The Dutse-Alhaji road has left residents with bittersweet experience.
The road project was awarded by the Satellite Town Development Department (STDD), an agency of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) about two years ago.
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At the beginning of the project being handled by Setraco Construction Company (SCC), Moses Olaniyonu was happy at the pace and quality of work done.
A few months after the commencement of the project, “I thought the traffic congestion and untold hardship of motorists due to the damages to their vehicles and other body was over. But I never knew I was in for a long ride,” he said.
Olaniyonu said only a lane of the dual carriageway was completed while the other lane left uncompleted had deteriorated. He usually enjoys a smooth ride from his house in Dutse-Baumpma through Dutse-Alhaji to his office at the City Centre, but the trip back home was always riddled with prayers and sweats.
“The lane, opposite the market down to Dutse-Alhaji First and Second Gates is terrible. The moment I turn to Dutse-Alhaji road from Kubwa Expressway, I always pray silently that no vehicle should break down on the road. If God grants my request, that means I will spend at least one hour on a road that is about two kilometres,” he said.
He described the traffic gridlock due to the uncompleted portion as terrible due to the activities of commercial tricycles and trucks.
“Keke NAPEP would want to maneuver and take advantage of their size while trucks occupy space because of their size. So, the struggle is usually dreadful especially for smaller cars like mine,” he said.
As Mr Olaniyonu, most of the road users said plying the road leaves them with a pleasant experience tinged with sadness due to the bad lane.
“You will always have a pleasing taste and a sweaty body on this road. It is either you sweat while going to your house or when you are leaving for the office,” a civil servant, Adelola Adeoye said. She said the road which has been left uncompleted for more than five months had subjected residents to hardship as they spend about two hours passing through an uncompleted patch of the road.
“I call the road short and stressful. It is this bad because of the sharp granite poured on the road. When it rains, it washes it away leaving holes at almost all the portions on the road. The holes are deep and sharp so it is difficult to drive through with speed. Should you speed on the road, you risk damaging your vehicle before reaching the end of the road,” another motorist, James Adams, said.
Adams said he had resigned to fate, “I take my time while driving and wait patiently. No amount of pressure from the taxi drivers or tricycle operators can make me increase my speed or just overtake while on the bad portion of the road,” he said.
A motorist, Obinna Chibuzor, said the traffic congestion reaches its peak in the evening when people are returning home from their places of work.
Most tricycle operators said they avoid commuting the road due to the damages to their tricycles and time spent in the traffic especially during rush hours.
One of the tricycle operators, James Ugwoke, said the bad state of the road affects his business as he and his colleagues rarely use the road due to fears of somersaulting.
“The bad state of road terribly affects my business; I and most of my colleagues no longer ply the road because of the fear of somersaulting. Since the rainy season started, my daily income has reduced drastically. If I expect to make at least N3, 500 in a day, I am certain my take-home would be about N2, 000 or less because of the bad road.
“Now, I rather take passengers to another location than ply the bad road because the mud would spoil vital parts of my tricycle before I make tangible savings.”
Mr. Ugwoke added that most people, who work in town and live in Bwari and Dutse ply that road making it busy every day.
“The situation worsens on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays which happen to be the market days. Passengers are usually stranded because of the few numbers of tricycle operators willing to pass the road,” he said.
A resident of Dutse Alhaji, Richard Olusola, who plies the road to access his office at Gwarimpa, lamented how frustrating his experience could be every workday.
“I leave my house early in the morning neatly dressed with my well-cleaned shoes but before I get to the office, my shoes get muddy. On my unlucky days, parts of my trousers get splashed by mud. As if that is not enough, this bad road slows down my pace to work; after work hours, I sometimes spend extra hours on the road to go back home especially when it rains.”
He said the uncompleted pedestrian bridge on the road compounds his ordeals.
As the motorists’ experiences are bittersweet, so is it with small business owners along the road. Either wet or dry, the road comes with peculiar challenges for them. One of the business owners, Pastor Kenneth Osas, said with the wet season, they experience accidents, especially trucks and trailers, while a dry road leads to a dusty atmosphere.
“Pastor Osas said the road got worse at the beginning of the rainy season, adding that flood created a ditch at the area that connects the bad and good portions of the road just in front of his shop.
The man who operates a photography and computer centre said trucks, trailers and petrol tanker drivers usually find it difficult to link the good portion of the road from the bad patch because of the ditch.
“Two weeks ago, a Coca cola truck fell there, spilling its contents on the ground. Though it was evacuated the same day with the assistance of military officials passing at the time, it led to a very serious traffic jam. Five days later, a Seven-Up truck also fell alongside its content and motorists were made to go through the same troubling experience,” he said.
He said the intervention of some youths in the community made the road fairly good because they filled the potholes that linked the bad and good portions. “Even at that, trucks and these long vehicles find it difficult to pass,” he said.
Osas, who said the contractors had not been to the site since March (before the COVID-19 lockdown), lamented that government had not done anything about their plights. “We are almost getting used to it because we do not have a government that cares about us. Now, we have to take care of ourselves. It is only during the election that we see them,” he said.
Another resident, Timothy Ogbuewu, urged the government to consider the plights of the residents, adding that spending money on vehicles at the height of the hardship caused by COVID-19 would be unbearable for the residents.
“Pedestrians are also at risk because the pedestrian bridge was also left uncompleted,” he said.