David Umahi, the Minister of Works, has refuted claims linking the ongoing rehabilitation of the Eleme section of the East-West Road in Rivers State to the recent fatal accident that claimed five lives. He also urged the Federal Road Safety Commission to set up checkpoints to monitor drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Umahi made these remarks while addressing reporters during a visit to the scene of the tanker fire in Eleme on Wednesday evening, accompanied by officials from the Federal Ministry of Works.

Expressing condolences to the families of the deceased and sympathies to the state government, Umahi condemned attempts to connect the road rehabilitation with the tragic incident, describing it as unfortunate and inciting.

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He clarified, “There is a bridge there that we are reconstructing and they were very large, over 16 meters wide of a diversion we made in the past year, and that’s where vehicles are following.” He criticized those blaming the construction company and the federal government for the accident.

Umahi recalled President Bola Tinubu’s directive to redesign the road upon assuming office, aiming for a long-lasting solution. He emphasized the extensive nature of the ongoing construction, designed to last at least a century.

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“The accident was caused by the carelessness of two drivers who were struggling over the right of way, competing with their lives, and collided with a trailer and a tanker,” Umahi stated, attributing the tragedy to reckless driving influenced by drugs or alcohol.

He called on the Federal Road Safety Commission to intensify checkpoints to detect drivers under the influence of substances like “Mkpuru-mmiri” (local hard substance) and hard drugs, emphasizing the role of substance abuse in such accidents.

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Umahi’s visit aimed to ensure the contractors accelerate construction and maintain quality. He emphasized President Tinubu’s policy of completing road projects within two years, except for coastal roads, which are allowed eight years.

He concluded, “Whether they are delaying or not, it has nothing to do with the accident. I will be asking them to open more sections of the construction.”