The bad road has stimulated corruption and bribery to incredible levels. Smugglers profit, government loses revenue and travelers voyage in agony.
By Azore Opio
The devastated National Highway No 8 that runs from Kumba in Meme Division to Mamfe in Manyu Division offers smugglers and transporters a safe route to dodge taxes while sneaking in contraband goods into Cameroon, said an administrative official.
The smugglers and transporters have tied a neat corruption knot with the forces of law and order that operate along the nearly 200-km highway.
“With about four check-points; two at Ikiliwindi, Babensi and Konye, the forces of law and order stop trucks only to take their bribes,” the official told The Green Vision, “and the illicit traders pass through, even with dangerous goods.”
Goods smuggled into Cameroon from Nigeria includes petrol, milk, yams and plastic products.
The infamous Kumba-Mamfe road is like a vein through which putrid blood flows. Apart from Manyu people who have reaped tremendous distress from the rundown road, Nguti people have mentally, economically and socially suffered the disfavor of fortune in an extreme degree. The mid-way town plays a delicate balance between Kumba and Mamfe, cut off from most of modern civilization amenities – electric power stops at Mile 12 in Ikiliwindi on the Kumba side and starts again at Tinto Junction on Mamfe side; water is a luxury and farm produce end mostly on the farms and homes.
Nguti produces so much food such as cassava and plantains but most of it does not reach the main markets outside the Sub-division.
“Even if the cassava reaches the state of transformation into garri, the production is limited by the lack of grinding machines,” said an indigene.
According to the indigene, government is making a fool of Nguti and Nguti’s misfortune affects largely farmers.
“Cocoa famers lose a lot of their crops to unscrupulous buyers who use faulty weighing scales,” The Green Vision was told.
“From each bag of 65 kgs, a cocoa farmer can lose up to eight kilos,” the indigene said.
Travelling to anywhere from Nguti is simply by chance and often a nightmarish experience.
“Travelers are always forced to sleep on benches in off-licenses whenever their vehicles break down or get stuck in mud,” the Assistant Divisional Officer for Nguti, Jacob Amamukai, told The Green Vision.
“Sometimes, the owner of the off-license drives you away and removes his bench leaving you with a hard cold veranda,” said Amamukai.
Businesspersons suffer in much the same way but with additional stress.
“During the rainy season, we pay up to 20.000 francs cfa to Kumba on a motorcycle. Subsequently, we are forced to double the prices of our commodities such as beer, which we may sell at 1.000 francs cfa,” said Eyeni Davran.
Some Nguti natives say government is just not interested in developing the Kumba-Mamfe road, which has become a kind of devilish piece in an intricate political jigsaw puzzle cut out by self-serving politicians.
“Since sometime in 1986 or thereabout, Nguti has seen no prosperity. Even Manyemen that is a great deal smaller than Nguti is economically busier and socially livelier,” said Arrey Bejong.
The Nguti natives and their neighbours from Manyu and Meme hope that whenever the road is tarred, the economy of the Sub-division will improve and the lives of the people will be lived at a better level.
“We shall be relieved from sleeping on the road,” said Jacob Amamukai.
The Kumba-Mamfe road has been some sort of gem for political gimmicks. For the last 30 years or so, it has received unfulfilled promises of reconstruction and each promise has come and gone. As soon as one promise is forgotten, another one is quickly cooked up to replace it.
The President of the Nguti Youths and Development Association (NGUYOCUDA-BANE’EBUM) told The Green Vision that if, and when, the road is finally tarred, they will have left earth to heaven.
“Business, transport, social life will all change for the better,” said Eyeni.
There are at least 15 bridges that were constructed sometime in the 1980s ahead of the construction the Kumba-Mamfe highway. They lie abandoned in the wilderness waiting for mortar and tar to connect them to the mysterious Kumba-Mamfe road.