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How bad roads cripple golden potentials of Taraba State

Created in 1991, Taraba State in the Northeast geopolitical zone of the country is home to a little less than three million people made up of over 100 ethnic groups, who occupy a landmass of over 54,473 square kilometers and survive mostly on agriculture and agro-related activities but battles heavily with inaccessible roads, Taraba Truth and Facts reports

Broken into 16 local government areas, the state boasts of an alluring cultural heritage and diversity that are arguably second to none in the country. The state is home to some of the rarest treasures of the country. As a result of the massive agricultural, tourism and mineral resources and the human capital potentials of the state, it is tagged the Nature’s Gift to the nation.

One of the obvious manifestations of gross underdevelopment in the state is the pathetic state of most roads. In fact, traversing the state from one end to another could take days, not so much because of the geographical distance, but because of the bad roads. Most local government areas do not even have access roads, only few local government headquarters are linked to Jalingo by passable roads. Many villages are also not linked to their local government headquarters by motorable roads, worsening condition of living in the rural communities. . 
Traveling from Jalingo, the state capital, to local government areas like Lau, Karim Lamido, Kurumi, Yoro, Sardauna and others leaves so much to be desired. And then moving from the local government headquarters to local communities within the LGA could be pure torture.
Since the creation of Taraba State in 1991, no administration has deemed it necessary to address the pathetic state of the Mararaba- Baisa Road, which leads to Baisa, the administrative headquarters of Kurmi Local Council, even the current administration.
Now, the international road which hosts a common boundary between Nigeria and Cameroun, that ought to be a 45-minute drive from Mararaba in Donga Local Council to Baisa, is now in a deplorable state, and the journey now takes over two hours to complete.
The deteriorating condition of the road has not only compelled drivers to seek alternative routes, it has also exposed communities dwelling along it to all sorts of avoidable challenges, even as they blame the pathetic state of the road for the high rate of crime and constant death of pregnant women, or their unborn babies.

During a medical outreach sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to “hard-to-reach villages”in the state, one of the medical field officers noted:  “It is as if these people are not part of civilization at all. It is as if the government does not even realise that they exist. For a distance that should not take more than 25 minutes by car, you have to spend more than three hours on a motorcycle because you cannot drive to these places. And these people are part of the voting population in this state and country. This is one trip I would not want to make again, if I have the choice.”
A trader, Mrs Helen Pinga, who buys plantain and banana from Kurumi LGA, and transports to Abuja and other parts of the country, narrating her ordeal on the Mararaba-Kurumi road said: “I cannot believe that a state government would not be concerned about the condition of the road leading to such a beautiful and rich destination. Kurumi alone can sustain the economy of the state if the road is open and the revenue there is properly harnessed. Most traders are just too frustrated to continue coming to this place. There was a time last year that I bought a truckload of plantain and our truck got stuck in the middle of the road. It took three days before we got it out of the mud. By that time, most of my plantain was already ripe. By the time I managed to get it to town and travel to Abuja, the consignment had become over-ripe. I lost nearly a truckload of plantain. And worse of all, I went down with flu and malaria for more than two weeks. It was a very horrible experience.”
Travelers along the Wukari/Jalingo/Yola road have had to spend agonizing hours at various points when about four bridges along the road were washed away by flood water last year and it took the government several months before the bridges were partially fixed.
Meanwhile, traveling between Takum and Wukari remains a frustrating trip as the famous Chanchanji Bridge has remained a nightmare. The same could be said of the Serti/Gembu road, Jalingo/Zing road, and a host of other intercity roads within the state, some of which are Federal Government roads.
A driver who plies most of the roads in the state, Mr Fabian Yakubu, said: “Traveling to most parts of the state puts in bold relief the extent of lack of government presence in the state. A trip that is supposed to take you just 30 to 40 minutes lasts for hours just because of the bad roads. We feel bad when we charge passengers high fares, but we don’t have a choice. The roads destroy our vehicles and that means we need to visit the mechanics constantly. And then you get to make less number of trips in a day. It is a very frustrating experience.”

Last year, then senior special adviser to Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State on Political Affairs, Alhaji Abubakar Bawa, lamented the deplorable state of federal road linking Mambilla Plateau in Sardauna local government area of Taraba State to Jalingo the state capital.
He said the road has become a death trap to hundreds of motorists who ply the road on daily basis, stressing that the condition of the road has become an embracement to the federal government.
 “One thing that kept surprising me is that, recently, President Muhammed Buhari announced that a huge sum was earmarked for the construction of the Hydro Power Project, they know full well that the road is bad, and they have heavy equipment that would be sent through the road to the project site.
He stressed that the bad road has claimed the lives of innocent motorists who ply the road and also caused untold hardship to residents and businesses on the Mambilla.
According to him, the bad situation of the road has become a source of frustration to the people of the Mambilla.
Unfortunately, efforts by successive governments in the past to bring succor to the area by constructing some of the federal highways in the hope of reimbursement from the Federal Government have been very frustrating. As at today, the Federal Government had not reimbursed over N25 billion spent by the Taraba government to reconstruct federal roads in the state.

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