Eze Martin Orizu, the traditional ruler of Ndiakunwanta Iheme Arondizuogu Autonomous Community, Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State, is living in perpetual fear. His fear stemmed from the persistent cases of kidnapping and armed robbery being experienced in his domain.
He told our reporter when the latter visited the area that his subjects, who are predominantly farmers, were living in fear of frequent robbery and kidnapping on the dilapidated 51-kilometre expressway that traverses more than 100 communities in the South East region.
He said: “No day passes without an incident of armed robbery and kidnapping on this all important but dilapidated road, which slows down vehicles and provides the opportunity for hoodlums to attack their victims.
“Not only that. Our people, who are predominantly rice farmers, cannot move their farm produce to town because of the bad road.”
Eze Orizu told The Nation during a peaceful protest organised by some indigenes of the area that the road had become a death trap for travellers.
He said: “The activities of criminals in ikpaora, ikpeze Uno, obiinetiti, Ndimoko junction have become unabated.
“Our people are being killed, raped, robbed and dispossessed of their belongings daily.
“We are tired of begging; we want the government to intervene.
“We are calling on government, relevant bodies, security sectors to call the contractor to come and fix the road.”
Also, the Eze (traditional ruler) of Iheme Izuogu community, who doubles as the Chairman of Arondizuogu Council of Traditional Rulers, as well as the Chairman of Ideato North Traditional Institution and Community Policing, HRH Eze Kosmann Ndubuisi Kanu, said a lot of robbery and kidnapping cases happen on the deplorable road almost every day.
The monarchs, lamenting the deplorable condition of the road and the hardship arising therefrom, said: “Today, it is impossible for us to use this road unlike before when we simply came out and boarded a vehicle to Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country.
“We were told that a contract for the rehabilitation of this road was awarded
Emeka Ezeoke, the legal adviser of Arondizuogu Patriotic Union, was not left out of the voices of lamentation as he appealed to the appropriate government agencies to come to the rescue of the people.
“We can’t carry out economic activities. Everything is crumbling. Our tourism life is almost non-existent. Government should save our souls,” he said.
Angered by this development, protesting residents of the affected communities in Ideato North Local Government Area, Imo State said it was not the first time they would be crying out to the Federal Government over frequent robbery and kidnapping incidents on Arondizuogu Road, which they said is the gateway to other communities in the South East zone.
The aggrieved indigenes, who carried placards bearing such inscriptions as “The suffering is unbearable,” “Our people are dying”, “Stop killing and stop kidnapping,” “No election here in 2023 unless FG fixes this road,” “Okigwe/Arondizuogu Road has become kidnappers’ den and “We need urgent help,” to express their anger, attributed the unseemly development to the deplorable condition of Okigwe/Arondizuogu/Akokwa/Uga/Amichi/Nnewi/Oba road.
They believe that the bad road does not only impede the transportation of their agricultural produce to the urban centres but has become a terrible den of robbers and kidnappers.
According to the aggrieved indigenes, the 51-kilometre road was constructed in 1982 by the Shehu Shagari administration but has now become a death trap for travellers. The indigenes threatened to boycott the nation’s 2023 general elections in their area should the Federal Government fail to fix the road before the polls.
In a petition titled “Failure of Arondizuogu-Okigwe Federal Expressway” and addressed to the member representing Ideato North and South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Pascal Obi, dated February 20, 2020 and signed by the President General Mazi Peter Obiagwu and Secretary General Engr. Chinedu Okparaeke, the communities noted that some portions of the road, particularly the Arondizuogu-Umulolo section, had failed for almost 15 years.
“Since January 2021, the Arondizuogu- Umulolo portion has failed completely. In the past 13 months the adverse economic impact is severe, worsened by reports of over 15 kidnappings and armed robberies in that stretch of road over the same period.”
The Federal Government owned IBU irrigation project in the area and some filling stations on the road have since been abandoned due to its dilapidated condition.
Speaking to The Nation, the member representing Ideato North and South Federal Constituency, Imo State, Dr. Pascal Obi, admitted that he received a petition from his constituents complaining about the deplorable condition of the road.
“I have moved a motion which was adopted and sent to the Committee on Works, and the Federal Government promised to capture the road in the 2023 budget. So, the issue is receiving attention,” he said.