Former Minister of Works,ARC.MIKE ONOLEMENMEN in an interractive session with Tony Okonigene opened up on on the State of the LOKOJA-OKENE-BENIN EXPRESS road.
He talked about what the past administration did to make the road motorable and what the present administration can do to ameliorate the suffering of those plying the road.
I have always been bothered about the state of the Lokoja-Okene-Benin express road. Today, the road has totally collapsed. I am aware that this portion of the road had always been bad but somehow, there had always been routine maintenance and paliative measures that kept the traffic flowing , no matter how slow.
The story is different today. The road has totally collapsed. From Okpilla to Auchi , Agbede to Ewu, Irrua to Iruekpen, and Ehor to Benin, there are tales of woes and anguish by commuters.
Recently, I had a chart with Dr. Mike Onolememen, the former minister of works on what actually went wrong. Hear him:
“The fact is that most people did not know the efforts I put in as minister to keep that road motorable. I had a boss who was the president. I worked strictly under his directives. When we came on board, for the first two years, the president gave strict instructions that we should not come up with any new project, as there were many projects that were inherited since 1999 and were still ongoing. We were to concentrate on completing the ongoing projects then. It wasn’t until late 2013 that we were allowed to introduce new projects, premised on the basis of at least one road project per state.
As at that time, the Benin -Ore road was in bad state and was considered a priority project in Edo state. We focused on the Benin – Ore road, starting from Dawson Road to Ugbowo in the Benin metropolitan area to Ofosu and Ore, and was commissioned by GEJ.
To make the Lokoja-Okene-Benin road motorable, we had to embark on the routine maintenance of the road corridor, and sometimes carry out emergency repairs in severely impacted chainages; at no time between 2011 and 2015 was the road impassable.
In the last quarter of 2013, I made a case for the complete dualisation of the Lokoja – Benin road, with a bypass in Okene, and was approved by the Federal Executive Council. The project started in Four locations, Lokoja to Okene (Bypass), Auchi to Okene, Benin to Ehor (prioritizing Ramat park-Aduwawa-Egba-Ehor, in that order to help solve the traffic bottleneck that were experienced daily, and Auchi to Ehor (including reconstruction of the accident-prone Ewu hill). From this time up to May 2015, there was no collapse of this road corridor.
The abandonment of all ongoing works in this corridor, especially the maintenance of the existing highway for about four years led to the collapse of the road.
There is no way you will leave such a busy road plied by heavily loaded trucks without periodic maintenance, that it will not collapse. If there was continuity in the way we pursued ongoing projects that we inherited from the previous administrations, the roads wouldn’t have gotten to this state. We had estimated a 4-year time frame for the completion of the road.
The Federal Government should prioritize this road project, which is part of the nation’s arterial North-South route A2, that starts from Warri to Benin, through Lokoja to Kaduna/Katsina (Border with Niger republic).”
I intend to have a chat with Raji Fashola the current minister to ask him why we got to this stage. Stay tuned