DONS EZE, PhD

ENUGU TRAFFIC GRIDLOCKS AND THE UGWUANYI CHALLENGE

In recent times, Enugu, the Coal City, has changed from what it used to be – sleepy, easy-going, no hustle and bustle, free of traffic congestion. Before 8.00 o’clock in the evening all the roads were deserted and everybody would be indoors. There was no night life, no night crawlers, the fun-seeking guys who would usually turn their nights into day.

In those days, you virtually would meet every of your engagement on time, since there would be nothing delaying you on the road, except the menacing presence of men and women of Nigeria Police Force who would mount several check-points, asking you to “roger” them.

Now, Enugu is no longer what it used to be. It has become a busy and bubbling town, with almost everybody on fast lane. There is the astonomical increase in the number of vehicles that daily ply Enugu roads, in particular, the ubiquitous tricycles or Keke NAPEPs, always blocking the roads. Before you could count one private vehicle, there would be up to ten or more Keke NAPEPs surrounding everywhere, whose operators know nothing about traffic rules, much more obey them. The Keke NAPEPs will block every available road space, and thereby make movements almost impossible.

At every corner of the Coal City, you will see riotous order of vehicles, each struggling to have its way, but will remain in the same spot for several hours. Sometimes, some vehicles will break down due to high temperature, or overheat, and in the process, cause more traffic jams. Everybody will be on top of his or her voices, shouting and cursing each other.

If you are coming from Garki Awkunanaw through Agbani Road, you will get stuck at One Day Road Junction, at Amechi Road Junction, at Mayor Bus Stop, and at Nise Road Junction. Before you come out from these traffic gridlocks, you would have spent close to one to two hours.

From Coal Camp, to Mgbemene, to Akwata Market, to Central Police Station (CPS), you will spend another one hour before struggling to find your way either to Ogbete Main Market, or the Kingsway Road, now Murtala Muhammed Way, and begin to crawl down to New Market or the New State Secretariat.

Again, if you are coming follow Zik Avenue from Agbani Road, you will snail-speed through Edingbrough Round About, to Egbuna Round About, where you will hit scores of other vehicles coming from Ogui Road, each driving bumper to bumper, while everybody will get stuck at Holy Ghost/Ogbete Main Market.

After spending about one to two hours there, and you are lucky that you did not scratch your vehicle, you will meet the disorderly Chris Chemist Bus Stop along Okpara Avenue, with different kinds of commercial vehicles blocking every motor way.

Similarly, if you are coming from New Haven, you will cross paths with other vehicles coming from Bissala Road, and all will converge at Otigba Junction. Some of the vehicles will veer off left and hit those coming from Ogui Road at the Artisan Market, and each will struggle move forward either way, or to find its way through Ebeano Turnnel to Garden Avenue and jam those coming from either Okpara Avenue, or from Trans Ekulu, Abakpa and Emene, through Polo Field.

The other vehicles from Otigba Junction will take right flank and hit the Round About coming Zoo Estate linking the road from IMT, going towards 82 Division, Nigerian Army Headquarters, to Emene/Abakpa Junction, where they all will get stuck for several hours.

To enter, or to come out from either Trans Ekulu, or Abakpa, will be tug of war – all the roads totally blocked and everybody will remain in one spot for several hours. It will beserious battle, hellish and traumatic experience.

The notorious Abakpa T-Junction, coming from NOWAS Petrol Filling Station, joining Opi-Ugwogo-Nike Resort Hotel Road, and Abakpa Town, is always a dead end, the survival of the fittest. While everybody will be itching to move at the same time, they will all remain in the same spot.

With most of the major roads in Enugu witnessing or experiencing serious traffic congestion, commuters are usually fatigued, tired and exhausted. After waiting for endless hours and there will be no movement, some of them will begin to find their way by foot, while the weak ones will stay put inside the vehicles, burning with rage and gnashing their teeth.

At the end of the day, after managing to crawl back home, each of these commuters will be completely worn out, or tired. The next morning, they will begin the same process again, “suffering and smiling”, according to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

The Enugu State Government under the leadership of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, never closed its eyes to these gridlocks in the Coal City. It has been conscious of them and bracing up to the challenges.

Apart from traffic control lights that were installed at strategic locations to help regulate traffic movements, many of which were destroyed by hoodlums during the recent EndSARS protests, and which is partly responsible for the present chaotic traffic situation, the state government, through the Ministry of Transport (MOT), had also recruited and deployed traffic wardens to major roads in both Enugu and Nsukka townships, and they have been doing their utmost to control vehicular movements. But due to the increasing number of vehicles that ply the Enugu roads, the task is overwhelming them, or they are being tasked beyond their limit.

The state government had also constructed bye-pass roads in some parts of the Coal City, to ease traffic congestions, such as at Achara Layout, behind Timber Market, to link Ugwuaji Road; Mbanugo to Agangwu bye-pass, at Coal Camp; Nike Resort Road, through Harmony Estate, to link Emene, etc.

The government has now come up with a proposal to construct a flyover bridge at Abakpa T-Junction, which has been a bedlam of vehicular movements. This is contained in the next year’s budget estimate just presented to the State House of Assembly by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

The Abakpa T-Junction, which is fast becoming a trunk A Road, due to the number of vehicles that daily ply it, from both the northern and southern parts of the country, is a nightmare to many motorists. The area has consistently defied both electronic and human traffic controls.

In spite of the fact that the state government had constructed a road bye-pass aimed at easing traffics in the area, the junction is still always blocked. But with the construction of a flyover bridge, as proposed by Governor Ugwuanyi in next year’s budget, solution to its endemic traffic congestions would hopefully become a thing of the past.

While commending these efforts by Governor Ugwuanyi, we will still suggest that the state government could go further to construct more bye-pass roads in other parts of Enugu, in particular, at Abakpa and Agbani Road, from Emeka-Ebila through Ikirike, to One Day Road. This will greatly ease traffic pressures on Agbani Road, through Mayor and Amechi Road Bus stops, with their intractable gridlocks.

It may also be necessary for the state government to designate some particular routes in Enugu Metropolis specifically for Keke NAPEP and other commercial vehicles, as these have been constituting nuisance for many road users in Enugu.

Equally important is the need to create satellite towns outside the Coal City, with a view to moving some population out of Enugu Metropolis, and thereby decongesting and reducing pressures on the town.

Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI

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