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Night Driving In Abuja: A Dangerous Adventure

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Deaths recorded from road accidents in Abuja at night compared to other states in the country are terrifying and the reasons, according to reports, are man-made writes EMAMEH GABRIEL.

In March 2018 a multiple car accident involving nine vehicles which left no fewer than 10 persons dead, and several others injured at the Nyanya axis of the Abuja–Keffi expressway at about 7:30pm was reported.

And in less than a month later in April, another accident occurred in Wuse 2, Abuja, at Banex Junction where four persons were also reported dead at 7pm when a truck believed to be loaded with sand lost control ploughed into three cars.

These are just pictures of two frightening examples among dozens of night related road accidents recorded in the FCT alone in 2018 even as the city continue to attract more people who troop in yearly to have the savour of the mania of night life in Abuja.

The son of a former Nigerian Minister had also had his life cut untimely in 2015 from the ugly trend of night driving in the FCT. Night driving in Abuja is one thing visitors to the nation’s seat of power will like to savour either for business purposes or for pleasure to relish the richness of the lush green gardens spread around the city and the smooth road network in the city.

As one of the most beautiful cities in Africa, Abuja continues to maintain the status of one of the most attractive centres for night crawlers who enjoy the city mostly at night because of its illuminating line-up of street lights cascading through the city bringing out its hidden beauty at night while welcoming visitors with open arms from airport road, Kubwa and Nyanya.

This of course continues to make it that centre of attraction for a good number of people who consider the city an irresistible woman in whose arms they would wish to be cuddled for its sheer hospitality.

The sophisticated and expansive road networks, which are mostly traffic-free at night and in the early hours of the day will of course, cause an inexperienced or careless driver to ride without being cautious that he or she has no spare life deposit at home.

But beyond the fascinating roads and serenity of the city, there is however a crawling monster (night driving) eating lives unnoticed. Night driving in Abuja has become a dangerous adventure for some Nigerians who have had one or two ugly experiences driving in the city at night.

Several investigations in the past have revealed accident-prone routes around the FCT to include the ever-busy Lokoja-Abuja high way, Keffi-Abuja axis, Kaduna-Abuja road plus the city centre roads.

According to the reports, there is hardly any day that passes without an accident in these flashpoints with attendant loss of lives.

Like a writer once asked residents of the FCT; ‘‘do you know that you are more likely to die from road accidents in Abuja than people residing in other parts of Nigeria?

He said as ‘‘surprising as it might sound to residents of the FCT and its environs, people are not prone to accident-related deaths due to bad roads; it is actually because the roads are too good.

This was contained in Nigeria Watch’s fourth report on violence in Nigeria between 2006 and 2014 which was presented to the public in Abuja in 2015.

The report had it that on a national level, the highest number of road fatalities collated was in Lagos, the most populated city in the country, but Abuja was more dangerous when compared to the number of inhabitants.

Another report released in 2017 by the NBC (?) and corroborated by Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Abuja recorded the highest number of road accidents in the second quarter of the year 2017.

However how many accidents and deaths have been recorded from night related road accidents in the FCT in the last one year?

To get first hand reports from motorists in the FCT, this reporter approached some motorists who have had at least 10 years’ experience driving in the FCT.

Onekep Andy, a resident in Jikowyi, one of the most populated satellite towns in Abuja said going by the careless driving in Abuja, particularly at night, it takes not only experience in driving to drive home safely but the grace of God.’

He said even if there are other factors leading to the ugly trend, he attributed most road accidents at night in the FCT to drunk-driving particularly during weekends and after night club hours.

‘‘Most of the accidents at night in Abuja, particularly in the city centre, are caused by people who go to clubs, drink and failed to be conscious of the fact that they are driving back home,” Andy said.

‘‘It should be on note that some are also caused by people who are visually impaired but yet drive at night thereby putting other people’s lives at risk. I almost ran into someone who carelessly crossed my part on the highway somewhere in Kubwa.

‘‘I was lucky that night that no car was closely coming behind me. I had to maneuver my way otherwise I would have killed or had the person badly injured”, said Andy who also noted that some of these accidents occur after rains most time the road is slippery and drive on speed.

Shola B., (full name withheld) a cab driver at Wuse, who also narrated his experience driving in Abuja roads at night, said most drivers in the FCT should be subjected to brain test.

Shola who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend in pidgin, said he had driven in Lagos as a cab driver before relocating to Abuja but he discovered that there are many unqualified drivers driving in Abuja.

Like him, Shola revealed that some of the drivers just relocated from Lagos after the ban on the popular ‘danfo’ buses by the Lagos State government and have yet to understand the road network in Abuja and so they have problem driving at night.

He said that taxi drivers and many other drivers in the FCT often flaunt road traffic rules deliberately, particularly at night when they know that traffic men are no longer in their position.

Asked if he has a driver licence, ‘‘Oga leave that one, we are not new on the road. Even police know us,” he replied with some level of confidence and indifference over possessing the one thing that qualifies him to drive.   

‘‘I have witnessed at least three or four road accidents; I mean ghastly ones at night in Abuja and almost on the same road and no less than 10 lives were lost and unfortunately a friend was involved in one of them,” said Ugbebor Fidelis a resident of Kubwa.

To him, people get carried away by the beauty of the road at night and drive with so much confidence as though they are the only ones driving on the road at that time.

‘‘People no longer obey traffic rules even in the presence of safety and police officers, you see them beat the traffic with speed resulting to fatal collision with the person coming from the other side of the road,” he said.

‘‘One of my experiences was caused by a careless driver who was driving above the normal speed limit and it ended up taking three lives at the spot with two others severely injured.”

Fidelis called for proper sanction on defaulters of traffic rules as handling such people with kid gloves will not deter others from doing same.

Mrs Danlami Gyang who shared her experiences said she had always tried to keep her head up while driving not only at night but always. She said in her case, she has been at the Nyanya traffic on two or three occasions caused by careless drivers who are in a hurry to overtake.

‘‘I think people need to be cautioned about the way they drive,” she said. “My car has been smashed from behind and by the side on two occasions and badly damaged. I had to force them to repair it for me because it was deliberate and carelessness on their part. No sorry about that.

‘‘People need to talk to themselves. Sometimes I wonder where and what they are running after as if they have another life somewhere. Some even drink before they drive and I think this is common among commercial drivers all over the country.”

Another road user, Solomon Umoru who plies the Nyanya-Karu road at night said he has never sighted the police in any of the traffic post after eight except for those who man check points in some parts of the FCT to check crime. He said, the Road Safety often leave most of the traffic prone areas before 7:30pm even when the roads are still congested.

While obedience to traffic rules and driving rules on the part of road users remain a big concern to the authorities, the Federal Road Safety Corps had in 2017 said it is introducing what it described as speed limit devices in commercial vehicles to reduce the crashes on the road as records have shown that most road accidents are mainly caused by commercial vehicles, it is not clear yet if the innovation has been enforced on targeted road users.

Efforts by LEADERSHIP Weekend to talk to the FRSC and the police through their spokesperson to get relevant information were fruitless.

It has however been suggested that road traffic managers take proactive measures against fatal accidents on the roads, by clearly marking the speed limits permitted on all roads within and around the FCT and placing adequate traffic signs at all strategic locations on the roads at night.

Two fundamental reasons, apart from drunk-driving, have been identified from several researches as mainly responsible for the ugly development in the FCT.

First, motorists in Abuja “drive faster” than people do in other states of the federation. This can be attributed to the fact that Abuja has larger avenues and fewer traffic jams than cities like Lagos and others like Kano.

The second reason is that Abuja roads are too good and that ironically poses huge risk to residents. But ultimately, it has much more to do with the attitude of residents to traffic rules than the good state of the roads.

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