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29 Years After, Anambra And the Chronicle of Road Infrastructure

By Izunna Okafor, Awka

Can development be consummate without good roads? Can economic roots be said to be stimulated/strengthened without good road network? Obviously no! The two are inseparable, and should be regarded as such.

It is in pursuance of this that the Government Anambra State, from the incipient stage of the state in August 27th 1991, has been taking a 'solid stand' and making a giant stride when it comes to building and maintaining good roads and stimulating economic roots for general development.

An offshoot of the Old Anambra (previously with its capital in Enugu), the new Anambra which was first manned by Navy Captain Joseph Abulu, hitherto had no road network that anyone could be proud of, as there were just few roads that wore the crown of coal tar in the state then. Most of the state's roads were hideously macadamized as at then.

Hence, the then Military Administrator Abulu, in an ardent bid to give the new state (especially its capital city, Awka) an infrastructural facelift, swung into action, and started executing certain laudable projects, among which road construction stood out. Little wonder why on 11th October 1991, he inaugurated an Advisory Committee of civil society leaders to define how to improve the governmental infrastructure of the new State, with privileged attention to road construction.

Be it as it may, Abulu, being a Military Administrator, could not achieve much in terms of road construction before handing over to Chukwuemeka Ezeife, the first democratically elected governor of the new state on 2 January 1992. Both Ezeife and other succeeding governors did not only toe the good path and consolidate on what had been established; they did even much greater in road construction across the state, understanding fully well, the importance of good road network in driving the economic wheel of every society.

Among these succeeding governors, Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Governor Chris Ngige, Governor Peter Obi and the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano unarguably stand atop when it comes to road construction, as they gave almost tantamount attention to both urban and rural roads across the state.

For instance, before the creation of the State in 1991, many internal roads in Awka were in a very hideous state. Note that there used to be three 'major' roads that passed through Awka the state capital, which are the new Enugu—Onitsha Expressway, the Enugu—Onitsha Old Road, and the Ekwulobia—Awka-Orlu Road. But as governments started coming and going, some bad roads were reconstructed and many new ones constructed, formerly to the credit of allocations from the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) and recently/currently to the credit of both Revenue Allocation and the state's IGR.
In the state capital, Dr. Chinweoke Mbadinuju constructed the eight-lane road that leads to Alex Ekwueme Square Awka, and also reconstructed part of the Awka-Okpuno-Isuanaocha-Mgbakwu Road.

His successor, Dr. Ngige did not only consolidate on the landmark; he also made outstanding and laudable impacts. He began the reconstruction of the Enugu-Onitsha Old Road within the Agu-Awka axis, and also handled the Awka-Nibo-Mbaukwu road. Other roads (both federal and state roads) that Ngige breathed on include: Isuochi—Owerre Ezukala-Ogbunka-Umunze Road, Umunze-Umuchu-Amesi-Uga-Ezinifite-Igboukwu Road, Nnobi-Nnewi-Ozubulu-Ihembosi-Okija Road, Iseke-Orsumoghu-Ukpor-Utuh-Nnewi-Awka Etiti Road, Amawbia-Nibo-Mbaukwu-Agulu Road, Zik's Roundabout-Nkpor-Umuoji-Uke-Nnobi Road.

Others include: Otuocha-Aguleri-Umuleri-Nteje-Awkuzu-Ifitedunu-Abagana-Eziowelle-Abatete-Uke-Ideani-Federal Road, Abba junction-Ukpo-Abagana Road, Onitsha- Iyienu-Afor Nkpor-Nkpor junction, Enugu/Onitsha Expressway-Abagana-Enugwu-Ukwu (Ezi Nobert) Road, Adazi Ani-Nnokwa-Nnobi-Nnewi Road, Umuoji-Ojoto Uno-Ojoto Ichi Road, Nitel Nnewi- Awka Etiti-Adazi Enu-Ichida-Neni Road, plus others not accommodated in this list.

It is worthy to note that works were ongoing on some other roads, such as Uga Street, Onitsha-Obosi Road, Nibo-Umuawulu-Awgbu-Amaokpala-Oko with spur to Agulu, Onitsha–Atani Road with spur to Ozobulu, Ogbunike-Nkwelle Ezunaka-Nsugbe Junction Road, and Afor Nanka-Nanka-Ogbu Border  before Ngige 'stepped aside' for Obi, who also sustained the beat.

Obi completed the reconstruction of the Old Enugu-Onitsha Expressway started by his predecessor, and also did great portions of works on Abatete-Nteje-Aguleri-Otuocha Road, Igboukwu-Ezenifite-Umunze, and Iseke Roads begun by Ngige.

During the interregnum of Dame Virgy Etiaba —who happened to become the first female Governor in Nigeria (following the impeachment of his Principal, Peter Obi) —the Arthur Eze Road (formerly known as Achalla Road) in Awka the state's capital, was reconstructed. Etiaba also began the construction of the Awka Inner Ring Road from Umunnoke-Nkwelle through Agulu, ending at Ukwuoji. Obi was reinstated on 9 February 2007.

Before handing over in 2014, other roads Obi did in his fractured two-term tenure included, but are not limited to: Awka-Amawbia dual carriage Road; Old Nkpor-Abagana-Awka Road; Adazi-Obeledu-Akwaeze-Igboukwu Road; Igbariam-University Road; Ichi Road; Nkwo Okija Road; Umunze-Anam-Mmiata Road; Nkwelle-Ezunaka Bypass; the six-lane dual carriage road from Onitsha Head Bridge to Upper Iweka; Upper Iweka-Umunya Road; Nkpor Flyover (built in collaboration with the federal government); Obosi Bypass; Awka Road; Oguta Road; Old Oba-Nnewi Road; Mmiri John Road (Ojoto); Creek Road, among others. To sustain road maintenance in the state, Obi also set up the Anambra State Road Maintenance Agency with full compliments of brand new equipments before handing over to his successor.

Taking over the mantle of leadership on 17th March, 2014, the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano in his Inaugural Address, said his vision 'is to make Anambra State the first-choice investment destination and a hub for industrialization and commercial activities’, while his mission ‘is to make Anambra State a socially-stable, business-friendly environment that would attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth-creating opportunities.'
To actualise these, he rolled out what he called four pillars of development, viz: Agriculture, Industrialization, Trade and Commerce and Oil & Gas.

Understanding fully well that infrastructural decay such as bad road network could be a bane to full realisation of these, the Governor swung into action with the aim of not only giving the state capital a befitting infrastructural facelift, but also replicating same in other urban cities and rural areas across the state. This was also extended to the hinterlands where bad roads had appeared to be one of the most contumacious and yet-to-be-fully-addressed challenges bedevilling the farmers and agricultural activities in the state, especially when it comes to conveying agricultural produce.

On that flank, the administration first undertook and completed the construction of three flyovers along the Awka axis of the Enugu—Onitsha Expressway (one at Aroma Junction; one at Kwata Junction; and another at Amawbia Junction) which have brought an ultimate end to the age-long snarl-up usually experienced at three junctions. The administration also rehabilitated the dilapidated and failed portions of the Enugu—Onitsha Expressway from Amawbia up to Agu Awka Junction.

As at date, Obiano Administration has taken on a total of 202 roads across the three geopolitical zones of the state. Out of the 202, 77 are in Anambra North (both completed and ongoing); while Anambra Central and Anambra South have 72 and 53 respectively (both completed and ongoing).

It is worthy to note that, aside the impacts of each road on development and socio-economic well-being of the society, another consideration of the Obiano Administration in selection of new road projects is taking asphalted roads to areas where they had not existed before. Also, the administration has undertaken some road works with the aim of facilitating access to those areas of strategic economic interest and investment; making evacuation of farm produce easy; motivating teachers to go to rural-based schools, and enabling easy and quick commuting between remote places and the State's heartland.

Diligently pursuing these, many communities that hitherto had no asphalted roads now have (some of which are still ongoing), while many agrarian hinterlands in the state now have roads (some of which are still ongoing).
For instance, Nzam, which is the headquarter of Anambra West Local Government used to be the only council authority without tarred road. But that is about to change now, as the 14-kilometre road (with a now-completed bridge) leading thereto has recorded ninety percent completion rate.

The citizens of Onono community also hardly access their homes without going through Delta State; but currently, the trend is also about to change, as the community is now at the verge of being linked up with other parts of Anambra State with asphalted road. Furthermore, Enugu-Otu, Eziagulu-Otu, and Mkpunando are other communities that had not previously seen tarred roads, but currently, a 42-kilometre road connecting the communities is ongoing, with about fifty per cent completion rate.

Work is ongoing on the road that leads to state's oil field through through Aguleri-Uno and Aguleri-Otu to the tune of N23b. The area used to be accessed through Enugu State before, but the Governor came in and vowed to change the narrative, saying that 'we must have a good road to what belongs to us.' A solid 12-kilometre road with 24 culverts is also ongoing, to ease access to Ogwuaniocha Community in Ogbaru Local Government Area, which is another town in the state with petroleum deposit. Another solid 11.2-kilometre road (with a bridge) is ongoing to link Ayamelum and Anambra East local lovernment areas, which will also enhance easy access to the nearby multi billion naira Chelsea Farm, the entry to which was also hitherto negotiated through Enugu State.

The Governor is also determined to complete the road between Igbariam and Anaku, an area considered a major food basket of the State, while rice-growing Ifite-Ogwari Community currently witnesses metamorphosis in asphalted roads, and Oye-Agu Abagana-Nimo Road is about fifty percent complete.

Generally speaking, among other roads that received the 'Obiano Effect' include the Oluoghoha Road in Ihiala, Umuabuchi Road in Uli, Orsumuohu Road, Jerome Udorji Road Ozubulu, Ezira-Umuomaku, Achina Road, Isuofia Road, Ogwuaniocha-Ihiala Road (with connecting bridge), Ogwuikpere Road, Mmiata-Nzam Road, Aguleri Uno–Aguleri Otu Road (with longest bridge in the southeastern Nigeria —the 280 metre-long Omambala River Bridge), Aguleri Junction-Anakwu Road, Ukwuoji-Umuenechi-Umubelle-Nibo Road.

Others include the Esther Obiakor Estate Road in Akwa, Awka-Isuanaocha-Achalla Road, Enugu-Umuonyia-Achina-Onneh Road, Ichida-Azibgo-Amichi-Osumenyi-Akwaihedi Road (inherited from his predecessor, Obi), Amansea-Ebenebe-Ugbenu-Ugbene-Awba Ofemili Road (inherited from his predecessor, Obi), Achina-Oneh- Agbudu-Ogboji, Atani–Ozubulu Roads (inherited from his predecessor, Obi), Amansea-Awba Ofemmili Road, Ifite-Unizik Gate Road, among others.

However commendable these are, there are still some roads that dun and yawn for government's urgent attention in Anambra State. These include the Ebenator-Ukpor Road, the Ugwuorie-Umuohama-Uboma Ukpor Road (all in Nnewi South Local Government Area). More so, roads like Arthur Eze Avenue, Oby Okoli Avenue, High Tension Road, Obunagu Road, etc, need urgent attention, as they are riddled with potholes. Work should also be fast tracked on the Amansea-Awba Ofemmili Road, Oye-Agu Abagana–Nimo Road, as well and Enugu-Umuonyia-Achina-Onneh Road.

These said, Anambra has indeed done exceedingly well in road construction, reconstruction and maintenance in the past 29 years; and hence deserves some accolades.

Unarguably, the primary objectives behind all these construction, reconstruction and maintenance of roads by the various administrations that have manned Anambra State since its creation in 1991, revolve around improving the socio-economic development of the state. Good road is not just a development itself, it is also a driver and facilitator of other forms of development, both industrial and agricultural, among others.
And these have come to be proved and fully realised in Anambra State.

At her 29 today, Anambra currently ranks 'above the better' in the entire federation, when it comes to states with good road network. Agricultural and industrial activities in the state have also been on the spike. People in the agricultural hinterlands across the state now easily convey their farm produce to buyers in various markets within and outside the state, to the extent that the state now exports agricultural products to Europe and other countries of the world. Access to Ogbunike Cave is now swift and easy than ever, as the road to the cynosural tourist site now wears a 'welcoming' look.

All these good effects of good roads in Anambra State today also have both direct and indirect positive impacts on the State's Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profile, on the commercial and agricultural activities within the state, and generally on the socio-economic well-being of the state and her residents.

They have indeed stimulated and strengthened the state's economic roots in a plethora of ways. And these need to be sustained, more especially by incoming administrations in the state, so as to retain the state at her enviable position in the catalogue of states with best road network in the country.
Although the journey has not been easy, it has been an interesting one. Anambra is not just 29; Anambra has come a long way. Much have been done; and much still need to be done. Anambra is proudly 29, and is happy she is.
In strengthening the economic roots of the state, the impacts of good road network should never be undermined. Good roads drive the developmental wheel of every society, both economically and otherwise. And Anambra is a living testimony.


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