By Magnus Effiong
As motorists plying the Calabar-Itu highway continue to narrate tales of woes, member representing Bakassi local government area in the Cross River State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Ekpo Ekpo Bassey has lauded a socio-political group, Niger Delta Activist Forum (NDAF), for staging a peaceful protest at Odukpani junction over the matter.
Recall that the group had declared seven days of peaceful protest from August 21 to 28. Not deterred by the presence of hundreds of riot policemen deployed to probably stop the protest, the group blocked commercial, private vehicles and trucks from plying the road saying the protest was its own way of expressing displeasure on the state of the main road linking Cross River State with Akwa Ibom.
Rt Hon Bassey, in a chat with our reporter at the weekend, said, “I sincerely commend the efforts the Niger Delta Activist Forum for their activities aimed at prevailing on the federal government or its agencies to immediately fix or commence reconstruction work at Calabar-Itu highway. This action is truly in a positive direction and is a push for an action to be done. I believe that their efforts will not be in vain.
“Recently, all criminalities have been attributed to youths, from cultism, armed robbery, kidnappings, banditry, cannibalism, drug abuse, rape, serial killings, murders amongst others, but it gives me a little hope that still amongst the youths, we have those who believe in building and not destroying; I mean those who believe in developing and improving infrastructures to enhance economic growth and development.
“These classes of youths believe in peaceful coexistence to enhance investment and job creation. They are youths who can galvanize multi social groups to fight for positive change and not adopt violent measures or loot or vandalize government installations. I therefore urge other youth organizations to emulate the Niger Delta Activist Forum.”
In a statement, NDAF Director of Mobilization, Comrade Chris Edadi, called on Governor Ben Ayade to demand a repair of the road from the federal government, saying “If the Governor really loves Cross Riverians, now is the time to show it. Let him lend a voice to the struggle. We don’t want a super highway, just fix the Calabar-Odukpani-Itu Road. These roads must be fixed permanently, we don’t want palliative.”
He appealed to residents of the two states in particular and indeed all motorists to join in persuading the federal government to have pity on the people by constructing the now collapsed Calabar-Itu road which was constructed in 1975.
“Please passionately join us by supporting this peaceful protest for the construction of Odukpani-Itu Road as we selflessly and collectively appeal to the federal government for quick intervention to alleviate the plights and suffering of our people,” Edadi said.
Pillar Today reports that the journey of one and a half hours between Calabar and Akwa Ibom along the said road now takes about six to seven hours due to worsening state of the road while in some cases, commuters could spend a whole day/night on the road. Successive Nigerian governments had paid lip service to the collapsed road despite all entreaties from groups and individuals.