By Amvesi Andrew Cohen,Arua
The residents of Awindiri and Abira cells in Onzivu Ward, Ayivu Division, Arua City have come out to castigate the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and Arua City authorities for failing to cover the drainage channels excavated in their area.
According to the locals, the drainage channels along Arua – Pakwach road which have remained open for more than three months have turned out to be a big threat to their lives and businesses.
James Matua, a Boda Boda cyclist at Awindiri stage on Monday said that the road has now become too narrow for them due to the drainage channels left open.
“You find vehicles parking on both sides of the road in the evening. With pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles both light and heavy trucks using the road, it has become too narrow. There was a time I knocked a pedestrian because there was no way I could dodge the woman, luckily, she didn’t die and I paid her medical bills. For me I think UNRA and the City people should come and cover these drainage channels to save us,” Matua narrated.
A bar owner in the area only identified as Michael says he has lost many clients due to the open UNRA drainage channels in the area.
“Many of our customers have stopped coming these days because they can’t access our shops. Some customers end up parking their vehicles by the roadside and you know this is a highway, and this has made the road become too narrow. As a result, cases of accidents have become common here,” Michael said.
“When it rains, the channels get flooded yet the water doesn’t flow so fast and this alone has also become a health threat to us. I appeal to UNRA and the Arua City authority to consider working on the drainage channels so that we can avoid all these risks,” Michael added.
Michael said before the drainage channels were excavated, he used to make between shs300, 000 to shs400, 000 a day but now, he only raises between shs100, 000 to shs150, 000 which is more than 50 per cent loss on his side yet the city authorities have maintained their tax rate constant on his shop.
Meanwhile Jane Atizuyo, a person with disability (PWD) observed that ever since the drainage channels were dug, it is hard for her to cross over the temporary Eucalyptus ridges created over the channels using her wheelchair.
“I usually seek for help from any well-wisher to push me across the drainage channels whenever am going to or from my home. Surely, if these drainage channels are covered, it will be a relief to some of us who are disabled,” Atizuyo said.
Samuel Acidri, the vice chairperson of Abira cell confirmed that they have received several concerns about the open drainage channels but UNRA has failed to act.
“There was a time we asked them (UNRA) to cover these drainage channels and they told us that it was yet the beginning, promising that they will work on the channels but since then, I don’t know what has happened,” Acidri wondered.
Acidri noted that people have currently improvised wooden access paths over the drainage channels which are too weak for even motorcycles to pass on.
Similarly, Alex Oyer, the Awindiri cell chairperson said he petitioned the office of the Division Clerk, Ayivu Division and UNRA several times following people’s complaints over the drainage channels but nothing has been done to address the matter.
He said accidents have become common along the half a kilometer stretch of the drainage especially involving Boda Boda cyclists and pedestrians. Oyer called for immediate action to be taken to fix the problem.
When contacted over the matter, Emmanuel Angudubo, the Acting Division Town Clerk for Ayivu Division said Arua – Pakwach road is a trunk road, adding that it is the mandate of UNRA to maintain and also work on it.
“I think UNRA was trying to work on the drainage channels because that area used to flood a lot and we are glad that the area these days cannot flood because the drainage was opened. But what is remaining, I shared with the Manager of UNRA Arua about how they can improvise some accessibility particularly to the shop owners,” Angudubo said.
“That is the mandate of UNRA, however, as a City Council, yes, it is within our mandate to make sure that such channels must be covered but because that is the mandate of UNRA, we have linked up with them and they are doing some assessment to make sure that people can be able to access their shops and homes,” Angudubo emphasized.
But Ahmad Okwir Awoii, the UNRA area Manager for Arua claimed that they would have worked on the open channels long time ago had it not been due to lack of funds.
“We have been having some financial constraints but I will be able to mobilize some resources to ensure that the problem is addressed in two weeks’ time. Thanks that you have come over this concern, now I am going to immediately send one of my staff to go and assess the areas that need accessibility and once he gives me his report, I will be able to know what is needed so that we can fix the problem,” Okwir said.
Recently, Josephine Angucia, the West Nile police public relations officer (PRO) released the West Nile accident statistics for the months from January to March 2022 indicating that 47 people died in road accidents, 206 got seriously injured, 11 had slight injuries.
The total casualties including those dead and alive stood at 264 of which only three cases were taken to court.
“Most of the causes of these accidents have been recklessness on the road coupled with over speeding, use of motor vehicles which are in dangerous mechanical conditions, narrow roads, drink-driving and others,” Angucia said.
She urged road users to always abide by all traffic regulations in order to minimize accidents on the road.