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Owo-Ikare highway of horror: Communities, commuters decry insecurity

Sections of the Owo-Ikare road. INSET: Olokoja of Okoja Ikare, High Chief Idowu Ogunyemi

Residents and people of Akoko in the northern senatorial district of Ondo State, drivers and commuters have decried the socioeconomic hardship brought on them by the condition of the Owo-Ikare road. HAKEEM GBADAMOSI, after a visit to the four local government areas within the senatorial district, reports the frustration of the people and efforts to stem the tide of robbery, kidnapping and other security concerns along that axis.

The deplorable state of the roads within the four local government areas in Akoko land of Ondo State has been a source of concern to both residents and commuters within those communities. Apart from residents of these communities, travelling particularly on Owo-Ikare road has become a misadventure that many often regret venturing into while some commuters described their experience as harrowing and a persistent nightmare in the last few years.

The ever busy Owo-Ikare road which serves as the only connecting route for motorists and commuters from Lagos and other South West states to Abuja and other northern parts of the country has been described as a death trap by the people of Akoko communities, while the deplorable state of the Owo-Ikare road  reportedly contributes to the high rate of kidnapping, armed robbery and other crimes in the area as criminals had turned the area to their permanent abode, becoming threat to security of lives and property.

Apart from the Owo-Akungba-Ikare road, the Ikare-Arigidi-Ajowa road, Ikaram-Akunnu road, Akungba-Oka-Isua road, Isua-Ipesi road, Ikare-Ogbagi-Oke-Agbe road among other roads in Akoko area of the northern senatorial districts are nothing to write home about while motorists and commuters suffer untold hardship as greater portions of the road network are in a deplorable condition ridden with potholes and gullies.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu

Speaking to Nigerian Tribune, a resident of Oba Akoko, Sola Williams said the people of the area heaved a sigh of relief when the immediate past administration in the state commenced the rehabilitation of the Owo-Ikare road at the end of its tenure but said the rehabilitation was abruptly stopped.

According to him, the deplorable state of the Owo /Akungba/ Ikare road federal road has contributed to multiple deaths, unending traffic jams with many motorists sleeping on roads while armed robbers and kidnappers operated on this road unhindered.

He disclosed that apart from accident caused by the bad portions on the road, no fewer than 25 people including traditional rulers, regents, high chiefs, clerics, politicians, students, and many others have been kidnapped along the Owo-Ikare road while nothing has been done to rehabilitate the Owo-Ikare road or find a lasting solution to the insecurity.

Williams noted that the state of the road has also created negative impact on the socioeconomic condition of the people of the area, disclosing that the development has led to high cost of transportation and food items, thereby leaving the people at the mercy of traders.

He said apart from this “policemen on the highway are not even helping. They have turned most of the bad spots to their checking points collecting money from commercial drivers while people are being kidnapped on daily basis.”

He said further “our political office holders from this land are not helping matters.  They should see this as a shame. We voted for them to improve our lives but the reverse is the case. The governor is from this senatorial district; we have a senator, honourables, commissioners and different influential people from Akoko.

“They promised us better life and change but almost two years we have not felt the presence of democracy. We demand for a responsive government; the people are suffering. The governor of the state should take up the challenge and it should stop shifting blame game.”

A trader, Risikat Olawale, attributed the high cost of food items to the deplorable situation of the road. She lamented that the market for the farm produce had been greatly affected, as customers who travelled from other places to patronise the traders were no longer coming, owing to the poor state of the roads.

“Due to the terrible state of our rural roads, we usually find it difficult to convey our farm produce to the market, leading to the destruction of some perishable produce. Our customers have stopped coming because of the bad road,” she said.

She however called on the state and federal governments and agencies responsible for the fixing of the road to quickly come to their aid by giving priority to the rehabilitation of the road to facilitate movement of rural dwellers from their various localities to the state capital.

Commercial drivers are not left out in the lamentation over the state of the road. One of them, Akinola  Balogun said they recorded huge cost on the maintenance of their vehicles everyday as a result of the poor condition of the road, saying this has led to increase in the fare.

Balogun said apart from the maintenance of their vehicles,  several lives have been lost to the bad portions of the road, saying the leadership of the union had met with the state government to find a lasting solution but noted that the state government’s hands are tied on the matter because the about 100km road is owned by the Federal Government.

“The government should focus on massive reconstruction and rehabilitation of this road rehabilitation and they should stop the pushing game of who is responsible for the rehabilitation of the road,” he said.

Another commercial driver, Moses Awubare, said “we spent over ten hours on a journey of less than six hours from Abuja to Akure; we were in Oba Akoko for more than four hours, we didn’t get to Akure until 6 pm. It was horrible. Some drivers plying the route now prefer to take a longer decoy.”

Students of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA), are not left out, as many of them have been guests to kidnappers while some of them lost their lives in car accidents along the Owo-Ikare road.

According to one of the students, Yewande Busari, “we have been living with this menace of poor roads for a very long time and more worrisome is not the very poor state of the roads, but the fact that kidnappers now feast on travellers on these routes. Kidnapping has become a lucrative business around here.”

Nigerian Tribune however noted that farmers within the Akoko area are worst hit by the deplorable state of the road. Some of the farmers who spoke to our reporter lamented that market for their farm produce had been greatly affected.

Yesufu from Ipesi Akoko said “as a result of the terrible state of our roads in Akoko, we usually find it difficult to convey our farm produce from the farm to our homes and to Akure, the state capital, leading to the destruction of some of the perishable produce before being conveyed to their destination.”

Another farmer, Lateef Adeogba, appealed to both the federal and state governments to rehabilitate all the roads in the area so as to enable farmers to transport their produce easily to the market.

“The deplorable state of roads in this area is seriously impacting negatively on our means of livelihood. Even customers who travel from other places to patronise us are no longer doing so, owing to the poor state of the roads,” he said.

A community leader, Lasisi Ogunmola-Muhammed also identified the state of infrastructural facilities and the bad shape of road as reasons he opted to participate in the next election to ameliorate the plight of the people of the area, lamenting that the people of the area had been marginalised in the past.

Chief Mukaila Bello

He called on community leaders and people of the area to choose rightly during the next election and vote for leaders who will bring developmental projects to Akoko land.

Speaking on the state of the road, the Oliku of Iku-Ikare, High Chief Mukaila Bello, said apart from the federal road leading to Akoko, many roads within the communities were nothing to write home about.

According to him, some of the bad roads within the towns include: Okoja-Iku-Awara dam road, Okorun-Okoja road, Iku-Okegbe road, Agbo Okela road and Iku/New Okorun road which play host to the popular Awara dam.

He listed other inter roads to include: Saint Moses Orimolade Mercyland, Ikare Township Stadium among others, noting that “most of these roads have been in deplorable conditions since the administration of the late governor Olusegun Agagu.”

He said the people of the area have made several appeals to subsequent governments on the need to rehabilitate the roads.

Also speaking, Olokoja of Okoja-Ikare, High Chief Idowu Ogunyemi, noted that though the Federal Government had advertised some federal roads for reconstruction in Akoko area but called on the Ondo State government to place more emphasis on the construction and rehabilitation of township roads.

He recalled that traditional rulers and opinion leaders in the area had petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari seeking his intervention on the bad state of the Owo-Ikare road and the high rate of crime.

An official in the state who spoke on the condition of anonymity, however, expressed the willingness of the state government to rehabilitate the Owo-Ikare road despite being owned by the Federal Government road, but lamented the inability of the Federal Government to refund about N11 billion the state used to rehabilitate, maintain and reconstruct some federal roads within the state.

He said the present administration in the state resolved not renovate any federal road until the outstanding amount was settled.

The state Commissioner of Works, Taofeek Abdulsalam expressed the willingness of the state government to rehabilitate the Owo-Ikare road so as to reduce carnage on the road but said the federal government had asked the state to stay action on the project.

Abdulsalam however said the state government had embarked on massive construction of roads in and around Akoko. “We have commenced and completed the 2.5km to Supare Akoko from Akungba. We have constructed another 2.5km Ikare /Ugbe road.

We will soon mobilise contractors to start work on the 35km Oba Akoko – Ikun – Ido Ani to Iwaro Oka. We have also mobilised contractors back to site to complete the ongoing construction work of Ifira Akoko – Ipesi Akoko road. The dualisation of Ikare will soon commence.

We are seriously working on the designs. The Akungba road construction is also on line. It’s a step at a time because all these are not something we can do within a year but I am assuring you that this government gives priority to road construction,” he said.

But Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, while on a courtesy visit to the state earlier this year has assured the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu that the Federal Government was working towards rehabilitation of the Owo-Akungba road and other federal roads in the state begging for attention.

Speaking on the efforts of the state police command to arrest the state of insecurity on the axis,  the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Femi Joseph said the “command is aware of the happenings within the axis” and had deployed its men to the area to curb kidnapping.

He however said “this is one of the reasons why you find our men not too far from this spot. We have noticed that if the vehicles are on top speed it is not possible for these criminals to operate and they only operate at the bad spots because vehicles need to slow than in those places.

“But we want to call on our people not to see the presence of these security operatives as a means of extorting from the people but our men are there to provide adequate security and wade off these criminals from this Owo-Ikare road completely.

“We are not resting on our oars to rid these criminals and perpetrators of these crimes. We also have some plain cloth men monitoring activities on this Owo-Ikare road.”

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