Following loss of numerous lives on a dangerous hill pass on the Akwanga-Lafiya Road, which links the north to the six south-eastern states of the country, residents of Endehu village have renamed the stretch where they have had to help an endless stream of accident victims. What makes this road so dangerous?
In Endehu village along the Akwanga-Lafia highway in Nasarawa State, there is a notorious pass snaking through the hills where many motorists and travellers have met their end.
This pass, carved through the hills to reduce the number of deaths recorded on the old road, has itself become infamous for its high number of accidents recorded that it has been dubbed “Many Have Gone” after a signage warning motorists of the dangers ahead.
Snaking from Akwanga through Nasarawa-Eggon to Lafia, capital of the state, the pass stretches for 52 kilometers with 42 bends and is flanked by hills and dotted with potholes, narrow stretches, bumpy hills and steep slopes.
Mr. John, a resident of the area, said locals renamed the stretch because of recurring accidents in the pass.
“The name, ‘Many-Have-Gone’ has even overshadowed the name of this ancient village, especially amongst youths and motorists. Many people say they are going to ‘many-have-gone’ hill instead of saying Endehu,” he said.
He said the pass was carved out from the hill-about a decade ago and was widened to give way for heavy duty trucks who move slowly while ascending or descending the hill. Considering how narrow the road is, smaller cars overtaking the slow-moving trucks add to the danger.
In the pass, a truck had suffered a breakdown. The driver, who did not want his name mentioned, said there are recurring accidents on the road from Akwanga to Lafia and especially the hill pass due to excessive speed and recklessness, especially by commercial drivers.
The sign that has given the place its name is located in front of a police post on the right hand side of the approach from Akwanga. It depicts a car trying to manoeuvre between heavy duty trucks in a reckless manner and was about to be involved in an accident.
The short and sharp turns on the road do not help in making the situation safer for motorists, especially on the Akwanga to Nasarawa-Eggon stretch.
Those coming from the other end, from Lafia or Eastern Nigeria, Makurdi, Taraba to Akwanga and Abuja ascend the hill with style depending on the type and the load on the vehicle.
For articulated vehicles, the stretch is a nightmare as they constantly change gears ascending the slopes and often have to park to let the engines cool down.
Most of them choose to park at Endehu village after ascending the slope for rest and repair before continuing on their journey.
According to John, the people of Endehu have often assisted accident victims on the stretch.
“We have become police, FRSC, Traffic wardens and paramedics to accident victims,” he said with a smile.
Recently, 29 people died within six days on the Akwanga, Nasarawa Eggon and Lafia highway in September, which prompted the Federal Road Safety Commission, (FRSC) to investigate the causes, according the Nasarawa State Commander, Ismail Kugu.
The spate of accidents on the highway was alarming, according to him that the FRSC Corps Marshall, Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi ordered investigations into the incidents.
The commander pointed out the dangerous black spots after ‘Many Have Gone’ as Alizaga Hill, Gako Hills and Unguwan Ciyawa.
The narrow road, hills, bends and curves as well as potholes contribute in making this spots unsafe, according to the commander.
Also there are no shoulders on the roads to allow for parking of vehicles that are having problems without disrupting traffic.
Commander Kugu urged commuters, especially commercial bus drivers to exercise caution and patience while plying the route. He also implored vehicle owners to give more attention to the maintenance of their vehicles, especially trucks, in order to avert accidents.
“We lost so many lives within seven days, on the road alone. It is not what we want, we want to stop it. So what we have decided is to station our men before the danger zones so that before drivers reach those places, our men have already calmed them down. I don’t want to pre-empt what steps we are going to take but traffic calming is definitely one of them,” he said.
Some of the 42 bends on the road are dangerous, while others are minor. There are 36 bends from Akwanga to Nasarawa Eggon which covers 28 kilometers and between Nasarawa Eggon to Lafia there are six bends in the 24 kilometers stretch of road.
Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers in Nasarawa State, Alhaji Salisu Adamu said, “Most of the accidents occur due to the bad nature of the road and reckless driving.”
The federal government has awarded a contract for the rehabilitation of the road on which four fully armed mobile police personnel attached to the deputy governor of Nasarawa State, Dr. Samuel Akabe, died.
They were escorting the Deputy Governor when they ran into about a dozen armed robbers who shot them to death.
The deputy governor’s journey to Abuja was cancelled as he returned with the corpses to Lafia, Daily Trust gathered.
Similarly, due to the high rate of accidents along the Lafia to Akwanga road, in 2009, the federal government awarded a contract worth N3.3 billion for re-alignment and straightening of the hilly and dangerous curves to stretch the Lafia to Akwanga road within 18 months. Ten years on, the project is still uncompleted.
In November last year, the federal government approved 995 million dollars for the reconstruction of phase II of Abuja-Keffi-Akwnaga-Lafia-Makurdi Road.
Former Governor Umaru Almakura and Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola flagged off the project approved by President Muhamadu Buhari to be completed in 36 months.
Chairman of Nasarawa Eggon Local Government, Danlami Idris Odasko is pleased by this move.
“We are happy with the award of the constract for the expansion of the highway to an expressway by President Muhamamdu Buhari. We call on the people to cooperate with the workers and for drivers to drive with care during and after the commissioning of the road,” he said.
Many people care calling on motorists and others alike to drive with more caution so that they do not add to the number of ‘many that have gone’ along the Akwanga to Lafia Road.