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Damaturu-Biu Road, still a frightening stretch

Recent visit to the road by this reporter, revealed that the road is still bad, dotted with huge potholes and unredeemable shoulders. Few motorists use…

Recent visit to the road by this reporter, revealed that the road is still bad, dotted with huge potholes and unredeemable shoulders.

Few motorists use the road which was built in the 1970s but never witnessed repairs since then, a development which has adversely affected the social and economic life of the people.

Kanem Trust had last year, reported the apprehension and grief of many people and communities along the road which links Yobe and Borno States and it was a few month after the report that FERMA sublet a contract for the repairs of the road to M. M. Sheriff Monguno and Sons Ltd.

Though the award of the contract had brought a sigh of relief to the people, their happiness was short-lived. “It is like an aborted dream because the contractors are working with snail speed,” Modu Bulama, a resident of Gujba town retorted.

Before the road lost its glory, it was a door of prosperity for farmers, artisans and even civil servants who moved from Biu, a big town in Borno State, to Potiskum, Damaturu, Gashua and Nguru in Yobe State.

It was hitherto a route for heavy trucks and articulated vehicles that transported cows, groundnuts, grains as well as hides and skin to Buni- Yadi, a railway town that links the southern part of Nigeria with parts of Yobe and Borno States.

“That glory has been lost completely because the railway only comes once in a while and the road has completely died. Trucks no longer come from Onisha, Aba and Lagos. No driver will love to pass through it because of its terrible state of disrepair,” Ma’aji Baana, a resident of Buni-Yadi observed.

The recent trip by this reporter along the road was a tale of sadness and lamentation. I lost my rear tyre on my way going after falling into a bucket size pothole.

The journey back to Damaturu was not better because the windscreen of the car was equally broken by a stone which was displaced by a truck coming from the opposite direction.

But what worries many people is the attitude of the contractors. “They have not made any significant progress since the commencement of the project close to one year,” Baana observed.

“The work has not reached any significant distance despite the fact that the company handling the project had been mobilised effectively,” a staff of FERMA who does not want to be named, said.

An engineer working with M. M. Sheriff Construction Company said road works is very difficult and time consuming.

“People should bear with us especially now that it is rainy season. The work will definitely be done,” the engineer who refused to mention his name, said.

The Yobe State government had included its own part of the road in the 2010 budget but work is yet to start. A senior government official in the Ministry of Works, said the state government sympathizes with its people living along Gujba, Buni Yadi and Gulani areas and will surely commence work on the road.

“We are not bothered with what FERMA is doing, after all, their mandate was to repair critical portions of the road. On its part, the state government will overhaul it completely in order to give the people living along the route a sense of belonging,” the official said.

The journey from Damaturu to Biu, which should last just a little above one hour, now takes an average of three hours because even rugged vehicles must have to move with caution in order to avoid countless man-height potholes.

 Many drivers interviewed lamented that they had to visit mechanic workshops all the time and cost of transportation has risen beyond the comfort of the poor man. “You must either buy a new tyre or change the shock absorbers regularly…it is basic”, Salisu, a truck driver said.

While there is little presence of repairs in the part of Yobe, in Borno State, the situation is worse because many portions have been washed away by flood and gully erosion.

Motorists must move to the eroding shoulders in order to avoid running into ditches.

Residents of Buratai and Miringa villages who were interviewed last year expressed more anger this time around.

“We have been forgotten by government but election is coming. We would definitely boycott polling booths,” Bulus Ali of Miringa said.

He however said if government can endeavour to repair the road, they will be willing to vote because, “Once the road comes alive, we an get value for our farm produce,” he said.

“We feed millions of people with rice, maize, guinea corn and cows from our farms but bad roads have made our great advantage a liability with increasing difficulties,” Bunu Ali, another resident of Miringa observed.

On some parts of the road, grasses have grown making it difficult to differentiate the road from the bush. “This tells you the pitiful status of the road. The fact is that it is the worse in Nigeria,” a 42 year old Jonathan who has been voluntarily filling potholes on the route for the last 10 years said.

“I always feel pains to see cars collapsing with many passengers on board when they fall into a ditch. That is why I resolve to always come out in the morning to mend the patches with laterite. It is strictly with the intention of to save lives,” he said.

In April this year, the Minister of Works, Senator Sanusi Daggash, when asked on the status of the Damaturu-Biu road, said the federal government will review the contract because of the failure of the contractors to make any progress.

Daggash said the road remained strategic because it linked many major towns in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states and that its deplorable state had been affecting social and economic activities of the people.

“What is necessary to be done will be done because the road is of great importance to us,” the minister had said.

Residents of the area are still waiting to see what action the federal government will take. “We hope the minister will match his words with action because it is one thing to make a promise and another thing to fulfill it. The truth is that this road is a death trap and has crippled our fortunes,” Muhammadu Gali, a resident of Katarko village, said.

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