now, this spot has remained a major menace to lives and property as flood and erosion have continually wakened and swept the grounds and structures that hold the road together. In rainy season such as this, whenever there is downpour, people are forced to wait for hours on either end of the bad spot for the boisterous flood to reduce. Alternatively, they opt for longer routes, which naturally amount to extra hours on the road, extra fuel and extra
transport fare; hence the option is hardly exploitable even by private vehicle owners. Recent heavy rains have further aggravated the damage to the road which has never received any better solution beyond palliative measures by the government of Gombe State. At the moment, the existing culvert has become too small and has been blocked by debris and sand; both the retaining wall designed to break the velocity of water flow and heavy stones used in reclaiming previously washed out portions have been washed out. The NNPC pipelines are exposed and may soon give way, even as the exposed communication cables have since been vandalised. Hajara Usman from Bauchi State, a federal government employee working in Gombe State, had an urgent reason to rush home during the week with the intention to return first thing on Wednesday morning. It started drizzling when she boarded a cab at the motor park that morning. But before getting to the bad spot on kilometre 34/200, the rain had become heavy. “But do you know that I ended up spending the whole day there, because we had to wait for the flood to recede before crossing on foot!” she stated. Hajara said vehicles, including heavy duties had to stop at both banks of the flooded area because no driver wanted the risking driving through for the fear of falling into the ditch or being swept away by the fast flowing water. This happened some two years ago. Sometimes, before emergency are carried out, commercial vehicles drivers from Gombe and Bauchi forcibly truncate their journeys on either side of the bad spot and exchange passengers across because the spot is impassable when wet season peaks. This usually entails passengers coming down from their vehicles to trek across to the other side with their loads or have their loads carried by touts at cost. “Simply put, this place is a mini-motor park or stop over station during the peak of rainy season,” said Abubakar Yahaya Bula, a motorist who claims to have been plying the road for the past four years as a driver. “Between God and man, anytime it starts to rain heavily, this place becomes a mini motor park because vehicles going to Bauchi usually drop their passengers here, the passengers will trek carefully to the other side to join Bauchi vehicles; they too will drop theirs for us to take them to Gombe. “We thought the road would be repaired this last dry season, but it was not. During the first heavy rain this year, vehicles waited for three to four hours
are not forthcoming. We’ll still have to go and at least do some palliative work to ensure that the road is not totally cut- off.” When contacted, the officer in charge of the Federal Emergency Road Maintenance Agency in Gombe State, Engineer Suleiman Mohammed said the agency was aware of the condition of the road and assured that efforts were being made, not only to fix the notorious spot, but other parts of the road that requires patching as well. “On Gombe-Bauchi Road, efforts are on top gear. We are working hand-in-hand with our parent Ministry on the kilometre 34/200 issue because on our own here, in this office, we cannot do anything. This morning (Monday, June 19), we were there at 34/200 so everything is within our control and we have sent mails. I have sent the pictures to my Executive Director, sent to my Zonal Director in Bauchi, sent to my Northeast Operations in the headquarters and thank God, everything is now on top control from headquarters. “But right here in this office, we only monitor and give reports. We don’t have the power to award contract(s) from here. Some people thing we do, No, we don’t.” So while the paper works are being carried out and contracts being awarded, commuters and drivers on the Bauchi-Gombe Road are calling on governments at all levels to act fast to avoid further hardship and loss of lives on what is now being referred to as a death-trap.
Bad condition of North-east roads
A portion of the road in bad shape
A bridge about to collapse
before daring to cross one after the other. We are begging the government to pity us and address this problem.” Mallam Mahmud Yunusa, a business man who plies the road frequently to attend his family and business has reinforced Bula’s views thus: “Even on my way coming, I had it (rainfall) in mind, that if it rains today, I am going to be in a real problem. I travel along this road often because I always in Yola and Taraba. “This road is our most important roads in the North East, because of the places it links together. It has been left uncared for and we have recorded so many accidents due to the condition of this road. The condition as you can see is very poor, it’s very bad. All we are asking is for the federal government to please have mercy on us, have a look at this place and try to do something about it because people are really suffering.” Although the Gombe-Bauchi Road is a federal government road, the permanent secretary at the Gombe State Ministry of Works, Mohammed Bappa, said the state government had been rendering palliative measures on the road, to protect the welfare of the people of the and northeast sub-region. “It is Federal Road. This is not the first time. It failed completely sometimes back. We went there and did some palliative work to restore the road. “And we since then contacted the Federal Emergency Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA). We also contacted the Federal Ministry of Works. They are aware of the development. “But then we have no option if they