Benue’s uncompleted road causes death, frustration for residents

A signboard at Awajir-Oju Junction says that the project is constructed

On a cool evening in October 2021, Apev Iorliam, 27, alongside others, had just written their final examination as an undergraduate student at Benue State University, Makurdi.

Mr Iorliam had promised himself what the final excitement would look like. He would, first of all, allow his parents to feel the euphoria of having a graduate in the family. Soon, he would be united with his family as an Industrial Chemistry graduate – or so he thought as he embarked on the journey from school.

He wouldn’t stop smiling as the Peugeot car conveying him alongside others from Makurdi to Degu Gbinde accelerates. 

At the other end, Apev Isaac, his father, was phoned by Benjamin Awen, Mr. Iorliam’s friend, earlier to inform him that his son is on his way home. They were preparing to receive him but the joyful anxiety was soon cut short. Mrs. Ngodoo Apev received a call from a bystander who saw her number as Mr Iorliam’s last dialed. Her beloved son is dead.

“That was how my world came crashing within a second,” she said. “The pain was the highest I have witnessed in my life. It gets to me especially when I see corp members and other graduates. It reminded me of a dead vision. My joy of motherhood got slimed and the pain would remain forever”

Mrs. Apev Ngodoo

It all began in High-level park, makurdi. Everyone was seated. The makurdi-Awajir-Oju route is around 150km, estimated to be about two hours, thirty minutes journey. 

Mr. Iorliam knew this would take longer than estimated, considering the deplorable state of the road. What he never envisioned was being a victim of a failed road.

It had rained the previous hours heavily and the road was flooded. About halfway into the journey, the car plunged into a ditch, leading to a fatal accident.

To Mr. Iorliam’s family, it was not just an accident. It was a light turned off.

“Tragic is nothing compared to how I want to describe it,” Mrs. Apev laments. 

 Mr. Iorliam is one of the many who have lost their lives on the famous Awajir-Oju road. 

Farmers lament

The deplorable state of the road is reputed to have thwarted businesses. It is the only road connecting various communities like Degu Gbinde, Shangiev, Bonta all in Konshisha Local Government of the State, and Ukpute, Ainu-Ette, Ukpa in Oju Local government. 

“Benue state is the Food Basket of the Nation as a slogan has undoubtedly been abused. Lack of access roads is one of the many factors contributing to hunger in the state.” Isaac Ode, a 52-year-old farmer said.

The farmer, from Ukpute community, has had his farm produce waste for lack of access road to a good market. 

Apart from his large cassava farm, Mr Ode has a lot of palm trees that normally should give him enough money if there was a good road to transport them to markets.

“I can’t suffer myself anymore to prepare palm oil for others to reap the profits. I can’t possibly transport them to town and only those who have the means buy from me at a cheaper price and later resold” 

“We farmers in this communities have seen it hard. On several occasions, we hired a pick-up van to convey our goods to the market, and we often ended up spending more than we earned. Because of the bad road” 

Mr. Isaac Ode, a farmer

Igbegi Okoli, 47, is a motorist who normally plies the Oju-Awajir through Makurdi. He narrates his ordeal using the road on one occasion when robbers took advantage of the bad portion to waylay him and his passengers.

“One Sunday evening I set out for Makurdi. Ordinarily, it should have been a 2 hrs journey. It had rained heavily and the road was bad. 

“About one hour into our journey, we got robbed along the Shangiev area. I was with passengers who also got robbed.”

“I am still paying for the waybills that got robbed on the way. I may not know the monetary value of everything that was robbed but about two hundred nairas belonging to customers were collected that night.”

“It was a painful experience. I tried to escape but the road betrayed me”

I have been more careful with the road especially when it is getting dark.”

Unlike Mr Okoli, who was robbed along the road, Onwanyi Idekpa, 37, from Ukpa, a retail roadside fruit seller couldn’t keep the frustration that comes with the hike in the price of her goods.

She’s afraid she might fade out of the market soon.

“You can’t imagine how much we pay to bring these oranges here,” she pointed to a mini bag of oranges on the floor.” 

“A bag of this orange and garden egg used to be eight thousand. It is now fifteen thousand Naira. How much would you sell it?”

Road project would have made the difference

In 2019, the government of Benue State budgeted one billion Naira (1,000,000,000) for the construction of the 52.0km Awajir-Oju road. It was meant to ameliorate the pains, the struggles of those who use the road. UDEME could not ascertain how much had been released for the project as state officials declined comments and failed to respond to official request.

Awajir-Oju road

If completed, the road has the potential of opening up economic activities for farmers along the Oju axis. 

The project was under the supervision of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Energy. 

Although farmers were optimistic that the construction of the road will boost economic activities; this hasn’t materialised.

 When this reporter visited in November, he found the road in a deplorable condition, nowhere near completion. 

On the 52 km Awajir-Oju road are graven portholes, in some cases, these holes are deep and are very difficult to drive through. 

Contractor Unreasonable.

A 52-year-old resident, Maria Udenyi, said only a portion of the road was worked on.

“Only about 8 to 9 kilometres was graded from the Oju main market to Ainu/Ette” 

At the Awajir-Oju junction, there is a metal sign post depicting that the road construction was handled by Chinese company “CGGC Global Projects Nigeria Limited.”

 Multiple calls made to the company’s contact were unanswered.

Despite Promises, ministry fails to respond 

After several attempts to speak with the commissioner for the ministry of works, Transport and Energy, this reporter was redirected to Engr. Alex Ornya, the Director of Civil Engineering at the Ministry of Works, who demanded a formal request for information. 

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request sent to the ministry on November 9 is yet to be responded to well after the seven days’ response window stipulated by the law.

This story was supported by the Udeme project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID)

Jairus Awo

Jairus Awo is a Nigeiran Muiltimedia public interest journalist. He believes in the power of the media as a catalyst to development and societal growth. You can tip him an idea on [email protected]

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Sat Dec 10 , 2022
Share on Facebook Tweet it Pin it Email OPINION By: Ogakwu Julius Ogbaji The cashless policy is a complement to the Naira Redesigned strategy; they are just twin brothers though with four legs but two hands and one head. The cashless policy will benefit the poorer masses (proletariat) more than the ruling class (Bourgeoisie). The cashless policy is another best policy of this administration thus far and should be embraced by all and sundry. The cashless policy if well managed and implemented is capable of fighting inflation to a standstill. Nigeria is projected by the United Nations to be the third most populous nation in the world taking over from the USA by 2050, if this measure is not taken now the country will be worse off. H.E President Muhammadu Buhari might have lost his re-election bid if this policy was implemented before the 2019 general elections because over 70% of his party men may neither work nor vote for him for the fear of the unknown as we have started seeing the jittering from so many high profile persons and institutions already. The cashless policy does have some disadvantages as well. According to PRASANNA, an Indian Author and Editor-in-Chief with Aplus Topper, a cashless economy is an economic system where digital transactions such as net/ mobile banking, digital wallets, and paying by debit or credit cards substitute the traditional payment method made through cash. A cashless policy is an economic policy aimed at reducing the amount of produced currency in the economy; it involves more electronic-based payments. The right strategies, incentives, infrastructure, and regulation can encourage innovation and boost public confidence in noncash systems. Public and private partnerships can also be critical in marshaling the expertise and creating momentum. Numerous examples around the world illustrate how cashless payments are economic propellers. Cash is no longer king. Economies that are more cash-intensive tend to grow slowly and miss out on significant financial benefits. Conversely, BCG research shows that economies that switch to digital are more successful; the switch can boost annual GDP by as much as 3 percentage points. The Good About Cashless Policy Reduction in the Printing of Cost of Physical Currency. According to the USA Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, each year, the Federal Reserve Board projects the likely demand for the new currency and places an order with the Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produces U.S. currency and charges the Board for the cost of production. The 2022 currency operating budget is $1,060.0 million. Just like in the US, every naira note produced attracted a cost. Before now, just like crude oil that we export before importing the PMS back with a severe trade imbalance on our current account, we were equally told that naira is being produced outside the country with a serious cost. The Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Limited will henceforth print naira as they did for the newly redesigned naira notes which will make the country one out of the four African countries that print their currencies locally and not import from foreign countries, and this is a plus to Nigeria. Although, the real point here is that, if the cashless policy is effectively implemented physical notes will be printed which means less expenditure on the cost of printing currency in Nigeria. A Tool to Fight Corruption And Ensure A Transparent System. Theft or fraudulent acts concerning cash will be reduced to the bare minimum. Following the note ban, nobody would dare to steal money, which will promptly hinder the theft since the banks won’t accept that money anywhere. As opined by the World Economic Forum, cashless technologies could be a game changer and some of the greatest assets in the fight against corruption and organized crime too. If everyone were connected to an end-to-end payment infrastructure-a cashless environment-there would be transparency in money flows. Whether it’s international aid or private investment, if everyone in the chain were connected digitally, you could see where the money went and how it was spent. Any sums appearing outside of that framework could immediately be flagged and investigated. This would narrow the focus for law enforcement and forensic accountants, making it easier to target and recoup hidden money. Less Hoarding and Forged Currency. An unconfirmed report has it that Nigerians had returned over 1 trillion naira since the inception of the naira redesigning policy. A lot of people who are afraid of returning money to banks on their own are using the same to buy properties, farmland, and other investments, all of these actions directly or indirectly lubricating the economy through effective liquidity circulation. And since you can no longer hoard currency the forged currency values will be declared worthless. People involved in socially evil practices generally involve in social evil practices tend to accumulate their wealth in cash. With the process of a cashless economy coming into effect, this accumulated cash will be useless due to the note ban. If people invest money in the bank, the government will question them about that particular income source. Fewer Issues of Taxation.A cashless economy will translate to a digital economy which means Financial Technology (FINTECH) will play a vital role in financial and economic development. The illegal non-payment or under-payment of taxes, usually by deliberately making a false declaration or no declaration to tax authorities – such as by declaring less income, profits, or gains than the amounts earned, or by overstating deductions will be reduced drastically because every payment made in the system through any Fintech platform will be easily tracked and trace. More people will be employed at superstores and other pay points because there will be multiple points of sale (P.O.S.) even in our local farmers markets. Other benefits include; Limited Cash Fraud, Effortless Payment, and Easy International Payment. Not to forget some of the CONS of a Cashless Economy; Low Literacy Rate, Chances of Economic disparity, Cybercrime, overspending, identification fraud, and others but all of these can be handled or brought to the barest minimum by a strong political will, uncompromised institutional framework, proper Fintech system that is being managed and monitored by relevant regulatory and anti-grafts agencies in the country. Today if you visit china, there is a strong chance that you will see people paying for things using facial recognition on their phones while others just sweep their cards on the POS machine at a go without a pin. Nigeria should not just follow the rest of the developed and industrialized economies of the world but match toe-to-toe with China and India’s footsteps towards a cashless economy. Therefore, a cashless economic Policy should be embraced by all if we expect any clear and meaningful departure from the past. Ogakwu Julius Ogbaji is an upcoming Energy and Finance Economist whose research interests cut across sustainable community development, Macroeconomic Policies, Political Economy, and sustainable energy. Share on Facebook Tweet it Pin it Email Post Views: 100

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Jairus Awo

Jairus Awo is a Nigeiran Muiltimedia public interest journalist. He believes in the power of the media as a catalyst to development and societal growth. You can tip him an idea on [email protected]

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