A road upgrade in Ondo State puts communities out of years of agony, writes DAMISI OJO
Famous for its rich rainforest, mangrove-swamp, and wooded savanna running down the hills, it is little wonder that Ondo State teems with people who live off the soil. That is why cocoa, rubber, cotton, timber and other hardwood are a common sight. But what good are your resources if it is a tough task getting what you produce to the city centre markets because of impassable roads?
That is the plight of residents of Akoko North-West Local Government Area of the state. Their roads have woeful for over a decade.
Now they can smile. The state governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and his Works team have deployed graders, bulldozers and other earth-moving equipment to Akoko North-West to build a 29km road linking Oke-Agbe, the council headquarters, to Irun, Afin, Ese and Ogbagi. There are several other smaller communities that will benefit from the 29km stretch.
In pre-election days, Akeredolu told the people he would build the road if he won. Seeing the governor and the heavy construction equipment in their area on flag-off day brought a lot of joy to them.
Led by virtually all the traditional rulers in the council, they trooped out to receive the governor. The Owa of Ogbagi was there, as were the Zaki of Arigidi, Eleriti of Eriti and Olubaram of Ibaram. In unison, they said Governor Akeredolu’s road plan would end “an era of backwardness’ and “give hope of new life” to their people.
A community leader in Oke-Ogba Akoko, Alhaji Lateef Ibrahim, and Mr. Babatunde Ajayi from Ogbagi recalled the terrible state of the road, saying it has done incalculable damage to the economic life and activities of the locals.
The residents who are predominantly farmers and traders, have lost farm produce and goods worth several millions of Naira due to the poor state of the road, they said.
With the mobilisation of equipment now, Alhajit Ibrahim is optimistic that the construction of the road will guarantee economic growth and alleviation of poverty.
The state Commissioner for Works, Hon. Saka Yusuf Ogunleye had other assurances, saying, “Our road construction is not going to be limited to highways alone. Township roads will also be fixed, as the department handling such matters will take care of failed portions and potholes within the towns.
“Akoko is a strategic part of the state, which deserves good roads as other areas. Our road infrastructure programme covers the entire state. No area will be left untouched.”
Also, residents of Oda town, Ilekun, Emiloro and other neighbouring communities in Akure South Local Government Area in the Central Senatorial District of Ondo State on Monday, August 15, 2019, woke up to the reality that their long dream of having access to good road is after all achievable. For years, the people of the communities have longed for a good road that would lead to drastic reduction in the auto crashes and cut delays in travel time that have become daily occurrences on the ever-busy Akure-Oda Road.
Besides the poor state of the road that the residents, especially accident victims, have named death trap, the communities also shared many things in common. First, they are fast-growing communities because intending landlords now prefer to own houses of various types thus sporadically increasing the population of the communities. Secondly, the communities have the potential to expand fast because of their vast and plain land. Public institutions such as Ondo State Law Commission office, Ondo State College of Health Technology, the state chapter of the National Union of Teachers Guest House, the Federal Government Silos, the Federal Government Library, and the Akure South office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, among others, were established along the major road that link the communities.
Also, not a few hundreds of the Federal and the Ondo State public servants prefer to reside in the communities because of the peace and serenity of the environment. Above all, like the people destined to suffer together, the residents of the communities have one or two devastating stories to tell over the poor state of the long road.
“Accidents involving cars, motorcycles and sometimes lorries usually happen on the busy Akure-Oda Road. We cannot deny the fact the poor state of the road contributed significantly to the crashes. The road is terribly bad. Aside the frequent crashes occurring on the road which sometimes resulted in loss of lives, the recent burglary that occurred in one of the neighbouring communities can be attributed to the poor state of the road. The summary of it all is that the road has caused a lot of damage to many families in Oda and its environs.
“But our longtime prayers for God’s intervention have been answered. The last week’s flag-off of the construction of the road by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is the real answer we have been waiting for. We in Oda and the neighbouring communities can confidently say that our long suffering would evaporate and there would be drastic reduction in auto crashes in a matter of few months after the completion of the road,” said the Regent of Oda, Princess Adeyinka Akosile, who sought the support of every interest group in Ondo State for Akeredolu’s administration.
The joy of Mr. Abiodun Akingbayi, a resident of Ilekun, said: “I have been plying the Akure-Oda Road for the past 15 years. The 15 years can best be described as agonising because of the heavy traffic that is always building up on the dilapidated road. The constant breakdown of vehicles plying this road and crashes involving the road users are the nasty experiences we wish never happened. In short, there is no time of the day that one would not find one or two ghastly accidents occurring on the road,” Akingbayi said, who attributed the pressure on the poor road to the fast rise in the population of Oda town and its neighbours.
He said, “There has been increase in the population of the people living in all the communities. The increase may have been brought about by the relative peace that we are enjoying here. We observed that intending landlords prefer this axis of Akure South Local Government Area to build their houses and as a result contributed to the rise in the population. So, one cannot dismiss the belief that the construction of this ever-busy road would alleviate the suffering of the people living and working in this area.”
Their suffering may have come to an end. On August 15, Akeredolu started the construction of the 8km dual carriageway.
Akeredolu, while addressing the crowd at the flag-off ceremony, said he was aware of the nasty experience the people faced daily on the road and his administration was prepared to bring the discomfort to a thing of the past by delivering “a new asset, a new lifestyle and a new era of property appreciation and bequeathing an enduring legacy to the incoming generation.”
He said: “But it does not end here, it is only a precursor to an unending positive multiplier effects on the economy and social life of the people.
“While the road is being constructed, we will have more than a sizeable number of our people working and earning their living on a daily basis, and by the time you factor in those who supply construction materials, you can imagine the multiplier effect of this project and of course, the advantages it portends to the people, such as decrease in travel time, increase in the lifespan of vehicles, increased interconnectivity with other roads, such as the Oba Osupa-Hospital-Ijoka Road via Ijigba Road.”
To the admiration of the crowd that gathered to witness the flag-off ceremony, the 8km road was designed to consist the following features: 2.7km dual carriageway and 5.3km single carriageway and would have standard facilities such as 1.5m walkway on both sides, 1m width median fitted with street light, 600mm x 750mm drains, 200mm lateritic sub-base course, 200mm stone base course, 50mm asphaltic binder course, 40mm asphaltic wearing course, among others.
Stakeholders including the Deji of Akure Kingdom, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi; the Regent of Oda, Princess Adeyinka Akosile; the Bishop of Akure Anglican Diocese, represented by Venerable Emmanuel Akosile; the Chief Imam of Akure, Alhaji Abdul Hakeem Yayi-Akorede, applauded the intervention on the road to engender the development of other sectors of the state economy.
To the Bishop of Akure Anglican Diocese, the decision to build the road is “a pleasant surprise to everyone and an initiative worth applauding.”
The Oda town youth leader, Mr. Ayodele Julius Obareke, promised maximum support for the contractor handling the project to enable the state government to deliver it in record time.