ANEEJ Calls on FG to Declare a State of Emergency on East-West Road
PRESS STATEMENT BY THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AFRICA NETWORK FOR ENVIRONMENT AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE (ANEEJ) REV. DAVID UGOLOR AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE OLOGBO-UGBENU FIRE DISASTER HELD ON 4TH OCTOBER 2023
Gentlemen of the press,
ANEEJ Calls on FG to Declare a State of Emergency on East-West Road.
We are gathered here today with heavy hearts, burdened by the weight of yet another national tragedy that could have been averted. As you are already aware, over 50 commuters plying the Benin-Sapele Road (a section of the East-West Road) and onlookers, were killed on October 1st, 2023, in a multiple auto crash involving a tanker laden with petrol and over 15 commercial and private vehicles. The tanker was said to have fallen on its own while meandering through the deplorable portion between Ologbo in Edo State and Koko junction in Delta State. It immediately exploded, resulting in the razing of nearby vehicles, which were trapped in the usual gridlock on the failed road. This incident has left us in a state of mourning and deep sorrow.
This horrific incident, involving multiple vehicles, including eight fuel tankers and buses, has claimed the lives of an estimated 100 individuals, many of whom were innocent commuters traveling through the road from different parts of the country. The aftermath of this horrific accident left some survivors with various degrees of injury, while many were burnt beyond recognition. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, who now bear the heavy burden of this tragedy.
You will recall that some sections of the East-West Road including the stretch of the road by Ologbo community, Ikpboa-Ohka Local Government Area of Edo State has been in deplorable condition for some time now. The road has been transformed into a death trap, endangering the lives of countless Nigerians who daily ply the road in pursuit of their daily bread.
It is disheartening to note that the Ologbo portion of the Sapele-Benin road has been a nightmare for travellers, especially during the rainy season, who are often trapped for hours, and at times, for days losing manhours that could have been translated to undertaking productive economic activities and earning income for the family.
The trouble caused by the state of the road has not only constituted discomfort to travelers but also hinders economic activities in the region as movement of goods and petroleum products have become difficult. The challenge has also increased transportation costs, thereby increasing the suffering of the people who are already living in hardship and extreme poverty. The East-West Road remains a crucial artery for commerce and trade, connecting a section of the southeast, the south-south and southwest regions of Nigeria.
We wish to emphasize that several appeals have been made to the Federal Government to urgently address this issue, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Only recently, the Minister of Works, Eng. Dave Umahi, visited the areas for on-the-spot assessment. Following the visit, we expected rehabilitation work to commence immediately, but this has not happened.
Today, we are making a passionate and solemn appeal to the Federal Government of Nigeria to declare a state of emergency on the East-West Road and take immediate, decisive action to remedy the failed portions of the road, and even take a step further to complete the entire mega project which was started many years ago.
As a matter of urgency, we call on the Federal government of Nigeria to:
1. Set up an independent investigation to unravel the remote cause of the fire.
2. Initiate a process for the complete rehabilitation of the East-West Road which has become the root cause of incessant disaster in the Niger Delta.
3. Initiate a process to give a befitting burial to citizens whose lives were lost in the inferno and compensate their families.
We do not want a repeat of what happened on October 1st 2023, so, urgent steps should be taken to particularly fix the Ologbo – Oghara axis, the Ughelli – Patani -Bayelsa axis and other bad sections of the road to avert more tragedies on the road.
Photos from the Scene at Ologbo-Ugbenu axis of the East-West Road in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria
In conclusion, we urge the Federal Government to act swiftly and decisively without delay to save lives and improve the economic activities in the areas.
Thank you for your attention