The Minister of Works, David Umahi has maintained deafening silence after Nigerian citizens perished in what many have described as a death trap set by the federal government along the ever-busy Benin-Warri expressway.
TheNewsGuru.com (TNG) reports the Ologbo Bridge, located along the Benin-Sapele expressway in Delta State, Southern Nigeria became a scene of horror as Nigeria marked its 63rd Independence anniversary on Sunday.
No less than eight people lost their lives in an explosion, which affected 15 different types of vehicles, including buses, motorcycles, and tankers, as confirmed by the Spokesperson of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Bisi Kazeem.
“The truck ladened with Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS), coming from Warri, Delta State fell on the highway and spilled the PMS product on the road, leading to an explosion,” Kazeem said.
Although the FRSC Spokesperson confirmed eight individuals were burnt beyond recognition, with seven others sustaining injuries, the Delta State Police Command reported five deaths.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Works, David Umahi has maintained deafening silence following the tragic incident.
The Warri-Benin expressway is a crucial route connecting several communities in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, yet has remained in a deplorable state over so many years.
Potholes, impassable sections, and inadequate maintenance have turned this once-promising infrastructure into a death trap, where load-laden vehicles often topple, causing traffic jams that leave countless commuters stranded for days.
In a video shared by a traveller and reproduced below, multiple fuel tankers and vehicles lay overturned on the road, just as lifeless bodies, were reportedly scattered along the route, and some persons allegedly trapped beneath the wreckages.
The voice narrating the video said what should have been a 30-minute journey was prolonged to several days due to the persistent gridlock caused by the road’s deterioration and when accidents occurred, the consequences were catastrophic, impacting all vehicles within the immediate vicinity.
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TNG reports that a major contributor to the deteriorating state of roads in Nigeria is the lack of clear jurisdiction and responsibility for maintenance and rehabilitation.
Often, these roads are jointly owned by the State and federal government, and while State-maintained sections may be relatively well-paved, those under federal jurisdiction are riddled with dangerous potholes, posing life-threatening dangers to road users.
State Governors are hesitant to fix federal roads due to the complex reimbursement processes. Former Works Minister, Babatunde Fashola, had warned States against fixing federal roads. Fashola cited exorbitant claims made by Governors after repairing federal roads in their States as the reason behind this directive.
This predicament leaves public infrastructures, especially road infrastructures across the country in disarray, ultimately burdening innocent citizens.
In April, just prior to President Muhammadu Buhari concluding his second term, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning Clem Agba, disclosed approval had been given for the reconstruction of the Benin, Sapele, and Warri road, following a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
The Minister outlined that specific sections of the road had been sanctioned for refurbishment under the Federal Government Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit, facilitated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).
Section one, spanning 28.275 kilometres from Benin to Imasabor, was awarded to Messrs Levant Construction Company Limited for a sum of N98.9 billion, with a completion period of 24 months.
Section two, covering a distance of 38.525 kilometres from Imasabor to Ibada Elume, was contracted to Messrs GELD Construction Company Limited/Triata Limited for a total of N127.6 billion, and with a 36-month completion period.
Section three, spanning 23.2 kilometres from Ibada Elume to Warri, was awarded to Messrs SKECC Nigeria Limited for a sum of N89.1 billion, and a 42-month completion period.
Strangely, the contractors are yet to mobilise to site and the delay in repairs of the road increases the dangers faced by road users, which hampers economic progress and development.
Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State on Sunday conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims who tragically lost their lives in the tragic Independence Day incident, pointing out that the unfortunate incident was a direct result of the poor state of federal roads.
He appealed to the Federal Government to take swift action in reconstructing the dilapidated sections of the road.
Governor Oborevwori used the opportunity to caution the public against attempting to scoop fuel from fallen petrol tankers, stressing the extreme danger posed by the highly inflammable nature of the product.
TNG recalls weeks ago, incumbent Minister of Works Umahi had directed all contractors working on Federal Government highways nationwide to halt the use of asphalt and transition to utilising concrete technology for road construction.
Umahi further instructed these contractors to collaborate with engineers from the ministry to reconfigure all ongoing Federal Government road projects, aligning them with the specifications of concrete technology.
As a result, several existing highway construction projects nationwide have been put on hold.