Travellers stranded at Onitsha Niger bridge over gridlock, commuters trek


Scores of travellers were stranded for over two days in traffic gridlock on the Niger bridge of the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha expressway.

Our correspondent observed that the gridlock stretched from bridge head to the Asaba Airport area of the expressway.

The situation, which forced some of the travellers to resort to trekking with their luggage to cross to Onitsha, started on Monday and was still the same as of Wednesday afternoon.

One of the commuters, who identified himself as Solomon Monday, lamented the hardship the Asaba-Onitsha Road had been causing travellers.

He said, “I have been here since morning but the road is blocked. There are those who slept here Monday night. The problem is that you cannot tell what is causing the gridlock.

“We are begging the government to speed up work on Second Niger Bridge.”

Also, an Asaba-Onitsha shuttle driver, Festus Okolie said, “Since Monday, we could not work as result of the traffic.

“As I speak to you now (Wednesday), the traffic is getting worse, even the community roads we used to ply from Okwe to Oko have also been blocked.” Also, travellers and residents of Idemili community in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State have been lamenting their ordeals at the military checkpoint in Idemili end of the Onitsha-Owerri Road.

When our correspondent visited the area on Wednesday, he observed that as soon as a vehicle gets close to the checkpoint, all passengers must alight to go and wait after the checkpoint.

Passengers were made to raise their hands above their heads while crossing the checkpoint and this resulted in a long queue at the scene.

The situation caused a gridlock on the road from the Idemili end, which is the boundary between Anambra and Imo States.

About 10 soldiers were seen on both lanes of the road with their patrol vehicle parked at a corner.

One of the passengers, Mrs Ruth Dibia, lamented that the vehicle she was travelling remained on the same spot for over two hours.

Dibia said, “I am travelling to Owerri and for over two hours, our vehicle had been on the same spot. But on getting closer to the check point at about 50 metres, the driver instructed everybody to alight and go and wait for the vehicle after we have crossed the checkpoint.

“When we came down, I saw people raising their hands while crossing the checkpoint. I joined them in doing so as they said failure to comply would mean incurring the wrath of the soldiers. This is by every means, barbaric and uncalled for, are we in a war zone?”

Another person who identified himself as Justine Nnabuife, travelling in a private car with his brother, said they were advised to avoid the Idemili route before embarking on the journey from Lagos, but they did not listen.

Nnabuife said, “We have been in this traffic for close to three hours. From the place we met the traffic to this checking point is less than five minutes. At a point in the traffic, we saw people alighting from their vehicles and raising their hands while trekking to the front.

“They were the ones who hinted us that, except for the driver, every passenger must come down from the vehicle on getting to the checkpoint and that failure to do so would mean further delay.

“I don’t really understand the rationale behind this motive. Fine, you can do your checkpoint, but why subject innocent and harmless motorists to this kind of torture?”

One of the elders of the Idemili community, Obiora Uko, said, “The action of these soldiers does not go down well with us. We always hear gunshots at that point and it puts the community in panic.

“The youths have threatened to protest on several occasions but we have been calming them down. I don’t know how long this will continue.”

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