Ama, who goes to Port Harcourt from Oyigbo said, “I work in Port Harcourt but reside in Oyigbo, so on a daily basis I go to Port Harcourt. I have two cars, but I don’t use any of them because of the way the road is. It is hell to drive a vehicle within Port Harcourt and its environs now because of the stressful traffic caused by the flyover project.
Like Godwin Ama, many other residents of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, especially those that ply the Aba/Port Harcourt road, Ikwerre road, Ogbum-nu-Abali to Garrision, down to Mile One park and the popular Rumuokoro axis of Port Harcourt, are groaning under a chaotic traffic gridlock occasioned by the construction of three flyovers within the city and Obio Akpor Local Government Area. The project is embarked upon by the state government.
Godwin Ama told our correspondent that as a result of the traffic situation, he had to park his car at home and go to work by public transport on a daily basis.
Ordinarily, I am supposed to take the Oyigbo/Aba/Port Harcourt route, but because of long hours one has to spend at First Artillery, I have to devise another means to beat the traffic. What I do is to take a taxi from Oyigbo to Eleme Refinery junction at N200; from that junction I join another vehicle at N100 to Akpajo junction. From there, I take another vehicle to Slaughter at N100, and from slaughter, I board another taxi that will take me to Garrison at another N100. From Garrison, I enter another vehicle that will take me to Station bus stop at N150. If you calculate this (to and from) you will find out that I spend close to N2000 every day to embark on a journey that ordinarily wouldn’t have cost me more than N600 a day,’’ he said.
He said the state government shouldn’t have embarked on such a huge project at the same time, given the clustered nature of Port Harcourt roads.
About two months ago, Governor Nyesom Wike awarded contracts for the construction of three flyovers in three strategic locations in Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor Local Government Area. The three flyovers, located at the First Artillery, Garrison junction and the popular Rumokoro roundabout, were awarded to Julius Berger at a cost of N27 billion, to be completed in 16 months.
At the signing ceremony in Government House, Port Harcourt, Wike said the three flyovers would decongest traffic gridlock that usually occurred at the three locations. He directed the contractor to expedite action on the project and ensure that the three projects were delivered on time.
Soon after the contract was signed, the contractor mobilised personnel and heavy-duty equipment to site. This was followed by the creation of alternative routes for hundreds of motorists that ply the routes where the three flyovers are sited. At the First Artillery flyover, routes were created and traffic diverted to Rumuogba, Oginigba to Slaughter Road. Another route was also created from Rumuogba to Genesis, linking the Aba/Port Harcourt road.
Another diversion was created to take motorists out of Rumuokoro area. Our correspondent observed that the routes created to give respite to motorists are not completely serving their purpose. Rather than bring relief to motorists and commuters, the construction work at the three flyovers, which commenced simultaneously, has created serious traffic gridlock across Port Harcourt and its environs.
While commercial transporters take advantage of the chaotic traffic gridlock to exploit passengers through outrageous hike in transport fares, passengers bear the brunt as they are also subjected to long walks to get to their various destinations.
Good as the construction of the three flyovers is, the hardship and stress it has brought to commuters and residents, as well as the huge amount of money spent on transportation, cannot be overemphasized. For instance, from Oyigbo to Port Harcourt, which cost N200, has increased to N350. From Eleme junction to Mile One flyover park, which cost N150, is now N250. Also, from Artillery to the park, which cost N100, is now N200. From the popular Waterlines to Garrison and Mile One park has increased from N50 to N100. From Mile One park to Rumuokoro now costs N150 instead of N100, while a movement from Mile One to Choaba is now N250 instead of N150.
Some commercial drivers who spoke with our correspondent attributed the increase in the transport fare to excessive fuel consumed on the road as a result of several hours on a gridlock.
A commercial bus driver who plies the Oyigbo-Port Harcourt route, Chibuzor Okeke said, “Before the flyover project started we charged N200 from Oyigbo to Port Harcourt. But since the flyover project started, the state government and the contractor handling the project created a few routes to divert traffic, which is not enough to contain the number of vehicles that ply Port Harcourt and its environ.
“A lot of vehicles are locked down on the road, and this consumes a lot of fuel. Before now, 10 litres of fuel took me to Port Harcourt from Oyigbo and back. But now, I need more than 20 litres for the same journey,’’ he said.
He said commercial drivers had to increase the transport fare by 75 per cent to recover additional money spent on fuel.
Another motorist who moves from Mile One flyover to Eleme junction, Umoh Akpan, said, “No commercial driver would like to lock himself down in traffic. Drivers like to ply routes that do not give them any stress. The more you stay in a gridlock, the more your vehicle engine consumes fuel. It also weakens the engine. Since this flyover project started, so many routes were closed, thereby forcing almost all the vehicles to take one or two routes. So many drivers have withdrawn their vehicles from the road, and the few that operate increased the fares to meet the cost of additional fuel consumed on the gridlock, as well as money spent in maintaining the vehicles,’’ he said.
A taxi driver who plies the Mile Three to Rukpokwu route, Policard Igwe said, “Since we started having traffic gridlock I am being very careful about how I move around with my vehicle. Before now, I did more than 10 trips a day, but because of the way the road is, I go for five trips and go back home. My vehicle is not so strong that I would leave the engine stemming in one particular place for hours in the name of traffic. It has also affected transportation fare because one has to cover the additional expenses incurred in buying fuel. Last week, my top cylinder burst because the radiator was overused. I spent much money in fixing the vehicle,’’ he said.
He called on the state government to create more routes to reduce the number of hours spent on the road.
Some passengers who spoke to Daily Trust Saturday said the state government shouldn’t have embarked on the construction of three flyovers at the same time.
The chaotic traffic gridlock has subjected residents to long trekking. Most people who cannot afford the huge amount of money spent on transportation have devised a means of trekking to get to their destinations.
Amaka Onyemali is one of such persons. She said, “I live at Rumukwurushi junction, but my office is at First Artillery. Before now, taxi drivers took N50 from Rumukwurushi to First Artillery, but it is now N100. They will tell you it is because of the traffic situation on the road. How much do I receive at the end of the month that I would spend such amount to simply get to Artillery? So I have to use my legs.’’
She blamed commercial vehicle drivers for the hike in transportation fares, describing them as greedy and selfish people who take advantage of every situation to exploit commuters. She called on the state government to provide shuttle buses that would convey people to their various destinations at a low cost.
Reacting to the situation, Governor Wike appealed to residents of Port Harcourt for understanding while construction works last in different parts of the city. He made the plea in a recent state-wide broadcast to the people of Rivers State.
Wike said, “While we deeply share in and regret the inconveniences and pains visited on the public by the massive construction activities, we appeal for understanding as the same are necessary and temporary sacrifices for the development of our state.
“We wish to assure our people that the inconveniences would be short-lived as Julius Berger Nigeria Limited has assured us that they will deliver the three flyover bridges within the contract timeline.
“We, therefore, call on all residents and visitors to Port Harcourt and its environs to show understanding by being responsible commuters, obeying traffic rules and cooperating with Julius Berger to complete the construction works as scheduled.’’
He assured that the Rivers State Government would work with all stakeholders to mitigate the impact of the traffic congestion.
“On our part, we will continue to do everything we possibly can to mitigate the inconveniences and ensure the free flow of vehicular and human traffic in the city throughout the construction period.
“Finally, we wish to assure you once again that the interest of Rivers State remains our only priority and we shall surely deliver these and other ongoing projects to accelerate the development of the state and the wellbeing of our people, by God’s special grace.
“We appreciate and thank you all for your kind understanding, support and cooperation as always.
“Recall that during our inauguration for our second tenure we promised to deliver three new flyover bridges at Okoro-Nuodo, Rebisi and Rumuogba axis of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City local government areas.
“Recently, we flagged off the construction of these flyovers as part of activities marking the 100 days of our second tenure in office. During the flag-off, we announced that we had released 70 per cent of the cost of these projects to the contractor, Julius Berger Nigeria Limited, which has promised to deliver them within 16 months from mobilisation.
“In addition to the three flyover bridges, massive construction works by Julius Berger are also ongoing at both the new and old Government Reservation Areas of Port Harcourt.
“Now that material construction works are underway in virtually all the afore-mentioned sites, we consider it necessary to express our concern over the distressing traffic congestions being experienced by members of the public in Port Harcourt and its environs, arising from the ongoing major construction works,’’ he further said.