Abuja’s footbridges deserted by pedestrians
Serves As Refuge For Criminals
Most footbridges in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, are becoming largely ornamental, or serving other purposes other than those originally intended.
Increasingly, these pedestrian bridges are also used for buying and selling of different wares, as well as, alms soliciting in the day, while vast stretches of vantage points on them are used for advertisements.
At night, men of the underworld take over proceedings on some of the bridges, a development that is gradually forcing pedestrians to resort to crossing four and eight-lane roads at the risk of losing their lives in some areas.
The Guardian in its November 9, 2014 edition, did an appraisal of footbridges located on expressways in the outskirts of the city, such as the Kubwa Expressway, and Airport Road. In that edition, it was reported that footbridges in these areas are either serving as merchandise arenas, or have been turned into massive billboards for advertisements.
Traders on these bridges claim that workers of the Abuja Environmental Protection Agency (AEPA), a government agency under the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCDA), usually collect bribes from them, in order to allow them use portions of the bridges and their railings to display their wares.
Since that claim by the traders, nothing has changed, as businesses on these bridges have continued as usual. But the bridges located along highways within the city centre are immune from commercial activities due to the fact that they are located in high-brow areas.
That notwithstanding, pedestrians still prefer to dart across multiple-lane expressways, instead of being attacked on top of the bridge by criminals.
There are two pedestrian bridges along the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Way, spanning the Berger Roundabout, through Wuye, down to Area One, and to Apo Roundabout. This road is an eight-lane passage and these bridges are built in such a way that the physically challenged can access them with their wheelchairs.
However, there is this creepy feeling that assails users when they walk through some sections of the bridge because they are just like dark alleyways. The staircase on the one at Wuye has a notice warning users of the presence of armed bandits.
But residents and users of the bridge are usually at a dilemma between using the facility, or running across the several lanes at night, facing sharp light beams from headlamps of upcoming cars.
Rather than risk her life, Mrs. Preye Abah, a staff of NAFDAC, prefers to take a taxi cab to Berger Roundabout, (which is a short distance from her office junction), from where she boards another taxi cab, which will still pass through her office, but this time on the other side of the road.
Asked why they chose to run across such busy highways at the expense of their lives, some of the respondents surprisingly tended not to have any tangible reason for their actions.
While others say they resorted to it since it is faster to run across the roads as the bridges are too high and climbing the stairs not an easy task, others claim the bridges are too far from the bus stops.
For respondents in other parts of Abuja, the activities of miscreants, beggars and sellers on most footbridges, is what has made running across expressways their choice.
For Timothy Godspower, the distance between pedestrian bridges located at NICON Junction is too far from the bus stop. According to him, the bridge should not have been that far from the junction.
“Now if am coming from Julius Berger Junction and intend to stop here (NICON Junction), does that mean the bus will stop at the bridge over there, and then I will trek back. That to me is unreasonable,” he added.
When confronted with the fact that several factors were taken into consideration by professionals that sited the bridge farther away from the junction, in addition to the fact that walking such distances briskly is beneficial to the body, he retorted: “The exercise we do trekking around is more than enough. Abroad where people trek to bus and train stations, they are not subjected to the kind of stress we are subjected to in this country. You want to tell a man who has not had a meal the entire day, and who is looking for menial job without success to start trekking and climbing bridges?”
The Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Boboye Oyeyemi, had earlier told The Guardian that the way Nigerians run across highways, where pedestrian bridges are available was no longer acceptable.
He warned that persons caught in the act would be prosecuted, and possibly jailed for six months, with options of fine, adding that non-compliance with use of pedestrian bridges constitutes a traffic offence, which could attract both prison term and fines, depending on the discretion of the presiding judge.
According to him, “The Federal Government in its wisdom made provision for these bridges in order to save the lives of Nigerians. The bridges in Abuja are World Bank-funded projects, in collaboration with the Federal Government, and nobody will be happy, especially the sponsors that these bridges are not being used. I remember at the commissioning, the former minister directed that all enforcement should be put in place to ensure that compliance is adhered to. But now, even the barriers provided to ensure that people are not able to cross on foot have all been vandalised. So, we require a complete attitudinal change and a high level of compliance.
“In other countries you don’t need to be told before you use pedestrian bridges, and you don’t cross the road anyhow. We have a bill before the National Assembly now and progress has been made so far, we are waiting for it to be passed into law. And once it is assented to, we would be able to embark on aggressive enforcement drive. And we are working with the FCT Minister to ensure that all these things are complied with. When you have an Act like that in place, it provides two options, either six-month imprisonment, or an option of fine or both, depending on the presiding magistrate.”
Oyeyemi said it was high time Nigerians began to be more responsible, not only to themselves, but to the society, as the government is not desirous of seeing its citizen killed in the process of crossing highways, despite the provision of pedestrian bridges.
The threat and admonition by Oyeyemi notwithstanding, running across expressways still thrives in Abuja, and FRSC is doing nothing about it.
Giving a statistics of pedestrians knocked down by motorists while attempting to cross the highways, the FCT sector commander, Sunday Oghenekaro said 70 persons were hit in 2015, with 13 occurring near pedestrian bridges.
He said six of the 13, died while seven sustained serious injuries.
James Okafor, an Abuja resident believes that if the footbridges and the surrounding environment are well policed, some pedestrians would feel safe enough to use them.
According to him: “The only time you see policemen lining up on this road that leads to the airport is when a president is passing by, or about to pass by. So, I ask, who is interested in killing him. Nigerians deserve to be secured also. Since security is a concern now on some of these bridges, security men should be posted to man the bridges all times. But this won’t happen because they would rather post them to homes of big men.”
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