By Aloysius Attah Sunday, July 25, 2010
•A victim, Mr Abel Ogbonna with his amputated leg in hospital.Photo: Sun News Publishing
For the people of Enugu-Ezike, a town of 36 villages in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, part of their culture is their conservative nature when it comes to matters of marriage. It is uncommon for them to marry an outsider as they often choose their spouses only within the villages that make up their town. Men and women from Enugu-Ezike who seek to marry outside the town oftentimes face stiff oppositions from family members and friends before they finally receive their blessings to go ahead.
For Miss Patricia Ali from Aji village, one of the prominent villages in the town, it was like a dream when her family gave her their consent to marry to a man from Imo State.
Though Patricia’s nuclear family had lived all their lives virtually in Enugu, the coal city and capital of Enugu State, it was with mixed feelings that the villagers received news that people were coming all the way from Imo State to marry their daughter.
The traditional marriage finally held on April 15, 2010 amidst fanfare but nobody knew that danger was lurking around the corner. The groom’s convoy on their way back to Imo State after the ceremony had a ghastly motor accident twenty minutes after leaving the in-laws place between Aji and Imufu village boundary. Nobody could explain clearly how it happened but an SUV space Jeep conveying the groom’s friends swerved from the main road , hit a palm tree and uprooted a mango tree before finally crashing at a spot. The seven people inside the vehicle died instantly.
Though the newly married couple was in another car and escaped unhurt, plans for the white wedding and consummation of the marriage has been put on hold as the affected families from Imo State are yet to recover from the shock of that accident.
For Mr. Okwudili Ayogu, an aluminum construction worker in Ogrute, the headquarter of Igbo-Eze North L.G.A, his volunteering to help Rev. Fr. Emma Asogwa, a former assistant parish vicar at Immaculate Heart Parish Aji, Enugu-Ezike to take his car for mechanical repairs would have cost him his dear life.
Okwudili recalled that he was to take the car to Ogrute where better mechanical engineers are in abundance but on approaching the same Aji/Imufu boundary,few meters to his destination, a “mysterious” old man suddenly ran across the road in an old bicycle. While he immediately marched the brakes to avert killing the old man, the car turned round, somersaulted several times before falling inside a ditch.
As mobile policemen on a roadblock in the area rushed to help him out of the car, he asked them to run after the old man that caused the accident. He was told nobody crossed the road and in a fit of confusion, he ran out of the car hoping to catch up with the harbinger of evil but found no one that fits the description, not even after inquiries from other people nearby.
It was then that he concluded that the accident was mysterious. Okwudili though alive, still carries a Plaster of Paris (POP) on his neck for the injuries he sustained.
Patricia and Okwudili’s experience are but just two of the many on Nsukka-Aji- Etteh road in Enugu State where no fewer than 50 people are believed to have died and scores of others injured in mysterious road accidents within the last five months.
Nsukka-Aji- Etteh road is 30.5km trunk B road linking Enugu State to parts of Kogi State. It is an expressway popularly called MCC.It is derived from the initials of a construction company known as Monier Construction Company who first tarred the road under Jim Nwobodo civilian Administration in 1982. The road cuts across three local government areas, Nsukka, Igbo-Eze South and Igbo-Eze North.
It also runs through villages like Alor Uno, Obukpa, Ibagwa-Aka, Iheakpu Awka, Onitcha Enugu, Ogrute, Imufu Aji, Umuogbo Agu,Umuopu and Etteh the Idoma speaking part of Enugu State terminating in Ejule, Kogi State
The road used to be an easier link for travelers from Enugu State heading to Anyangba and other parts of Kogi State. Sunday Sun learnt that the road has been in very bad shape for many years .This has forced major travelers to abandon it and take longer routes of Nsukka -Obollor Afor- Makurdi expressway to connect Kogi, Benue and Abuja.
The immediate past administration of Senator Chimaroke Nnamani in Enugu used the road as a campaign gimmick for many years until the Chime administration awarded the contract for the road’s re-construction to Ferotex Construction Company Limited owned by an indigenous industrialist based in Port Harcourt. Work on the road is now in progress .The re-construction has reached Ibagwa-aka, the headquarters of Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area.
Sometime in 2008, a driver attached to Royal Mass Transit, a dominant and indigenous transport company in the area killed two young men, Okwudili Idoko and Ekene Ugwuanyi popularly known as Joewa and Okwobo respectively. Okwudili was an Okada rider based in Aji village while Ekene was a Lagos based businessman.
The cyclist was taking Mr. Ekene to the motor park at Ogrute for his onward journey back to Lagos when the driver of the 18-seater bus ran over them, killing both instantly. The villagers were infuriated by the accident as they initially thought it was as a result of recklessness on the part of the driver. Youths in the area immediately mobilized themselves chanting war songs. The driver escaped lynching by hair’s breath while the newly bought bus was burnt to ashes.
Not long after this incident, two cyclists with passengers had a head on collision. Four of them on the two bikes died instantly. In quick succession, Nathaniel Ali and Prince Ogbonna Itodo (now special adviser to Governor Chime) were involved in another accident in Nathaniel’s Honda car on the same road. Though they survived, the car was written off, and Nathaniel, the driver carried one of his hands on sling for several months.
Since then, villagers told Sunday Sun, accidents occur on the road about three times a week, and several people have died in the process. Curiously, these accidents occur within the Aji-Imufu-Ogrute area which is not even so bad like other portions of the road. Sunday Sun discovered that failed portions of the road starts from Nkwo Aji market to Umuopu and Etteh while accidents happen mainly on Aji –Imufu junction.
A roadside mechanic in Aji, Dominic Urama told Sunday Sun that he is a living witness to the unusual accidents on the road. He said :“My mechanic workshop as you can see is along the road. So, we witness all these many times. Sometimes when we just hear a loud bang, we rush to the main road to known who is involved. Most victims who live to tell their stories say that some spirits in human form rise up at intervals to cause accidents. I think we need God’s intervention here.”
No accurate statistics
Official figures for accidents that have occurred on that road, however, could not be accessed from the Federal Road Safety Corp as at the time of filing this report. Efforts to get the information from the office of the unit commander of the corp in Nsukka proved abortive, as he was away on official assignment. The deputy unit commander, P.C Njoku refused to comment on the matter. However, a regular road marshal in the office who pleaded anonymity said that there is no official record of accident victims from the area in their office as the unit focuses more on urban roads within Nsukka metropolis.
However, the site manager of Ferotex Construction Limited, Engineer Williams Itodo dismissed claims by some residents that government is not doing anything about the road .“Though I am not a government spokesman, the fact is that our company is up and doing to complete the work on schedule .You can see that the work is on- going. The Enugu State government is committed to the execution of this project and we are ready to fulfill our own part”.
Seeking spiritual solution
While the carnage on the road is widely perceived as being orchestrated by spiritual evil forces, some members of Enugu Ezike Born -Again Christian Association and Charismatic Renewal Group in Aji have also decided to tackle the issue of the road spiritually by organizing various prayer sessions at the accident scenes to uproot whatever blood- sucking demon that is behind the carnage.
A member of the group, Kenneth Onogwu said that the days of evil are over as the spirit of God has taken control. Also the founder of Christian Family Outreach, a flourishing Pentecostal church in Aji village,Pastor Iyke Arji said that his church members are now in constant prayer in the town to make sure that all forces of darkness are wiped away and that the kingdom of light shall reign again.