From Fred Ezeh
Motorists in Abuja, mostly taxi drivers and private car owners, are turning the cool shades of overhead bridges at different strategic locations into places of temporary rest. This is a proof that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, is now living up to the rating as a modern city.
The presence of the taxi drivers is mostly conspicuous at overhead bridges located around the National Mosque, Kado, Central Area, Federal Secretariat and several other areas adorned with umbrella-like trees within the Abuja city centre.
They, apparently taking advantage of the cool clean air that passes by the bridges, usually enjoy their siesta after long stressful hours of work. They usually arrive locations in their vehicles at any time of their choice, but mostly in the afternoon. They would open the car doors and sleep off for several hours, without any concern about their personal safety. They wake up refreshed and revitalised.
Hitherto, the bridges and surroundings were known as havens for touts, hooligans, beggars, destitute and homeless persons. But unfortunately, the taxi drivers are fast displacing them. Some of the drivers also use the locations to reunite with friends and co-drivers.
When they gather, they crack jokes and laugh freely, to perhaps, ease pressure of work. They also discuss issues and challenges of work for the day, particularly the frustrations from state officials, notably, the FCT Traffic Police, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO).
Daily Sun discovered that because some of the taxi drivers, particularly those living at satellite towns, leave their homes as early as 4:00am, to beat the excruciating traffic challenges into the Abuja city centre for the day’s struggle, got tired before noon. Besides, some residents of Abuja start their day as early as 5:00am.
Health experts have repeatedly suggested that people should get adequate rest through sleep, at least eight hours in a day, in addition to regular exercise for healthy living, but competing socio-economic demands have denied some people such opportunity.
Investigations revealed that bridges around the National Mosque, Abuja, seem to enjoy more patronage for obvious reasons. More taxi drivers and private vehicle owners take advantage of security and large presence of people at the mosque to peacefully enjoy their rest and afternoon siesta.
It was noticed that more private vehicle owners take their siesta at the bridges than taxi drivers, and most of them are either visitors at the National Mosque, workers at nearby offices or other private car owners.
At a bridge at the Federal Secretariat, a taxi driver, Moses, told our correspondent that he has been a regular visitor at the bridge for a few years: “I am a typical example of a hustler. My day begins by 4.00am when I leave my house at Masaka to Abuja city centre for the day’s hustle. Already, I have some group of passengers that resume work by 5.30am. So, they always join me that early morning to escape the usual traffic.
“After work that morning hours, myself and some other driver colleagues would gather at under the bridge for few hours of break. During the period, we eat food, take some drinks, crack jokes and sleep for several hours to regain strength and vitality for hours of work ahead.”
A civil servant with Federal Ministry of Health, Abiodun, said he likes to visit the bridge during his break time to refresh with some local gin sold nearby: “Shortly after that, I will sleep in my car for a while before returning to the office to continue the day’s work.”
Another taxi driver, Kasimu Abdullahi, said the bridge is the best place for him to rest after hours of work. He disclosed that he visits the location twice a day, morning and afternoon hours to catch some sleep:
“I leave in Suleja, Niger State, but I do my taxi work in Abuja city centre. I leave my house very early in the morning to do taxi work in Abuja. I hardly get enough sleep because I always return home, sometimes, 12:30am or 1:00am, then wake up 4:30am for the next day hustle. It is after morning hours’ work that I eat, sleep and relax, and it is under the bridge that I get what I want.”
Another driver, Samuel Okem, said he loves the environment particularly the cool and refreshing air around: “I come here whenever I need deep sleep and refreshing moment. Sometimes, I find it difficult to sleep at home, but once I get here and pull back my seat, I sleep off in few minutes.”
A driver who pleaded anonymity confessed that he enjoys overflow of calm and fresh ideas each time he spends time under the bridge: “I can’t explain it but I always enjoy being here (under the bridge). My job doesn’t tie me down one place. So, I come here to rest and mediate.”
Meanwhile, it has not been tales of joy as two drivers that confided on our correspondent complained that they have lost their items at different occasions, suspecting that passers-by must have taken the items while they were deep asleep.