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Kontagora-Zuru road: Where death feeds fat

Though I had the opportunity of visiting Zuru, the home of the Bamaiyis and several other influential Army Generals during the defunct military regimes, a…

Though I had the opportunity of visiting Zuru, the home of the Bamaiyis and several other influential Army Generals during the defunct military regimes, a fortnight ago was my first time of going to Zuru through Kontagora, a journey I may not want to repeat. All the other three times I visited Zuru it was twice through Sokoto, Gummi, Daki Takwas to Zuru and ones through Maraban Yauri through Rijau to Zuru. I never enjoyed my journey to Zuru through any of those roads until the day I traveled from Kontagora through Rijau to Zuru that was when I realized that the previous roads I used were even the best to pass through.
Two of my good friends that traveled to Zuru through Kontagora warned me earlier not to pass through that road because of its bad nature, “What is new about the bad nature of Nigerian roads? Is it not the usual potholes and dust? I have seen that along Gombe – Biu – Mubi road in the northeast,” I said to myself.
But when similar warnings were repeated by co-passengers travelling with me in a commercial vehicle I joined from Jega in Kebbi state to Kontagora, I decided to confer with Alhaji Yusuf Isa Halilu the Chairman of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) of Zuru park in Kontagora. Alhaji Yusuf who is in his 50s has been the chairman of that park for 24 years now and has been driving to Zuru from Kontagora several years before he became chairman. I asked him to tell me about the road to Zuru.
“In my 33 years as a commercial driver, I have never seen a road as bad as this one from Zuru to Kontagora especially Zuru to Rijau. You have so many potholes that vehicles cannot avoid. The potholes slow down the movement of vehicles to snail speed. That account for the regular cases of armed robbery along the road. Armed robbers will appear at will and block the slow moving vehicles and rob them because the driver cannot go on speed. There is hardly a week that will come and pass without either a case of robbery attack or fatal accident along this road.
“You will see that most of the Bridges along the Kontagora to Zuru are the single lane bridges constructed by the colonial masters where two vehicles coming from different direction cannot enter the bridge the same time. One vehicle must wait for the other to pass. In most cases, drivers plying the road for the first time may not know that they have to wait for the oncoming vehicles at the Bridge to pass before they enter. They will run into the Bridge and there will be head-on collision. The narrow Bridges have been responsible for most of the accidents along the road.
“You could see that the protective irons beside the bridges have all been destroyed as a result of constant accidents. The narrow bridges were constructed before independence in 1960 and have not been maintained since then. You could see that the Luwoji Bridge is even broken. When vehicles are passing it shakes and it is broken from the center. It got damaged about 10 years ago and has not been repaired since then. There was a time about three years ago when a commercial vehicle hired from Onitsha to convey passengers to Zuru and when the driver got to Luwoji, he could not cross with his vehicle. They had to report to me for assistance. The driver was so shocked at the sight of the bridge that he could not be able to drive his vehicle again. I had to assign another driver to drive the vehicle back to Onitsha,” he said.
At the park in Kontagora where I met a small Golf car loading to Zuru, an elderly but friendly man who I later understand to be an official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) walked up to me and politely suggested to me that if I have the means I should pay for the front seat meant for 2 passengers and stay alone for convenience. I thanked him and did as he said.
The about three hours’ journey from Kontagora to Zuru was slow and eventful. Throughout the period of the journey, it is either the driver is trying to dodge one pothole or the other, or he is diverting completely from the road and driving through farms at areas the rigid of the farms are smoother than what supposed to be the road.
The driver of the commercial vehicle sensing that we were not comfortable with the journey, volunteered to explain; “I do not even know what the government is doing. They have abandoned this road for long. It destroys the tyres of our vehicles. It is this same road all the retired Generals are using to travel from Zuru to Minna and beyond.
The Kontagora to Rijau portion of the road was damaged that the usual ‘FERMA’ (Federal Roads Maintenance Agency) could not even be seen as the agency may not have any impact there. A youth corps member travelling in the same vehicle with me, Efe Omorige said, “FERMA only specializes in patching roads. This one is completely washed away. In some potions you may not even see sign of any tar, what can FERMA do here? But what about all the Army Generals from Zuru, so they could not even do the road to their place?
Mr Gabriel Idowo, a 58 year old man, is a Zuru based motor spare parts dealer who said he relocated to Zuru in 1975 and has since been plying the road, adding, “In the 70s I was using my private Pick-up van to travel to Ibadan twice a week. I was doing that up to 1996. In the 70s up to the early 80s before the road became this bad, I was covering Zuru to Kontagora less than one hour. This same distance that is taking some hours now. The road is worst when it rain. Three years ago, after a heavy rain, Gulbin Boka Bridge was over flooded and vehicle got stocked. There was no movement for about three days.
“We have been hearing stories that contract for the reconstruction of the road has been awarded. There was a time contractors have even mobilized to site then withdrew. Recently, we saw a company building culverts along the road. These ones seem to be serious. But we shall wait and see how far they can go? This is actually the oldest and most neglected road around this part of the country,” Mr Idowu said.
Alhaji Yusuf said the NURTW has contacted the Niger state government to assist in reconstructing the road but the state government always respond by saying the Kontagora to Zuru road is a federal road that can neither be rehabilitated nor repaired by the state.
Few kilometers away from Zuru in Kebbi state, precisely after Daki Takwas in Zamfara state when heading towards Anka, I noticed massive construction work going on. Some kilometers away from Daki Takwas, we were suddenly on a new tarred road. Unbelievable indeed! The tarred road linked up to the Sokoto – Gusau – Zaria highway. Except for the short distance between Gusau to a village after Kasuwan Daji near Kauran Namoda where the road is yet to be tarred, few kilometers to Kauran Namoda from to the boundary between Zamfara and Katsina states, the road is tarred and very smooth to drive on.
Zamfara state Commissioner for information, Alhaji Ibrahim Birnin Magaji said when the state government realized that motorists plying the road are suffering and so many accidents are happening in the state as a result of the bad nature of the road, “The state government sought and got the approval of the federal government to reconstruct the road on the understanding that the federal government will refund what we spent to do the road later.
“The project started with the defunct administration in the state. When the present administration came in, we embarked on the total reconstruction of the full length of the federal road in the state. The entire project is nearing construction. Though the federal government is yet to refund the amount we spent in the project, we are committed to completing the job because we cannot afford to watch our people suffer in the state due to non execution of federal project that touches directly on the lives of our people,” he said.
Reacting to allegations of neglect of road projects in northern Nigeria by the present administration, Minister of Works Architect Mike Onolememe said government has spread its project across the states of the federation according to priorities with so many ongoing projects in all states of the federation while many others that have been completed have since been commissioned.

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