Residents of Okwagbe community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State are disillusioned by the bad state of roads and the non-availability of other social amenities, and are crying on the state government to come to their aid, writes EBENEZER ADUROKIYA.
One major nagging headache besetting the people of Okwagbe community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State is the issue the deplorable state of the roads.
Year in year out, residents are subjected to untold hardship occasioned by dilapidated roads which has seen motorists battling with repairs or replacements of their vehicle parts at huge cost.
The people are saddened that dividends of democracy promised by successive governments during campaigns are yet to see the light of the day in the area.
Okwagbe community boasts of a population of about 50,000 residents. With two wards to its credit, the sleepy town is still groping in the dark of gross underdevelopment, yet has remained the commercial nerve centre of Ughelli South. It is adjudged to have the biggest market in Delta Central Senatorial District.
The community’s land stretches from the ever-busy River Niger to the Udu/ECN Road and is connected by a deplorable road that leads in and out of it.
The situation in the community is particularly worse for those who are compelled by circumstances to live there. The bad roads including those of Otor-Okwagbe and Idjogun Road have been abandoned by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Other neglected roads in the community include the Imigbu/Erhobe Road, Orharha main Street road, Edjariovwe Street road, Ejavwe Street road, Okwagbe Inland Road and Akpor Major Road.
Of utmost significance is the Okwagbe Main Road linking other communities in Ughelli South, Udu Local Government Area, Bomadi and Burutu local government areas of the state.
Most of these communities can hardly be accessed by road users during the rainy season and this has particularly made it impossible for most traders and farmers to access the market let alone transporting their produce there for sale. It was gathered that the market that comes up every four days is now witnessing low turn out of traders.
Worried by the spate of the bad roads, the people of Okwagbe community are appealing to the Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, representing Delta Central Senatorial District, Solomon Ahwinawhi, representing Udu/Ughelli Federal Constituency and Comrade Reuben Yakubu Izeze, member representing Ughelli South Constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly to come to their aid.
They are asking them to make sure that roads that connect streets and major roads in Okwagbe community are tarred and ameliorate the suffering of the people.
Residents of the community, through self-help, have been responsible for the repairs and maintenance of the major road that serves Ughelli South, Burutu and Bomadi riverine communities.
Underscoring the significance of Okwagbe, motorists can access Eyakoromor, Ogodobri, Ezebri, Okuama, Omosuomo, Okwemor, Egbo-Ideh, Ophorigbala, Esaba, Otutuama, Otitiri, Iwhrogun, Ofrukama and Otegbo communities and among others, they must pass through the Okwagbe main road.
It was further learnt that before the area became populated by non-natives, the road was not motorable during rainy season due to flooding. It was gathered that residents living around the bad roads had resorted to using canoes and wooden bridges to cross from one end to the other.
But in spite of the efforts of the inhabitants to keep the roads motorable, its condition has continued to deteriorate by the day because the wooden bridges across some of the canals which were meant to be palliative measures pending government’s intervention have been submerged by flood.
Speaking on the deplorable condition of the roads, Samson Kpaive and Ogheneruemu Onovughakpor, who are councilors representing Okwagbe wards 5 and 6 respectively, said residents have been tasking themselves to fix the road in the past five years to enable vehicular movement on the major access road into and out of the community.
They disclosed that the roads are worse, particularly during rainy season because the roads have no comprehensive drainage channels. According to them, sometime last year, the Delta State government was alerted over the deplorable condition of the roads.
They added that in the letter, the attention of the government was drawn to the constant flooding of the various streets.
They said it was regrettable that as strategic as the community was, in terms of human potentials and agricultural produce, the community was confronted with series of infrastructural challenges as a result of neglect by government.
Lamenting the situation, they said: “We have severally called on the state government to come to our aid, but no assistance has so far come our way in spite of the fact that we are part of the state. We have been abandoned in issues relating to developmental projects, but during elections, politicians will come to the community to campaign and seek our votes”.
A cross section of distraught residents and community leaders who spoke on the situation, also lamented their plight as regards the road.
The anguished residents pleaded with the Delta state authorities to fix the deplorable roads in order to make life meaningful for them.
Speaking, a political leader, Olorogun Prince Okiemute Oviri Okwagbe said,“It is almost a hopeless situation because travelling on the main road has been hellish for residents, especially those who work in the city. Whenever it rains, motorists would park their cars and trek home or to Oginibo bus stop along Ukpedi road.”
He lamented further that “Even landlords are no longer finding things easy because people are not coming to rent houses here anymore.”
It was gathered that the poor condition of the road has also affected security of lives and property in the community. “In most cases when there is an emergency security situation, police cannot access the scene because of the bad road,” Okwagbe noted.
Another political leader, Olorogun Sleek Oshare, said, “We are really facing serious problems as a result of the dilapidated condition of the roads. Most transporters, especially commercial tricycle operators and commercial motorcycle riders popularly have been discouraged from plying the road and relocated to adjoining communities.”
When contacted on the issue, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Delta State, Mr. Charles Ehiedu Aniagwu, thanked the people of Okwagbe for voting for the PDP and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. He said that he was happy that in spite of the bad roads, they still remained peaceful and committed to the PDP government in the state.
“As a government, we welcome people who ask for what they actually deserve; we are aware that a number of communities across the state need attention, but because of the paucity of funds available, we have not been able to reach out to them.
“If you assess properly, we have done a lot of things for communities across the state; even in Ughelli, the handiwork of government is noticeable.
“Okwagbe people should bear with us and continue to support the government until the revenue improves,” Aniagwu said.
“Once the revenue improves, Governor Okowa will continue to bring prosperity to all parts of Delta State, the governor’s aide assured. A trader and women leader, who simply identified herself as Chief Regina Ofigho, bemoaned the lull in her business, which she said was occasioned by the bad road.
She said, “the condition of the road is really unpleasant and it is seriously affecting traders here. Before, I used to get a lot of patronage for my rental business, but customers are no longer coming to my shop to rent canopies and other equipments. Many of them told me that they cannot stand the sight of being trapped in the muddy water and craters on the road.”
A commercial motorcycle operator Oghenemu Onoriode, said he was contemplating leaving Okwagbe community for a neighbouring community because he was fed up.
“It has not been easy working in this community. The road is in terrible shape and motorcycles usually have accidents on the tempestuous terrain of the road.
“I have spent close to N15,000 to fix my motorcycle in the last three weeks, yet, I am still repaying a loan I took to purchase it.
“I am already thinking of relocating to Otu-Jeremi, which is not far from here,” he disclosed.