Abuja residents are not using the pedestrian bridges built in some locations in the city out of fear of being attacked by hoodlums and hawkers who have turned them into markets
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Apr. 7, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
IN major cities across the world, pedestrian bridges are constructed for the singular purpose of helping pedestrians cross busy highways without exposing themselves to the risk of being knocked down by motorists. With such bridges deaths resulting from accidents on highways are reduced significantly as there will be no one expected to run through a road when there is a bridge to be used. But in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, it appears that the pedestrian bridges were created for different purposes. Rather than provide people with access across busy roads without hassles, the bridges have become a haven for beggars and a perfect location for those doing brisk business.
Long before the many of the pedestrian bridges in Abuja, were constructed, they are several cases of death resulting from accidents on the busy highways. It was the desire to make life better for residents of the city and reduce the yearly death toll from road accident that made the federal capital territory administration, FCTA, to embark on massive construction of pedestrian bridges in various parts of the city.
The administration identified six critical areas where the pedestrian bridges should be sited. Some of the sites are: the Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway by Tafawa Balewa Way; Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway by Olusegun Obasanjo Way; Shehu Yar’Adua Way by Okonja-Iweala Road, Mbushi and Shehu Yar’Adua Way by Ladi Kwali Street.
Unfortunately, the huge amount of money invested in the construction of these pedestrian bridges appears to be a waste as many of them are hardly being used for the purpose for which they were constructed. A good number of them now serve as markets instead of links to get by busy roads. For instance, at the pedestrian bridge on Nnamdi Azikiwe expressway, traders freely display shoes, under wears, fairly used cloths, belts, fruits, groundnuts and other items for sale.
Usman Mohammed, one of the traders, who spoke to Realnews, said trading on the bridge affords him ample opportunity to dodge task force operatives, adding that many petty traders could not afford the high fares charged for shops or stalls in FCT markets.
“In Abuja, some of us cannot afford to pay for shops and at places like this which are used very well by residents, market moves better because people must pass here and since our own products are cheaper than what they will get in the markets, customers will always patronise us.”
Other than the heavy human traffic situation generated by the activities of marketers on the bridge, there are several other reasons why Abuja residents do not make use of the pedestrian bridges. While some cited the long distances of the bridges to the designated bus stops as their reasons for not using the bridges, others said they find it scary using the bridges due to the presence of miscreants on some of the bridges.
Monica Joseph, a civil servant, narrated how she narrowly escaped being robbed by some hoodlums who waylaid her while passing through the bridge. “I was coming back from work around 7:45 p.m. that day and immediately I climbed the bridge, two young men approached me, and almost robbed me of my bag,” she said.
Another resident, Uzoma Anele, said the time and the stress involved in trekking from the bus stop to the bridge is such that one would always prefer crossing the road to using the bridge.
As reasonable as some of these excuses might sound, however, it cannot be a justification for the non-compliance to the use of the bridges, especially when compared with the dangers associated with crossing the ever busy highways.
Reacting, Ibrahim Bello, an officer of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, said the commission has been carrying out regular intensive public enlightenment campaign on the need for pedestrians to make use of the bridges. He also said that a patrol team is stationed at some bridges to ensure compliance, but added that even with the presence of the officials; some pedestrians still play smart to cross the road.
On clearing the bridges of traders, Bello said it has been challenging, explaining that the traders, alongside some miscreants, had severally attacked the road safety officials.
On his part, Jonathan Ukairo, head, information and outreach unit of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, while speaking on a radio programme recently said even though the board was aware of the activities of the some residents who had turned the pedestrian bridges into market, it could not tackle the challenge alone. Ukairo called for a multidimensional approach to eradicating the menace, adding that the board’s effort at arresting some of the hawkers has been futile in curbing the menace. Stating that the bridge project is uncompleted, he said: “Those projects are still under construction, so they are have not been handed over to the FCT Administration and usually part of our job is to ensure that infrastructure is properly used.
“We have been after them several times but the sustainability has not been there. Maybe, it is because it is still under construction; it is not commissioned nor handed over. I believe that all the agencies of government and the FCTA should put resources together to ensure that it is taken care of, when that project is handed over,” he added.
Ukairo also likened the bridges to uncompleted buildings in Abuja. He said: “Presently it is like uncompleted building you see some people use it as a make shift residence. We have raided the places but we found out that they still come back because we are not in full charge as it is still under construction.”
He, however, said the hawkers on the bridge are not enough reason for pedestrian to risk their lives while crossing the road. “They are expected to use it because it is safer than to risk their lives. The point is you when that place is fully commissioned and there are no hawkers people will still jump across the street.”