Abuja residents groan as traffic snarls defy solution
Aside from the daily struggles and restlessness that come with residing in, and within a burgeoning city like Abuja, the unabating traffic situation that is a permanent feature on the three major entry/exit routes in the FCT, that is, Kaduna-Kubwa-Abuja, Keffi-Karu-Nyanya-Abuja and the Gwagwalada-Airport Road-Abuja constitute a pain in the neck for the average motorist.
Even though the number of people that pour into the city daily is blamed for the traffic snarl, which is worse in the early hours and late at night, memories and images of the never-ending Lagos traffic gridlock are again beginning to cryistalise in the subconscious of motorists that have either lived or had something to do with Lagos in the past.
Before the Federal Government commenced the 10-lane dualisation of Kubwa, and Airport roads, residents of suburbs like Gwagwalada, Lugbe, Kubwa, and Zuba faced immense psychological trauma and frustration as they journeyed through these routes, daily.
Even within the FCT, there are notable spots where heavy traffic snarls are a constant feature. They include Mararaba-Nyanya Bus Stop; AYA Roundabout along the Abuja-Keffi corridor; Madala-Zuba-Kubwa-Gwarinpa-Aso Radio Junction, along the Abuja-Kaduna corridor, and Girri Junction-Alaita-City Gate along the Abuja-Gwagwalada corridor.
About five years ago, it took a maximum of 50 minutes to travel from Suleja in Niger State to Abuja city centre; 40 to get to the city centre from Gwagwalada, and 50 minutes to get to the same location from Nyanya. But presently, these journeys take between one to two hours, except when embarked upon in the early hours.
The development has not only caused the loss of precious man-hours but has also inflicted enormous pains on commuters and car owners. In addition, commuters have to contend with extra-cost at this difficult time of a shrinking economy.
In order to stay in business, transporters routinely hike transport fares across the board, especially at the slightest whiff of fuel scarcity. Findings by The Guardian revealed that commuters sometimes pay over 200 per cent increment on trips from the Abuja city centre to Kubwa-Suleja, AYA-Nyanya Gwagwala and Kuje.
Recounting her daily experiences, a fruit vendor at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, Mrs. Joke Orimolade, told The Guardian that the traffic gridlock that she experiences daily is simply nerve-wracking.
She said: “I come to Abuja from Suleja every working day to sell fruits, including mangoes, oranges and pawpaw etc., but I must tell you that the traffic situation along that axis, especially during rush hours makes me sick. I spend a part of my meagre profit on the high fare and on drugs. This should not be.”
In narrating his ordeal, a taxi driver in Abuja city centre, Mr. Philip Odafe, said: “I come to the town at least thrice a week from Gwagwalada. Apart from the huge amount of fuel that I burn in the gridlock, the situation has several times caused my vehicle to need a mechanic or panel beater’s attention. Expectedly, I spend thousands of naira for the maintenance of my vehicle.”
He continued: “I think one of the best solutions to this is for the Federal Government is to relocate some of the ministries, departments and agencies (MDA) to other local councils across the FCT.”
The Chairman, FCT Traffic Management Committee, Mr. Ikharo Attah, while commending on the issue listed some of the causes of traffic snarl in the affected areas to include a massive influx of persons from displaced communities; the springing up of illegal markets along major highways; wrong parking by taxi drivers; poor road alignments; car owners who pick up, and drop off passengers at wrong places to complement their earnings, as well as several accidents that occur daily as a result of over-speeding among others.
Attah, however, told The Guardian that efforts have been put in place to ensure that the committee works round the clock in its bid to address traffic challenges at prime times.
He said: “The committee comprises operatives of the Nigeria Police, VIO, FRSC, FCT officers from the Development Control Unit, and sometimes, military personnel. Let me inform you that as early as 5 am and 5:30 pm, which are prime times for us, our men are always out to control traffic. We do this daily, including weekends all things being equal. We also visit media houses from where we sensitise residents on the need to obey traffic rules and regulations in the FCT.
“Recently, we’ve been going around all the major roads that are linked to Abuja city centre, and have started pulling down shanties built along these roads. We are also clearing all debris along these roads because Abuja roads must continue to witness the free flow of traffic to reduce loss of man-hours, restlessness, insecurity, and to be a true reflection of a befitting nation’s capital,” he said.
He revealed that the FCT has put in place mobile courts at strategic locations to arrest and prosecute violators of traffic laws. “Several persons have been prosecuted by the courts and many more are still facing the laws.
On chances of bringing back the FCT Urban Mass Transit buses to reduce the number of vehicles plying the roads, Attah explained: “For me, I don’t think that will have any effect. Abuja is a city of the so-called big boys and big girls; many of them want to drive their cars to boost their ego; some want enhanced comfort coming to the city centre with their cars. So, I don’t believe reviving the urban mass company will reduce traffic concentration on the roads.”
On whether the suggested relocation of some MDAs outside the city centre would be of any advantage, Attah admitted that such arrangements would definitely make people move away from driving to the city.
He however stressed: “This option has been on the drawing board for long, but I do not see it as being feasible.
“So, I am calling on residents to desist from trading along the roads as the practice is not helping anyone. Taxi drivers should stop picking up and dropping passengers at will along the roads while traffic officers should ensure they do their duty at peak periods, if all these measures are taken on a daily basis, traffic congestion would be reduced, if not totally eliminated on FCT roads.”
The Director, Information, FCT Transport Secretariat, Mr. Ifeanyi Ughamadu, while also commenting on the development, said the mobile courts put in place operate during peak periods where they bring traffic violators to account.
He explained that since they were established a few years ago, they have successfully prosecuted offenders, and those found wanting made to pay fines that are remitted to government coffers, while others are made to serve time in jails with a view to serving as a deterrent to others.
“We’ve been able to ensure that no form of checking of vehicles is carried out at peak periods by the VIOs, FRSC officials or operatives of the Nigeria Police, all in a bid to ease traffic flow. We also ensure that traffic officers are stationed at strategic intersections to ensure seamless flow of vehicular traffic.”
All these measures, he said, “have yielded results, and we hope to build on the achievements so far recorded.”
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