About 30 kilometres from Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State is the Oyigbo (pronounced Obigbo) Local Government Area, accessible mostly through the Aba Expressway, which leads in and out of the state via neighbouring Abia State.
In spite of the many oil wells located in the area, and the presence of a number of multinational oil companies, residents of Oyigbo, a satellite town of Port Harcourt, and commuters of Aba Road go through harrowing experiences every day.
Roads within the local government area are an eyesore, while residents, and businesses suffer from lack of facilities, infrastructures and amenities that are taken for granted in many other parts of the state, and the country in general.A popular junction along the Aba road is the Oyigbo junction, from which commuters usually branch off into different part of the town. This is where the journey of horrors actually begins.
The junction itself which is criss-crossed by Location road, is more like the hunch backs of several camels lined up, as it is strewn with gullies deep enough to swallow two-year olds.
Motorists, both commercial and private, commercial bike and tricycle literarily go through hell on a daily basis to get in and out of the town, especially during the rains, as several of them breakdown in the deep graters in the middle of the road, and have to be pushed out for a price.
A number of young boys have resorted to hanging around the area, knowing full well that their services will definitely be required. One of such boys, who simply gave his name as Johnbull, spoke to our correspondent in pidgin English and narrated how they came to be there.
He said, he was passing by one day, when a car got stuck, and the owner begged him and some other boys to help push it out of the water. When they did the man gave them some money. Before they were done pushing out the first on, another one which engine seemed to have sucked in water broke down in the dirty water.According to him, he made so much money the first day, and decided to come back there the next, and that he was nor disappointed.
Johnbull said since then he has made it a point of duty to always visit the Location road junction, because it was certain cars will either breakdown or get stuck in the muddy water, and as time went on, other boys joined in.
According to a business owner who operates a barbing saloon directly opposite one of the gullies, the road had been in such a state for many years, and when it rains, the water enters their shops, as the drainages had been clogged by the sand displaced from the road.
He stated that at a point in time, when Governor Nyesome Wike was billed to visit the town to commission some projects, People were hopeful that something would be done to the road, but he was not.
On why he was not, he lamented that successive governments, both state and local had only paid ‘eye-service’, to the state of the road. “It has always been like that”, he stated, “look at Palace road, off the same Location, which leads to the King’s palace. It is very bad, but he has done nothing about it, because he rides in his tinted glass jeep (SUV) and is not bothered that the people are suffering”.
He informed our correspondent, that he was proved right as the coming of Governor Wike to the area made no difference, but only provided a temporary respite. He claimed that on the eve of the governor’s visit, the local government caretaker committee under the leadership of Gbali Chisom sand filled the ditches and graded the road to give the impression that it was very motorable.Soon after the governor’s visit, and the rains started in earnest, the water washed it back to its original bad state, and the people’s sufferings continued.
Down the road, Location road branches off to become Afam Road, another eyesore; which accommodates an impending epidemic in Oyigbo, if diseases have not already befallen some of the residents.
A market, taunted as Eke Oyigbo ultra-modern market is situated along the Afam Road, but the market has spilled into the streets with very unhygienic conditions. Sellers openly display their edible wares under a very dirty environment, and besides a refuse dumb buzzing with flies, and other germs-carrying pests.
When our correspondent approached one of the traders openly selling meat to inquire why he decided to sell his wares besides the dumb, he said they had been plying their trades on the roadside for a long time because the market was not big enough to contain them.
According to him, the market only had lock up shops, which many of them who are petty traders cannot afford. More so he said, their wares are not items that can be sold inside such lock-up shops.
On if he is not aware that selling such item beside the heap of refuse was a health risk to himself and his customers, he said, as much as he would like to sell in a more conducive atmosphere, he has little choice for now, since the government has not made such provisions.
He however countered, “We have been here for a long time like this, nothing dey happen, disease no dey kill African man”.
He also claimed that though the government sometimes claims they are a nuisance, they still consider them a source of revenue generation, as their agents always come around to collect dues from them, and those who don’t pay are harassed, and sometimes their wares are seized.