Raymond Ozoji in Awka reports on the tales of woes being experienced by petroleum tanker drivers on the deplorable raods in the southeast and south geo-political zones
The sight of fallen heavy-duty vehicles conveying petroleum products along federal roads in the southeast has become a recurrent decimal. Broken down and abandoned tankers on the highways due to the deplorable conditions of roads has generated so much concern over the years just as the heavy duty truck which breaks down on highways due to potholes as well as erosion-infested roads. Petroleum tanker drivers are not the only victims of bad federal and state roads in Nigeria; other road users also have tales of woes about the condition of roads in the country especially federal roads.
Successive federal and state governments have come and gone with little or no attention given to the poor state of roads across the country. Furthermore, it will not be out of place if one liken the state of federal and state roads in some parts of the country as death traps.
Although some of these dilapidated roads may have been awarded again and again either for construction or rehabilitation the reality is that the situation has remained the same.
Southeastern Nigeria is arguably the worst hit of bad federal roads in the country. The thing now is when; if nothing concrete is done, will the geo-political zone be cut-off completely from the rest of the country.
Faced with this challenge, the Petroleum Tanker Drivers a unit of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers have raised the alarm over the deplorable state of federal roads in the southeast. The note that if the presidency does not take urgent remedial actions to ameliorate the situation , the nation would witness huge economic loss . This is the position of the Anambra State Unit of Petroleum Tanker Drivers whose officers narrated their ordeal on the road to newsmen at the unit office in Onitsha Anambra State recently .
In the course of the interaction with newsmen in Onitsha the unit chairman comrade Godwin Ezebuilo Ayim flanked by other state executives narrated the excruciating experience petroleum tanker drivers go-through while plying federal roads in the southeast and south south respectively.
Dramatising the situation, Comrade Ayim said that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the needle’s eye than for tanker drivers to convey petroleum products to the southeast and south south judging from the nature of federal roads in these geo-political zones. He said that from Umunya to Awka is a death-trap while Awka to Enugu is the worst!
Listing other associated challenges, he said that since the products are highly inflammable the bad roads make it difficult to transport these products to where they are needed. Comrade Ayim recalled that the zonal chairman of petroleum tanker drivers, Comrade Peter Modebelu had called the attention of the federal government to the poor state of federal roads in the southeast as well as the inherent danger in petroleum tankers plying these roads but according to him government was adamant and insensitive to the plight of petroleum tanker drivers; this development he said resulted in a strike in the southeast zone of petroleum tanker drivers’ union but all to no avail as no remedial action was taken to ameliorate the situation .
Although the unit chairman of the Anambra State branch of petroleum tanker drivers said that the union has made representation to the Anambra State Government with the hope that the it will dialogue with the federal government on the poor condition of federal roads in the state, he however expressed shock that solution seem not in sight ever since. Comrade Ayim therefore made a passionate appeal to Governor Willie Obiano to assist petroleum tanker drivers in prevailing on president Mohammadu Buhari to come to their aid by putting all the federal roads in Anambra in good shape as well as extend same to the entire southeast and south south regions of the country.
All the aforesaid misfortune are as a result of bad federal roads which the unit chairman noted are the cog in the wheel of their businesses. He further emphasized that even though government says that tankers should only ply at night; such ultimatum according to comrade Ayim would only be counter-productive in the sense that night-time is the most inappropriate time for tanker drivers to travel with petroleum products as they could face problems of kidnapping, truck-snatching as well as general atmosphere of insecurity at such times, stressing that if tankers only ply at night, the nation would be loosing millions of naira everyday to armed-robbers and other nocturnal groups .
He commended Governor Willie Obiano for the provision of a truck terminal in the state, adding that the union has written to the governor requesting temporary use of the terminal for the 2015 ember months .
In his contribution, the Deputy- Chairman of the Anambra State Chapter of Petroleum Tanker Drivers Comrade Pius Ani emphasized that rehabilitating federal roads in the southeast will engender more economic opportunities. Comrade Ani made mention of Nnewi-Okigwe road, stressing that the road is very strategic to the people of the southeast geo-political zone.
He said that trucks conveying oil and gas from Calabar can ply Nnewi- Okigwe road but according to him tanker drivers will have to travel through Umuahia in Abia State, which is more time-consuming and accident-prone. Comrade Ani maintained that Ihiala-Orlu-Umuahia road is another death trap as tanker drivers will have to meander through the villages in search of roads. He further disclosed that Aguleri-Nsukka-Ada ani road is another problematic federal road noting that the aforesaid road is a shortcut to the North but it is no longer motor able.
Pointing out that a state of emergency should be declared on the deplorable conditions of federal roads in the southeast as no economy survives with decayed road infrastructure. He also added that bad roads sky-rockets cost of doing business as well as create unemployment.
Petroleum Tanker Drivers however appeal to the government of the federation to rehabilitate as well as reconstruct all dilapidated federal roads in the country especially in the southeast and south south geo-political zones of the country to foster economic prosperity across the country.