Criminals, road accidents, chaotic parking by truck drivers spoil motorists’ fun on Benin Bypass
When in the year 2000, the Minister of Works, Chief Tony Anenih, launched the construction of the Benin Bypass along the Benin-Sapele Road, it was done with fanfare. Many top government officials, including the former Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, were in attendance.
Many heaved a sigh of relief at the launch of the project, which is almost a circumference round Benin. It was intended to reduce travel time from Benin and other parts of the country to Lagos, as travellers going through the bypass were to avoid passing through Benin City and its traffic jam.
But 16 years down the line, it hasn’t been an entirely smooth ride along the Benin Bypass.
On the positive side, it has opened up Benin City to faster development, with both residential buildings and commercial businesses, springing up along the bypass.
At the Benin-Sapele Road end of the bypass is located the $11 million Wells Farms’ greenhouse vegetable farm. The products of the farm, according to the investor and Chief Executive Officer of Wells Farm, Capt. Hosa Okunbo, are to be supplied to European markets.
The bypass is also host to a Chinese Steel firm, the Edo State station of the African Independent Television (AIT) and other commercial concerns.
But the major reason for constructing the bypass is to ensure free movement and reduce travel time. But over the years, there has been a dysfunctional development along the bypass in the aspect of motor accidents recorded along this route.
The number of deaths and injuries arising from motor accidents at the Benin Bypass is alarming.
A visit to the office of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Edo State Sector Command, indicated that a total of 38 motor accidents were recorded on the road between January and December 2015.
Of the figure, nine of the accidents were fatal, 18 serious and 11 were minor. There were 19 deaths as well as injuries to 141 victims out of a total number of 413 persons involved in the accidents for the period.
The accident figure for January to May 2016 indicates that nine crashes were recorded, with one fatal, seven serious and one minor, resulting in one death and injuries to 28 victims out of 113 involved in the accidents for the period.
A tour of the bypass by Daily Sun was revealing, particularly at Uselu N’Ahor community, where hundreds of trucks belonging to a company owned by a major industrialist lined both sides of the dual-carriage way, creating visibility problems for motorists.
Such scenes on major highways across the country might have accounted for the directive by the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, to the controllers of works in the 36 states and Abuja to clear all obstructions within 45.72 metres of both sides of the highways.
In his letter to the controllers of works dated March 18, 2016, the minister directed them, among other things, to co-opt the police, officials of states’ Ministries of Works and Environment, FRSC, National Road Transport Workers Union (NRTW), National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), amongst others, to work in synergy to execute the assignment at minimal cost to the Federal Government.
Findings, however, revealed that though a meeting of the designated bodies has held in Edo State, the committee was hampered from carrying out the assignment by lack of funds and logistics.
For example, officials of the FRSC said while they were required to tow vehicles weighing as much as 20 tonnes from the road, the tow truck available had a capacity of seven tonnes.
They lamented that clearing some of the trucks from the road was beyond the FRSC and would require the intervention of the Edo State Government to create a park for such heavy-duty trucks, which have also inflicted much damage on the Benin Bypass at Uselu N’Ahor.
Aside from accidents and the presence of heavy-duty trucks at some sections of the Benin Bypass, the bypass has also become notorious for armed robbery, kidnapping and other crimes.
Though crime figures were not readily available, the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike attributed the challenge of crime on the bypass – which he said was in the pas – to the nature of Edo as “a gateway and a get-away” state.
“Crime used to be a major challenge, but we have made a robust security intervention by introducing the Safer Highway, Federal Highway and Operation Thunderstorm motorised policing at the bypass.
“It is not enough, but it has mitigated the challenges. The result is impressive but we do not have zero crime.
“We are partnering with communities along the line. The relationship has been fruitful,” Ezike said.
Indeed, the correspondent noticed the presence of policemen stationed at strategic areas at some intervals on the bypass.
On the indiscriminate parking by truck drivers on the road, Ezike said the long run solution was to have a park for heavy-duty trucks. “But the short-term solution is to keep them out of the road so that they don’t blur vision and cause accidents,” he noted.