The reconstruction of Abuja-Kaduna road is in its fourth year, but work is yet to be commensurate with the federal government’s promise and hope for the users who wish the new work would bring succour and safety to the highway acclaimed for kidnappings. With the road still a source of nightmare for travellers, there is an atmosphere of hope on what to expect when the job is completed. Our reporter who traveled along a section of it narrates his experience as motorists express optimism on the journey and palliative done so far.
Although the construction of the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road is progressing at a very slow pace and there is no date of possible completion in sight, especially at the Abuja-Kaduna section, motorists are optimistic of a safer and faster journey when work is finally completed.
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Due to the nature of the hitherto nature of the road, numerous lives have been lost through accidents and banditry.
While work is moving faster on the Kaduna-Zaria and Zaria-Kano sections, at a point last year, action was suspended at the Abuja-Kaduna section.
When the ministry supervising the construction, the Ministry of Works and Housing, was contacted to speak of the slow pace of work on the road, the director of highways, construction and rehabilitation, Folorunso Esan, an engineer, attributed it to payment issues and weather, but promised that work would resume by November.
However, commercial drivers plying the road said the work resumed after the new year break.
It would be recalled that the construction of the 375-kilometer road was awarded to Julius Berger in 2017 with a mandate to complete the project in 36 months. But the snail pace of work has given motorist nightmares with not much done since then.
When Daily Trust on Sunday embarked on a trip through the Abuja-Kaduna section to ascertain the nature of work on road, it was observed that only few kilometers have been worked on, while some portions replete with potholes had drawn the attention of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to give temporary relief to commuters pending when work would get to those places.
Zuba junction gives a hint of what to expect as the journey progresses because motorists begin to experience difficulties as they navigate through very dangerous portions.
Motorists, however, experience some respite along Gauraka town, through the Zuma barracks, which stands as a teaser to what commuters would enjoy once reconstruction is completed.
But the new pavement, which terminates at Baba Tunga, also shows how the road has deteriorated, as a u-turn there still holds a huge crater that forces speeding drivers to slow down as they attempt to negotiate another lane.
From there to Dikko junction, the asphalt on the road has begun to melt to form what looks like farm ridges. Motorists are often forced to reduce their speed to avoid visiting mechanic workshops after a trip.
Daily Trust on Sunday observed that the road after Dikko junction was fairly in good shape, but Sabon Wuse was replete with potholes. Driving through the town requires the expertise of the driver to avoid the holes.
With the absence of heavy-duty trucks on the road that passes through Tafa, movement was fast despite the fact that it maintains the old pavement.
Part of the road also gave way to the work, which has been completed; thus, motorists have the liberty to increase their speed without worries.
Construction workers were also seen filling the shoulder of the road with sand, signalling that the contractor has been paid to continue work on the road.
Driving on an average speed of 120 kilometers, the long stretch of the road can be completed within 10 minutes.
This smooth part of the road finally stopped a few kilometres to Jere town. The Jere axis of the road has, over the years, witnessed spates of kidnapping. Since work is yet to commence from there, little rehabilitation work was done to ease the journey for motorists, such as filling the potholes. This has been done up to Rijana town.
Sunday Sambo, a commercial driver, said government should intensify efforts to put the road in good shape, adding that if this is done, cases of kidnapping would reduce as kidnappers do not operate on the good section of the road.
“For now, we don’t have issue of bandits because the road is better than before. And this is due to the efforts of the FERMA to rehabilitate portions that are not good. They have cleared the bush where the bandits used to hide.
“The areas the kidnappers operate are after Katari, Rijana, Gidan Busa and Olam Farm. But these places have been given temporary facelift, except Olam Farm, where the contractors started scrapping the road,” he said.
He added that since work began on the area, there has not been any issue of security lapses there.
Also, Ibrahim Adamu said government had not done enough for travellers as it took them a number of months to work on few kilometers. He, however, expressed optimism that the number of hours to be spent on the road would reduce when it is completed, saying he is usually happy whenever he plies the portion that has been completed.
Ahmadu Idris also said, “Since the death of a gubernatorial aspirant last year, we have not heard anything regarding abduction again. I prefer travelling at night. I go to Kaduna in the night and return at the same time the following day.
“The problem we have on the safety of the road is misinformation. There is not a single minute you will not see vehicle lights on the road when travelling.”
On whether the road can be completed in 2023, he said, “I think they can complete it because they are not building bridges or felling trees. If they want to finish it, they will do it. Let them not lie to us that they are stranded.”
Furthermore, Abdullahi Abdulhameed, who travels from Abuja to Kano, described the Olam Farm area as a nightmare due to the gridlock that occurs there, saying, “With work in the area, there’s always a huge traffic gridlock. There was a day I had to sleep on the road while coming from Kano. At times we follow the bush. This is because trucks usually park on the way.
“I can’t say if the government would be able to complete the road as they said because in Nigeria, a project of three years can take seven. The Lokoja-Abuja road was awarded during the time of Obasanjo, yet it has not been completed,” he said.
He said that when completed, a trip from Abuja to Kano would not be more than five hours; and with the quality of work being done, commercial drivers would be able to undertake more trips and make more money.