By Christopher Tom, Uyo
No fewer than five persons have lost their lives within one month at a diversion through Ikot Ebak village during the ongoing construction on the federal highway spanning through Mkpat Enin Local Council of Akwa Ibom following the activities of hoodlums occupying a road diversion on the dilapidated Abak-Ekparakwa-Ikot Abasi federal highway.
The road was diverted because of excavation work on a 200m stretch by the contractor handling the rehabilitation of the highway, China Civil Engineering Construction Company, CCECC.
According to residents of the area , hoodlums have resorted to robbing and kidnapping commuters plying between Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Cross River states who regularly use the road.
The bushy diversion, according to them also lack the presence of security personnel while the narrow community road has also become dilapidated due to a sudden increase in vehicular traffic.
Residents of the area who have continued to lament the activities of the hoodlums told Correspondents that hundreds of unsuspecting commuters have fallen prey to the hoodlums who exploit the commuters’ ignorance of the terrain to rob and kidnap passengers.
They told newsmen that in one of the incidents, a kidnap victim who recognised one of his abductors was killed by the hoodlums after the sum of N200,000 was allegedly collected from him.
Two other abducted commuters were said to have been killed by their abductors on Thursday last week because they could not part with an undisclosed sum of money demanded by the hoodlums.
They have also expressed sadness over the timing of the excavation work by the contractor as doing so during the rainy season would make the work more difficult and longer.
The residents harped on the need for adequate information and deployment of security personnel on the diversion while calling for a more motorable diversion or alternative road.
Already some drivers on that route have resorted to using the longer but safer Etinan-Onna-Ikot Akpaden road as they could no longer guarantee the safety of their passengers on the Abak-Ikot Abasi route.
State Police Public Relations Officer, MacDon Odiko did not confirm the deaths saying that such report is yet to get to the Command.
The Federal Comptroller of Works in the state Engr Nkeruwem Ukpong after several unanswered calls to ascertain the progress and schedule of work on the road merely replied to a text message that, “I am just from the site, the contractor is working.”
The bad state of the Abak-Ikparakwa-Ikot Abasi highway would compound the woes of commuters between Rivers,Akwa Ibom and Cross River states as the Calabar-Itu highway, another federal road passing through the two latter states has become almost impassable.
Also with no concrete assurance from the Federal Government and the Police on plans to either conclude rehabilitation works soon or provide a better diversion and secure the diversion, the woes of commuters on that road is bound to continue.