Sunday Dec 04, 2022

The Garden City Series: Roads

Believe me, Port Harcourt originally was a beautiful city. if you drive through the Government Residential Area you will treat your eyes to some colonial architecture. if you passed through the original Port Harcourt town you would still see clubs built by the colonial masters. On Aggrey Road, on Peter Odili Byepass, at D/Line, You would see Rotaries (roundabouts) landscaped and maintained by a florist called Elizabeth (Forgotten the last name).
But beyond that, the idea of Port Harcourt being a garden city has long vanished.The Old Port Harcourt town now constitutes at best 25% (by my own estimation, not official figures). thus every semblance of order has ended, and i do not exaggerate. where will i start from?
OKPORO ROAD (Rumudara End)
A ROAD IN ENEKA. (I couldn’t stop to get a clearer shot whilst on the Road)
ELELENWO ROAD Built sometime in 2006
AIRFORCE BRIDGE. COLLAPSED RECENTLY (a mere 4 years after it was “commissioned”)
The Roads. Oh my God, the roads are just evil. There is NO road you take without experiencing potholes and unsightly patches of bitumen. The Only smooth road is the Airforce by-pass. The East-west Road is bad and ugly. the Okporo/Rumuodara Road is bad. Woji Road is Bad. Artillery is Bad. Old Aba Road (up to Rumumasi) is Bad. Elelenwo Road is Bad. Eleme Road is Bad. Eneka Road is Bad. Stadium Road is Bad. The Airforce Junction Bridge is Bad!! In fact just 3 weeks ago the Airforce Bridge COLLAPSED! These roads i’ve mentioned are major arteries that connect hundreds of thousands of people to the “town” area ALL these roads are bad!
it is quite obvious that these bad roads cause 90% of the traffic. Police and Government vehicles driving recklessly under the influence of sirens (and God knows what else) will take the blame for 3% of the traffic. Definitely the crazy/insane/mad/schizophrenic people behind the wheels of Port Harcourt vehicles. Thus everyday, you’re bound to find at least two accident scenes, car bashings/scratchings and a lot of vehicles that break down in the middle of traffic as if possessed by an evil spirit.
THERE IS NO TRAFFIC-FREE DAY IN PORT HARCOURT!!!! No matter where you’re going you’re bound to run into traffic at some point or the other. Hot, stifling traffic. The kind street hawkers pray for everyday.
I ask myself why a place like Port Harcourt (which is like the whole Rivers State) will have such poor roads. Don’t they have a governor? A minister/commissioner for works? Once I had to drive to Elele for an examination at Madonna University (I chivalrously offered to drive my cousin for her aptitude test there). The drive to Elele was TWO HOURS. Under normal circumstances 45 minutes driving at 80km/hr should have taken us there. But the roads were so bad that i began to wonder whether we were actually in Rivers State. Even the Road to the State Governor’s home town remains un-tarred.
I’m tempted to vilify the oil companies. why are they not living up to their corporate social responsibility? why are they not building roads? making drainage projects? why do the people of rivers state still SUFFER muddy roads, muddy clothes, dirty cars? why are their drainage channels clogged with stinking dirt?
I stop myself from shouting the oil companies down for making seemingly obscene profits, when I realise that the Oil companies are not the government, neither are they the people. The Joint Venture Agreement Shell, Total, Agip and NNPC signed with the government puts the production cost of each barrel of oil at about a maximum of $5. The JVA makes for a profit sharing up to the crude oil benchmark (hovering between $20 and $40). The implication of this is that anything beyond $40 dollars in the profit for each barrel of oil sold belongs to the government. So more often than not, Oil prices hover around at least $100 per barrel. In which case, the federal government is making over $60 dollars per barrel of oil sold. Nigeria produces about 2.2 million barrels per day.
Why am I going through all this analysis? The principal oil-producing states of the Niger Delta (Rivers, Cross-Rivers and Akwa Ibom States) command 13% of oil Revenue, thus combined these states control 39% of Nigeria’s oil Revenue. On average, Rivers state collects at least 28 billion naira every month, from the federation account, from taxing oil companies. where is all that money?
I have visited both Calabar and Uyo (in 2010) and I could see a huge difference in the way things were done. Uyo has good roads. Uyo has (or had) stable electricity. Even with the Kidnapping scare, people were freely moving about, businesses open as late as 11 pm. The Policemen were helpful (A friend and I being strangers to the City lost our way and a cop graciously directed us).
It means therefore that Rivers State remains the black sheep of the “family”. Things are unnecessarily expensive here. all the “oil money” floating about is just fueling inflation. In spite of the seemingly “big” salaries being paid to workers, money is made useless by the unbelievable prices of food items!
So back to the roads. why on earth are the roads so tiny? why can’t we have roads that last for 30 years? The roads that the colonial masters built are still serving the Old port Harcourt town! So you begin to wonder, where is the money going? If you go to Makurdi, you will see ROADS. Smooth, nylon tar. In fact when you enter Makurdi the sound of your engine changes! Yet Benue state gets a paltry 8 biliion per month. 8 billion for a state that’s almost twice the size of Rivers state! Yet salaries are paid, roads are built/resurfaced, scholarships are given, THINGS WORK!!
The people of Port Harcourt must answer to us why with all the noise they make about “oil money” and being “indigenes” they cannot construct good roads and drainages for themselves! why they cannot hold their leaders responsible for governance (although that is quite difficult, if not impossible, in Nigeria). The problem is that port Harcourt is like a very big village that won’t just grow! Contracts are awarded EVERY YEAR for the construction of roads that will never be built. the Igwuruta road dualisation project started with Governor Peter Odili, was transferred to Celestine Omehia and finally to Governor Chibuike Amaechi.. That project began when I was in secondary school. I have finished a 5- year degree in law since then and all the demolished houses and shops have sprung up again. the Road is still not finished! The next administration will probably “compensate” the landowners for their “loss” all over again, so the officials can pocket something.
It is obvious that a lack of planning coupled with corruption in high places have worked hard and long to cripple Port Harcourt’s road networks. New communities are springing up every day. There doesn’t seem to be any Urban Development Board or even any state development board! Thus people build anyhow they want to, as long as it’s their land (however acquired). The Mayor of Port Harcourt said on the radio that the problem of construction lies with illegal structures: lands were supposedly allocated haphazardly by the military. Well, assuming that was true, Rumuokwurushi, Rumuokoro, Eneka, Igwuruta, even a lot of Elenwo were still covered in bush as at 2002- was the military in power then? How come for 12 years of civilian rule, the RSG (Rivers state government) is yet to get it right? How can future roads be made without demolitions? Then why is no one making plans for the future? why is there no comprehensive layout published for citizens to know for themselves?
The people of rivers state seem to prefer attending thanksgiving services when their loved ones almost die due to the horrible nature of the roads. They also love to see their local elite stepping out of 4WD SUVs with their flowing etibo announcing how affluent and opulent they are. They prefer to scramble for peanuts when the “big men” spray money at such occasions. They are quick to praise their “illustrious sons” for whatever achievements (real or perceived/imagined) they have gathered. They prefer to hold long prayer sessions as though they were actually expecting God to descend and fix the roads.
As my father would say, “If prayer is what builds roads, there’d be no roads in Europe. Africa would be the most developed continent!
In the next post i will discuss the Architecture in port Harcourt. At least that’s something less dreary to write/read about.
Have a productive week!!


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