Road to Nowhere: The Niger Delta’s Battle to Complete the East-West Corridor

Road to Nowhere: The Niger Delta's Battle to Complete the East-West Corridor

By GbaramatuVoice Editorial Board

The East-West Road, a vital artery designed to connect the economic lifeblood of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, stands today as a stark symbol of governmental neglect and broken promises. The recent protest led by the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) on Monday, June 17, 2024, at the Ahoada axis of this crucial route is a clear indication of the growing frustration and despair among the people of the Niger Delta. It is time to confront the harsh realities and demand accountability from those in power.

The Broken Promises

The East-West Road project, initiated in the early 1970s and officially awarded during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, was intended to span approximately 188 kilometers, linking Warri in Delta State to Oron and Eket in Akwa Ibom State, passing through Kaima in Bayelsa State and Ahoada, Port Harcourt to Ogoni in Rivers State. This route was envisioned as a transformative infrastructure project to boost economic activities in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

An IYC member holds a placard with the inscription ‘Fix our roads to boost economy of Niger Delta,’ emphasizing the critical need for infrastructure improvement in the region.

Successive administrations—from Obasanjo to the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, and Muhammadu Buhari—have made grand promises to complete this road. However, despite these assurances and substantial allocations of public funds, the East-West Road remains a dilapidated, hazardous pathway. This recurring pattern of unfulfilled commitments has eroded public trust and exacerbated the region’s socio-economic challenges.

The Cost of Neglect

The IYC’s protest, which brought traffic to a standstill and spotlighted the road’s dire condition, highlighted the daily struggles faced by the Niger Delta’s residents. Placards with messages such as “Fix Our Roads to Boost The Economy of Niger Delta” and “President Tinubu, Coastal Road is Important to Us But Complete the East-West Road” underscored the urgent need for action.

Trucks and vehicles stranded at a deteriorated section of the East-West Road, highlighting the urgent need for repairs and infrastructure maintenance in the Niger Delta.

The deplorable state of the East-West Road has resulted in numerous accidents, loss of lives, and severe economic disruptions. Businesses suffer, transport costs soar, and the overall quality of life deteriorates. President Jonathan Lokpobiri of the IYC, addressing the protestors, articulated a sentiment shared by many: “The deplorable state of this road has caused numerous accidents and economic hardships for our people. We can no longer remain silent.”

Empty Promises and Mismanagement

In 2022, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved N506 billion for the reconstruction of the East-West Road, with a particular focus on addressing damage from severe flooding. This approval followed an earlier allocation of N246 billion, reflecting the escalating costs and complexity of the project. Despite these significant financial commitments, progress has been minimal, and the road remains a perilous journey for its users.

Jonathan Lokpobiri, President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), addressing the press amidst the protest, advocating for immediate action on the East-West Road and highlighting the region’s urgent infrastructure needs.

The Eleme-Onne section of the road, notorious for its poor condition, received an additional N33 billion allocation in the 2023 supplementary budget under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration. Yet, tangible improvements are scarcely visible, and the frustrations of the region’s inhabitants continue to mount. The recurring theme is clear: grand announcements followed by little to no action.

The Urgent Need for Accountability

The time has come to hold the federal government accountable for its repeated failures. The IYC’s protest is a powerful reminder that the people of the Niger Delta will no longer tolerate empty promises and neglect. The East-West Road is not just an infrastructure project; it is a lifeline for the region’s economic development, safety, and overall well-being.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his administration must prioritize the completion of the East-West Road. The chronic delays and mismanagement that have plagued this project for decades must be addressed with urgency and transparency. It is not enough to allocate funds; there must be a concerted effort to ensure those funds are effectively utilized to bring the project to fruition.

A Call to Action

GbaramatuVoice stands in unwavering support of the IYC’s demands and the broader calls for justice and development in the Niger Delta. The completion of the East-West Road is a critical step toward addressing the region’s longstanding grievances and promoting its socio-economic growth.

We urge all relevant authorities to act swiftly and decisively. The people of the Niger Delta deserve better than perpetual promises and half-finished projects. They deserve a government that delivers on its commitments and works tirelessly to improve their lives.

It is time for the federal government to turn its attention from rhetoric to results. The completion of the East-West Road should not be another item on a long list of unfulfilled promises. It must be a priority, a tangible demonstration of the government’s commitment to the people it serves.

GbaramatuVoice remains dedicated to advocating for the development and prosperity of the Niger Delta. We will continue to hold those in power accountable and amplify the voices of the region’s inhabitants. Together, we can push for the change that is so desperately needed and work towards a safer, more prosperous future for all.

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