By Jonathan Ugbal
The lack of a bypass route at the construction site of the spaghetti flyover in Odukpani Local Government Area and the delays in its completion have led to constant gridlocks at the only road entry point to Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
The situation worsened again on Friday morning after a fallen tanker as well as a truck that broke down caused a gridlock leaving hundreds of commuters entering and leaving Calabar stranded.
The Flyover Project
The construction of the flyover commenced in 2017 and has been the subject of controversy.
An investigation by CrossRiverWatch in 2021 showed that the project which also includes the dualization of the 10.3 Kilometer route from Tinapa junction to Odukpani junction had been shrouded in secrecy while over NGN40 billion has been budgeted for it with no known date of completion.
The initial construction firm was replaced in 2020 by an obscure company whose address as captured with the Corporate Affairs Commission was false. The State also failed to publish an Expression of Interest for the project in line with the Public Procurement Act.
The Current State
Plagued by delays and secrecy, the flyover project site lacks a bypass route to take commuters away from the actual construction site.
Commuters are forced to drive under the uncompleted beams that were recently installed while other pieces of machinery work on a support tower to hold more beams.
This, coupled with the presence of a Police checkpoint before reaching the Odukpani junction from Calabar, an Army post at the junction as well as surface areas washed off by rains have made driving through very difficult often leading to the breakdown of vehicles and subsequently, gridlocks.
On Friday morning, a truck heading towards Calabar broke down closing one lane which led to a gridlock.
The gridlock stretches over three kilometers from the entrance to the Odukpani Local Government secretariat up to the top of the hill after exiting the Odukpani junction while heading to Akamkpa.
It also stretches from the Odukpani divisional headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force along the Calabar – Itu highway up to the junction.
It Is Great Project, But We Have Fears – Residents
Road users have hailed the concept behind the project but are concerned. They lamented the recurring gridlocks which they said is a common sight on the road and hope the situation is fixed soon.
“I use that road very often and it may interest you to know that I used it this morning,” Tom Alims, the Chief Responsibility Officer of Tom Alims Enterprises told CrossRiverWatch and lamented the project model adopted by the State.
“The sad part of it is that this project which should have been completed within two years if it was handled by an effective contractor and is funded as it should have been but it has lasted four years,” Alims said and wondered why the construction approach has not followed the engineering pattern that is known to all.
Also, the Country Director of Citizen Solutions Network, Richard Inoyo told CrossRiverWatch that the lack of an alternative route was a challenge and a risk to road users while disclosing that there exists an architectural argument that the flyover was not necessary as the money spent should have been used in completing the dualization.
“If Tinapa is going to open up and be used in the future, there is a need for an evacuation route. So for me, dualization is important but the flyover is not. Look at that flyover and the way it is constructed right now, I believe that the way it is being constructed, the engineers did not do their job very well,” Inoyo said and lamented that roof clearance was not so high.
At press time, officers of the Cross River State Sector Command of the Federal Road Safety Corps and Vehicle Inspection Officers, assisted by locals, were helping to direct traffic to ease the gridlock.