What ought to be a source of relief and comfort for residents of Abuja has become a nightmare and source of pain and misery.
Abuja has been repeatedly described as one city in Africa that was built with good road network, which contributed greatly in easing movement within and outside the city. It has several expressways some of which has eight to 10 lanes. The intention was to help motorists escape delays by traffic lights and several intersections within the city centre.
Some of these roads are Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Yakubu Gowon, AYA-Kubwa-Suleja and
Lugbe -Airport expressways.
Few years ago, Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), completed an expressway that transverses Tipper Garage in Maitama to Berger through Wuye, Area 1 and terminated at Apo Roundabout. It was designed to help commuters especially those from Kubwa, Zuba, Dei-Dei and Madalla, who want to connect to Berger, Utako, Wuye or Garki Area 1. But the road has become a source of pain and misery for commuters and motorists.
Precisely, NICON, Mabushi, Finance and Garki Area 3 junctions have been identified as the major flash points where pedestrians loose their lives on daily basis to fast speeding drivers. There are indications that at least, a life is lost daily on any of these junctions.
An eyewitness, Maria Etuk, told Daily Sun that the increase in the number of deaths at these junctions was largely due to non-usage of the pedestrian bridges. Some residents prefer to risk their lives crossing the busy roads instead of using the pedestrian bridges. She wondered why pedestrians would disregard the obvious dangers associated with crossing the busy expressways instead of comfortably using the pedestrian bridges:
“Last week, a man and his wife were trying to cross the road at evening hours when Kubwa, Gwarimpa and Suleja residents were speeding home. People were shouting at them to use the pedestrian bridge but they turned deaf ears.
“The man held the hand of his wife to cross. But fear, perhaps, made the woman to pull off her hand in the middle of the road. The man successfully crossed the road but his wife could not. She was knocked down by a fast moving vehicle and she died on the spot. It is a daily experience at these junctions.
“Same is also the case at Wuye, Mabushi and Garki Area 3 junctions. Some junctions on Abuja Airport Road and AYA-Kubwa Expressway recently joined the club of junctions that consume the lives of its users. People die on these roads on daily basis simply because they choose to cross the road instead using pedestrian bridges built for their use.
“FCTA has obviously done all that is necessary to protect the people. But the people have chosen to risk their lives by crossing the roads instead of comfortably using the pedestrian bridges to other side of the road.”
She suggested that an enforcement team be positioned at the various pedestrian bridges to compel people to use the bridges for their own safety.
Investigations revealed that non-usage of the pedestrian bridges could be as a result of its distance from the bus stops, physical strength of users or other reasons that could differ based on individuals. It was also discovered that laziness, and in few cases, insecurity during morning and night hours, were responsible for the non-usage of the bridges.
Until 2012, there were few pedestrian bridges within the Abuja metropolis and some major satellite towns. But as the city grew in size and population, many residents, apparently worried by the continued lost of lives of commuters that struggle to cross the ever busy and wide Abuja roads, intensified the call for more pedestrian bridges to be constructed at strategic places to ease the
movement of pedestrians.
In response, former FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, solicited financial support of World Bank, to construct the pedestrian bridges. Some of the approved locations were; Area 1 by Old Federal Secretariat Junction, Finance Junction in Wuye District and Banex Junction by Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway.
Others were built at NICON Junction in Maitama District, VIO Junction in Mabushi and Ladi Kwali Way by Sheraton hotel and others along Kubwa and Airport expressways. They have all been completed and commissioned for public use.
But regrettably, pedestrians whom the bridges was built for, have abandoned them to dust, hawkers and hoodlums that have turned some of the bridges to safe haven for their criminal planning and execution.
Former Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememem, at the flag-off of the project in 2012, regretted the continued loss of lives of pedestrians as they try to cross the busy roads, hence the need for the
pedestrian bridges across strategic places within and outside Abuja, which he said, would reduce road fatalities by at least 50 percent.
A motorist, Livingstone Ndubuisi, said it is a deliberate suicide mission for a pedestrian to attempt crossing the busy expressways where drivers test the efficiency of their car engines, instead of comfortably using the bridges to peacefully cross the roads.
He suggested that security officials be deployed at the various pedestrian bridges so they could enforce the usage of the bridges as being done at Mogadishu Cantonment in Asokoro.