Banji Aluko (Tribune) -- The Government Reservation Area (GRA) is where majority of the nouveau riche in Benin City live. The Edo State Government House is situated there as well. Some of its famous streets such as Reservation Road, Boundary Road, Ihama Road, Akhionbare, Adesuwa Road and Osadebey Avenue are where top government officials, senior civil servants, captains of industry, powerful industrialists, politicians and top bankers stay.
In Benin, it is a status symbol to say you live in the GRA and you stand to earn more respect if you are a resident of GRA. "I live in GRA" is a statement many dream would one day come out of their mouths.
Behind the glitz, however, there is one problem that is troubling many residents of the Benin GRA. Of grave concern to many of its residents are the roads in the area.
Today, roads in Benin GRA are in terrible conditions while some have been completely abandoned by motorists. It is not just that the area is not immune to the flood that is currently ravaging many parts of Benin, roads in the area have become death trap. Many wonder why the beautiful houses lining the streets are without drainage or whether the street planners forgot to include it in their master plan. Although there are signs that drainage once existed in some of these
Such was the concern of many of the Benin GRA residents that they are now asking the Edo State Ministry of Works to explain why the government of Governor Adams Oshiomhole has refrained from rehabilitating roads in the locality for the sixth year running.
The road users comprising landlords and residents, commercial and private vehicle drivers, corporate citizens like hotels and banks, law firms, shop owners among others, made their observations known during at a media briefing in Benin.
They said that "conspicuous and sustained neglect of GRA roads like Ihama, Boundary, Adesuwa, Aikhionbare, Aiguobasimhin, Commercial, Reservation and even the road beside the Golf course, the governor's office and the legislators' quarters by the government since it came to office in 2008 has helped to steadily destroy homes, paralyze commerce and boost crimes within the neighborhood.
Mr Ogbeide Braimah, chairman, Benin GRA Landlords/Residents Association, in the statement, said, "We voted for the comrade governor. We commended his first tenure as he worked on roads outside the GRA, hoping it would be our luck in his second coming. To our dismay, the government and its agents have never deemed it wise to rehabilitate any road in the GRA; yet the governor, his deputy and his aides all live here (GRA)".
"We are very disappointed and I must say that we are sad about the government's policy which is very deliberate, and it is a constant reminder to us that the government is not people centered. How do you explain willful rejection of extending democracy dividends to a large section of the voting public?"
He said that from their investigations, banks, hotels, commercial ventures and commercial drivers who operate in the GRA are made to pay huge sums monthly for being in business; hence, they could not understand the reason behind the neglect of the area.
A widow, Madam Eva Momah, 71, who said that the dilapidated state of Obeahon Street, from the 'Blessed House' end of Adesuwa Road in the GRA has created stagnant water that has cut the road into two. She used the occasion to condemn what she called "extortion of citizens" in the name of taxes and wondered what kind of development the state government would be celebrating six years after when roads in the state capital were impassable.
"Nobody is here to condemn the governor as he has tried, but he needs to do more to reduce incidences of flooded streets, blocked drains and abandoned plots and properties in the GRA because of threat to lives by emerging forest in an otherwise urban setting."
Mr Braimah congratulated the management of the state's Rapid Response Agency for its occasional intervention in making some roads passable especially in the dry season and called for additional funding of the organization so that it could make greater impact in the roads rehabilitation sector.