By Candia Stephen
Arua-Taxpayers of Offaka-Uleppi ASub-counties have for the past 12 years been cut off as the district needs Shs 18 billion to fix the broken Bridges.
Particularly the Aji Bridge that links the two Sub-counties of Offaka and Uleppi is in sorry state as locals have to risk passing on the broken wood. Some risk passing directly into the water. The supporting bars, wooden bars have collapsed. No vehicle can pass through the Bridge.
It is only the four wheel drive car of Francisan Brothers and that of Adraa Agricultural institute attempts to pass through but with hardships as the place is steep and hilly to maneuver. There is worry that the pupils, women and men who cross direct in the water could drown if the Bridge is not fixed.
Speaking to West Nile Press Online, a business woman who frequently uses this road from Adraa village says since the Bridge broke down completely six years ago, they have continued to incur exorbitant costs in transporting their produce across the river using boda-bodas, which puts them in losses.
“The boda bodas charge us Shs 4000 per bag of cassava to cross the river and yet we also pay shs 7,000 for each bag to reach Arua town. It’s too much on us who are struggling to make some money for our families. Where does our tax go because we do not see the value,” Ida said.
Ida explains how hard it is to cross, underneath is the part of the river where people cross directly into it. All Photos by Candia Stephen.
For the Aji Bridge to be fixed, it needs about Shs 1.5 billion. And the works department needs shillings 18 billion to reconstruct nine bridges that have been in a dilapidated state over the years. The Bridge also links to Offaka Health center IV where seriously ill patients finds difficulty to cross the bridge.
Another road user, Anjelina Driciru 43, NRM mobilizer from Jiruayini village, several promises have been made by their Members of Parliament and President Museveni to repair the broken bridge and grade the road but to date nothing has changed.
“We are suffering here day in day out because we cannot transport our goods across this river and all our cries have never been listened to! We have now given up,” Anjelina said.
The District Engineer, Anson Draki told West Nile Press Online that nine out of 32 bridges in the district require Sh 2 billion each, but the district budget for roads for the last four years has remained at Shs 1065 billion, which cannot even fix one Bridge.
“Maintaining a Kilometer of road takes Shs 45-million and yet we receive 1.065 billion for road maintenance and this included community roads, bridges and culverts, which is too meager. We hope that one day those people will have a better Bridge especially if UNRA works on our request to take over the Bridge,” Anson said.
The district Engineer Anson Draku speaking to West Nile Press Online.
The current dilapidated Bridges include Enyau on Katrini-Kijomoro road, Enyau on Awindiri-Ajono road, Enyau on Andelizu-Ajono road, Linya on Ullepi-Alijoda road, Aji Bridge on Ullepi-Offaka-Anyiribu road, Adia on Ullepi-Anyiribu road, Nyara on Adraa-Atiak road and Osu on Ociba-Ombaci road.
Aji bridge, which connects Offaka Sub County to Arua town broke down in 2012 following heavy rains and has never been repaired, leaving residents on either side of the river with no option but to wade through the deep river.
According to the locals, they have lost hope since no single leader goes to tell them of any plans to rehabilitate the bridge and grade the road.
But Anson Draku, the district engineer Arua says all efforts are in place to repair the long time broken bridge of Aji.
He adds that four years ago, Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA agreed to construct the bridge and last month, bids were advertized for contracts to build Ora foot bridge, Aji bridge and grade 9km road from Adraa to Okollo and Agurua bridge in Terego County.
Last year, the UNRA Executive Director, Allen Kagina, during a tour assessing the state of the West Nile roads and Bridges, said they had plans to replace 10 wooden decker Bridges in the region.
Arua district recently received two graders, a wheel loader, roller and a water boozer but the equipment have remained parked due to lack of funds to fuel and operate them.