From Walter Ukaegbu and Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Nyanya, a town in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, just like other satellite towns in Abuja is battling with some challenges especially insecurity and indiscipline among the residents. Younger elements are at the centre of this challenge. The situation is now aggravated by the declining economic fortunes of many. This has resulted in sizeable number of residents taking the law into their hands as they search for means of survival.
Clearly, some residents have elected to engage in businesses that not only run foul of the FCT laws but also to the entire society. Some of these include hooliganism, touting and hawking. Snatching of bags and pick pocketing have become dominant practices among younger elements. The area is speedily becoming one of the most dreaded satellite towns in Abuja.
Expectedly, most residents are edgy about it. They are more disturbed by the seeming perception of many that the situation has grown beyond security authorities in the town. The place now wears the tag of “anything is possible.”
Nyanya, though a popular town known to residents of Abuja, attracted global attention when a twin bomb planted in a stationed vehicle at a major bus terminal located in the town by Boko Haram insurgents exploded on Monday, April 14, 2014, resulting in the death of hundreds of commuters and destroyed properties worth millions of Nigeria.
In response to that, an investigation was immediately launched to unravel facts behind the attack. But to achieve relative success, the forensic investigation officials were however left with no option but to cordon off the place particularly the terminal where the twin bomb exploded, in order to gather relevant clues that could aid their investigation process.
But as the investigation gathered momentum, the entire terminal and the intersection bridge was closed to traffic indefinitely in line with the directive of the investigative authorities. And as a result, commuters and motorists were forced to spend longer time trying to maneuver their way through the only road that left to commuters.
Commercial vehicle operators including the high capacity buses, otherwise known as El-Rufai buses were forced to chose the option of doing their businesses along the road, not minding the implications, which is predictably traffic obstruction. Their action increased indiscipline among motorists thus compounding the traffic woes in the area.
As a result of the indiscipline especially among commercial drivers, commuters and motorists that use the Abuja-Keffi Expressway were forced either to leave their various houses as early as possible or spend several hours on the traffic. Interestingly, this obstruction of traffic by unruly motorists are perpetrated under the nose of security agents at checkpoints mounted on the road.
A commuter, Mr. Kingsley Vitalis, said: “One has to wake up as early as possible so as to get to work on time. In fact, people hardly communicate with their God (prayer) when they wake up in the morning because they are rushing out to beat the traffic.
“The new development now is that people who leave their homes very early are also attacked by hoodlums who hide in dark corners in the early hours to dispossess people of their belongings. Same is the case at late nights for people who close late at work. It has been a bad experience for many people especially the ladies.”
Wednesdays, the market day of Nyanya happens to be the worst day. It is a day traders in Nyanya Market, located few meters away from the Abuja-Keffi Expressway corridor welcome other traders and customers from other parts of Abuja. Traders, particularly those that deal with second-hand goods (Okirika) and food related items usually occupy the roads, displaying their goods on the road, thus making it difficult for motorists to have free flow of traffic.
Some commuters alleged that security men do not help matters as they find it difficult to call the motorists to order. A civil servant who identified herself as Mrs. Enoh said: “All they do is to focus on lining their pockets. They collect money from the traders and motorists and turn the other way.”
The bus terminal where the bomb was planted has been turned to a temporary camp for security operatives manning the various checkpoints within and around Nyanya.
President Muhammadu Buhari had after been sworn in, directed that all checkpoints across the country be dismantled. In compliance to that directive, Nyanya bridge intersection road that was closed to traffic in April 2014 was reopened, bringing temporary relief to motorists. The measure ended artificial traffic gridlock on the road. It did not take long before the status quo was restored. The traffic snarl returned. It was helped by some other factors.
For instance, due to the prolonged abandonment of the road, many residents were afraid that the bridge must have been affected by the bomb explosion. While they called on the relevant authorities to carry out integrity test on the bridge to ascertain its strength before it could be fully opened to traffic they had to make alternative arrangements.
The bomb explosions that came after the President’s directive, particularly the one that happened in Kuje forced government to reverse its policy on the dismantling of checkpoints.
Though Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, claimed that government had “tactically” defeated Boko Haram, some bomb explosions forced a rethink.
A cab driver, Mallam Isah, attributed the problem to the insensitivity of the FCT administration to the plight of the people. He also accused the police of encouraging the indiscipline among motorists, which he (Isah) said has been responsible for the regular “traffic jam” on the road. He, however, exonerated officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), of wrong doing, commending them for their commitment, passion and dedication to duty:
“It gladdens my heart to see FRSC officials at strategic points controlling the movement of vehicles. However, the case is different with the traffic policemen assigned to some of these strategic points. All they do is to sit at one corner instead of enforcing traffic regulations, and that has given the taxi drivers the confidence to commit traffic offences with reckless abundance.
“There is no gain saying that large volume of cars ply this road. So, each time a vehicle applies break to either pick or discharge passenger, several other vehicles are made to queue behind it. Imagine what could happen and thousands of lives that would be lost if these insurgents take advantage of this soft target to strike. (God forbid).
“Shortly after the bomb explosion of April 14 and May 1, 2014, that caused the closure of the bus terminal, FCT administration officials led by the former minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, visited the scene, and promised to fix the place, and open the permanent motor park in Nyanya. But years after that promise was made, little has been achieved in that regard, except for the complaint that we kept hearing from government.”
But the Special Assistant (Media) to the Minister of FCT, Alhaji Sani Abubakar, debunked the allegation that the FCT administration deliberately refused to reopen the park. He explained that the FCT administration, using the limited resources at its disposal has intensified efforts to complete the permanent motor park in Nyanya to enable free flow of traffic:
“That terminal cannot be reopened for use as a motor park because it was never designated to be one at the first place. It was supposed to be landscaped, and flowers planted, to add to the beauty of the bridge.
“The only minor challenge that may delay the use of the facility is the access road to the new motor park which is about 500 meters. It was during the assessment tour that the minister discovered that the contract for the access road was not contained in the initial contract agreement. But he has ordered that all paper works should be completed, and the contract awarded so that work can be completed same time with the new motor park.”