IN spite of the increase in the number of pedestrian bridges in Abuja, many residents still prefer to cross the 10-lane highways at the expense of their safety. Reason: Hodlums had taken over the structures, making them safety risk for anybody who dared used them.
In the process, blood of innocent commuters have been spilled on many roads within and outside the capital city by speeding drivers who have taken advantage of the good road network in Abuja.
Some of these drivers throw caution to the winds. They do not consider pedestrians who also have the rights to use the roads. Architects and engineers who built Abuja in their wisdom, created pedestrian walkways in all the roads within Abuja city centre except the major expressways that transverse round the city.
The expressways some of them with eight or 10 lanes, help motorists to escape delays of traffic lights and several intersections within the city centre. These roads include Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Yakubu Gowon expressway, Aya-Kubwa-Suleja and Lugbe-Airport.
Daily Sun gathered that drivers, some of whom were alleged to be car dealers and mechanical engineers testing the quality of life of their car engines deliberately violate speed limit order by the Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) especially at the Kubwa-Suleja and Lugbe-Airport.
They accelerate their vehicles to the fullest, resulting in accidents, which in most cases lead to sudden death of the driver. Public facilities like the streetlights, traffic lights and other aesthetic decoration on the road are also destroyed in the process.
Some believe that the absence of pedestrian bridges may be responsible for the loss of lives on these roads. Regrettably, even where such bridges were erected, majority of commuters choose to risk their lives crossing the roads instead of using the pedestrian bridges. Until 2012, there were only few pedes trian bridges within the FCT. But as the city grew in population and size, many residents, worried by the continued loss of lives of pedestrians trying to cross roads intensified the call for more pedestrian bridges to be constructed.
In response, the former FCT minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, approached the World Bank for assistance. Some of the approved locations included Area 1 by Old federal Secretariat Junction, Finance Junction in Wuye district and Banex Junction by Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway. Others were at NICON Junction in Maitama District, VIO Junction in Mabushi District and Ladi Kwali Way by Sheraton Hotel.
Majority of them are now completed. But even at that, commuters insisted on crossing the roads instead of using the bridges. However, the former Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememem, at the foundation laying ceremony of the project in 2012, regretted the continued loss of lives of pedestrians, hence the need for the bridges across strategic places in Abuja, which he believed would reduce road fatalities by 50 percent.
Despite this effort, commuters prefers to risk their lives crossing the roads instead of using the pedestrian bridges for reasons best known to them.
A pedestrian, Mr. Akachi Ibeh, expressed displeasure over the low disciplinary attitude of Nigerians. He was of the opinion that, unless government introduced punitive measures against defaulters, people would continue to ignore the bridge. He said some pedestrians complained that the bridge was positioned a little bit far from the bus stop, where it would have been easier for people to use whenever they alight from public transport.
Perhaps out of frustration, people destroyed the barricades erected to discourage and compel people to use the bridges. Insecurity and other experiences of the people could also be reasons they are discouraged from using the pedestrian bridges.
Mogadishu (Abacha) and Lungi barracks
These are the only pedestrian bridges in Abuja that enjoy 100 percent patronage from pedestrians, even when no one is there to enforce the order. Reason for this may be because it was located in a military barrack.
The barricade erected within the Mogadishu Cantonment remains intact. No part of it has been tempered with by pedestrians, unlike other bridges where indiscipline and frustration forced people to pull down the barricades.
A shop owner in the mammy market, Mrs. Ikechi Grace, told Daily Sun: “Both uniform and civilians are using the pedestrian bridge. You don’t need anyone to tell you about it. Military Police officers are watching and waiting to punish whoever would violate the standing order, knowingly or unknowingly.”
Mr. Muyiwa Akinsola who was once punished by soldiers for violating the rule at the Mogadishu Cantonment said: “I was in hurry and wanted to dash to the other side of the road, not knowing that it was a big offence to abandon the pedestrian bridge and cross the road. The soldiers refused to
entertain excuses from me and insisted on punishing me. What I passed through that day was better imagined than experienced. In fact, I learnt my lesson that day.”
NICON and Banex junctions
Several lives have been lost on these junctions due to the unwillingness of commuters to use the pedestrian bridges. They brought down the barricades erected to prevent the crossing of the road. During rush hours, people from Kubwa, Gishiri, Mpape, Suleja and surrounding towns use the route. Many of them cross the busy road without proper calculation. But while the lucky ones cross successfully, unlucky ones get crushed by oncoming vehicles.
A pedestrian, Mrs. Kate Ogih, complained about the rate of death and permanent injuries inflicted on individuals at these junctions everyday, especially during rush hours. She admitted that some
of the pedestrians are sometimes absent minded. She queried why someone will be crossing such a busy road like Banex and NICON junctions and be absent minded: “Some even ping with their phones and that is the height of carelessness.
“The former FCT minister, Bala Mohammed, heard our cry and constructed these pedestrian bridges. But majority of the people have deliberately refused to use them. They prefer risking their lives crossing the roads instead of using the pedestrian bridges.
“Prior to that, innocent lives were being lost on daily basis, including school children, pregnant women and the aged, even the physically challenged were also affected. Some were run over by speeding vehicles. The most important thing now is for government to intensify enforcement
as it is being done in Mogadishu Cantonment (Abacha Barracks). This, they can do by positioning security agents at the foot of these bridges to ensure strict compliance by pedestrians.”
Area One by old Federal Secretariat
The case here is not different from other places. It was gathered that insecurity was one of the major reasons that discouraged people from using the pedestrian bridge especially at early and night hours. Mr. George Akpan told Daily Sun how he was robbed twice on top of the pedestrian bridge at Area 1 by old Federal Secretariat Junction at night. The last one was early this year:
“On that fateful evening, I rushed to Area 3 junction to board a bus to Nyanya after the close of work. But due to the high volume of cars that ply the expressway that evening, I decided to use the pedestrian bridge. As I climb the bridge at that dark hour, I saw some young men at the top of the bridge. They quietly beckoned on me, asking that I cooperate with them.
“When I got there, they cornered me one side and dispossessed me of my bag, which contained two phones worth N130, 000. They also took N40, 000 cash that was with me, my debit cards, Identity Card and international passport. It was like a drama to me.” he said.
Sheraton/Yar’Adua Center pedestrian bridge
The difference here is that no barricade was erected. The place is not as busy, hence the low record of accident. But the men of underworld have taken advantage of the quiet serenity of the environment to rob at will. Women who are either workers or fun seekers are the most affected.
A victim who identified herself as Betty narrated her experience: “I ran into them one evening on my way from the entertainment center. I was trying to be a good Nigerian by using the pedestrian bridge to cross to other side heading to Wuse Zone 4 bus stop to board a vehicle home. At gun- point, they dispossessed me of my belongings including my laptop, I-pad, smart phones and the other important documents. Not even transport fare was left with me.”
However, a cross section of FCT residents advocated that the FCT administration should introduce security measures at the pedestrian bridges, as that would help boost the confidence of commuters to use the pedestrian bridges. Similarly, they advocated that a mobile court be set up at the major pedestrian bridges to try pedestrians who fail to use the bridge.