By Lukpata James
The realisation of Ukelle road project has become a mere dream as no succour from the Federal Government is in sight to improve the plights of the people. For long, the bad state of road has hindered the socio-economic development of the area. There is no doubt that the Yahe-Wanokom-Wanikade Benue boarder road that link parts of Cross River Communities and with Oju Local Government Area of Benue State is according to government policy a throng A road by common sense.
But lack of political will and unwholesome policies have made construction of the road an unrealistic project for years. If not anything, the poor state of the road is indicative of dysfunctional representation in the area which has inflicted untold hardships on those at the grassroots.
For the record, Ukelle people constitute a state constituency with six political wards, enormous voting strength. Their major occupation is farming and some of the major crops that they produce include: yam, garri, rice, coco yam, ground beans among others.
As efforts by successive governments in Cross River State to provide the people of the region a tarred and motorable road have not yielded any positive result, the condition of condition continues to worsen everyday especially during the raining season.
For instance, it takes commuters less than two hours to convey farm produce from the popular Wanikade market to Abakaliki but during raining season it will take more than 7 days on the same road to get to Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State Capital.
It appears that both past and present representatives of the Ukelle people in the National and State Assemblies care less about the needs of their constituents as evident from the lack of a motorable road in the region, this is a clear pointer of malfeasance in governance as non of the representatives has raised a motion that captures the road as part of the major needs of the people for several decades of its existence.
In spite of several efforts by successive governments of Cross River State from the era of Mr Donarld Duke, Senator Liyel Imoke to the present Governor of the state, Prof. Ben Ayade, the story remains the same. A chat with some leaders from various wards that made up the Yala II state constituency revealed lack of effective representation and people oriented leadership is responsible for the neglect.
However, Governor Ayade, like his predecessors, promised the Ukelle people during his campaign that he will provide them with a tarred road hence, the signing of the contract papers for the construction of the 36 kilometres Yahe-Wanokom-Wanaikade-Wanihem-Benue link road in Yala LGA worth 3.8 billion naira. According to the commissioner for works in charge of the project, Engr Dane Osim-Asu ”the project will be executed usig direct labour with Sydney Construction Nigeria Limited as service providers”.
Cross River State Commissioner for Works, Engr. Dane Osim-Asu (L) exchanging contract documents with the General Manager, Sydney Construction Limited, Mr. Fady Fady (R) for the construction of a 36 Kilometers Yahe-Wanakom-Benue link road at Government House Calabar, Friday. (Credit: GHC/Dan Williams)
In what appears to be dream like a dream come true, during the ground breaking ceremony at Yahe, the Cross River State House of Assembly member representing the constituency, Hon Ogana Lukpata, has this to say, “today is the fulfillment of that social contract that you entered with the Ukelle people,in fulfillment of your promise to the people ,I believe that his excellency the former Governor (Senator Lyel Imoke)will be very happy. The people of Ukelle would be superlatively happy”.
Also, the former commissioner for LGA affairs in the state, Hon. John Ulafor and the Immediate past Chairman of Yala LGA Hon. Mike Usibe expressed their gratitude to the state government unbehalf of the people of Ukelle for keeping to the promises.
But as time passes by, the Sydney Construction Nigeria Ltd that was used as direct labour were seen evacuating their equipment from the site two weeks after the commencement of work. Meanwhile, the member representing Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituencies in the lower House Hon. Agom Jarigbe Agom had earlier in 2015 moved a motion in the House in respect of the said road where he had overwhelming support of his colleagues who immediately directed the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing through its committee on works to reconstruct the Yala-Ukelle –Igede road.
Again during the 2017 communal crisis between two sisters communities Wanikade and Waninihem within the constituency, there were lots of promises from the state and federal government throught the Minister of Interior General Hamzad Dambazau rtd on the need to construct a tarred road within the region to ease movement and improve economic and the lives of the people yet nothing has happened.
Just last year Hon. Cynthia Akasi, a member representing the Ukelle Yala II State Constituency in the state house of assembly made another attempt to grade the road as part of her contribution to the area only to worsen the deplorable state of the road now that rain is here.
Its current state
The big question or perhaps the questions that may largely remain unanswered include but not limited to the following:
Why is the lack of political will to construct and tarred the UKelle- Benue link road being treated with kids glove?
As a defunct development centre in 1979 that later became a State constituency that formed Yala LGA with a recognized federal status, why does the road and other social amenities remain unattended to?
Having produced the first paramount ruler of Yala LGA, state assembly members, commissioners at various times and one-time PDP State deputy Chairman etc what then could be responsible for the set backs in the region?
With our voting strength, shouldn’t it be an advantage for us as a nation to put up a strong political bargaining that will ameliorate our plights?
What happen that no single individual or group from UKelle got the gut to raise their eye brows to challenge the lack of completion of the Ukelle road each time?
Now that the road is completely cut off, if it happens that there’s another election on the horizon, will UKelle be visited by aspirants for consultation and campaign?
There is no doubt that we are part of NDDC by geographical location but in terms of social amenities and infrastructure UKelle has lost her State constituency status to a mere political appendage.
UKelle the Yala II state constituency truly needs help from both federal and state governments. We are living in squalor, schools and decaying health facilities with poor equipment. In fact, we are surviving through personal effort yet our tons of agricultural produce are rotting away due to lack of motorable road.