Commuters on the Abuja-Keffi expressway are having their worst traffic days again. The time loss to the endless gridlock means economic losses to the millions of residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCTA) and Nasarawa State, which bears the brunt of the decades-long monster. ABAH ADAH reports.
The long stretch of gridlock that commuters experience along the Abuja-Keffi Highway on a daily basis is usually very bad at this time of the year with all the attendant economic losses.
For close to three weeks now, commuters along the way have been enduring the tortuous moments in the belief that this time will soon pass away for them to return to the normal traffic they are used to. The one that happened very recently, Friday August 31, 2018 following an all night downpour that later thinned down to showers from the seemingly tireless cloudy sky, caused many who could not bear to drive or sit in a vehicle for more than three hours, when going to their places of work or business, to retire home hopelessly at different points.
Having paid the exorbitant opportunistic fares being charged by commercial bus owners, some commuters, who own their own cars, felt the productive part of the day was already spent on the road, hence it was no use enduring further, turned back home.
Ordinarily, from Abuja to Keffi or the reverse ought to take, even with all the normal road delay factors, at most 45 to 50 minutes depending on one’s final destination, while those within the community clusters at different points could make it even in less than 20 minutes, all things being equal.
Cornelius Abogonye, a civil servant, who was one of the motorists trapped in the hopeless traffic; said he lives at Kuchikawo and in a bid to beat any traffic build up to attend to his tight schedule of activities for that day, on that day, took to the road in the morning at a quarter to 6am, “and by 10am, you can see I am still here at Abacha road with no ease in sight for the traffic.
“When do I get to the office to work and come back?” he asked. He wondered why the same attention given to the Abuja-Kubwa Express couldn’t be given to the Abuja-Keffi, which according to him, serves a more overwhelming population. “Our governments have not tried at all,” he said.
Mrs Gloria Agbara was making a turn back at the “Sharp Corner” roundabout when LEADERSHIP Friday met with her. “There is no need going further,” she said,
“I’ve already lost the day, that of today is the worst I have ever seen. I’ve been in this traffic for three hours now and it is almost 11am already, and I am tired. The most annoying part is that even as it is now, there is no end in sight. We are suffering. Let the government come to our aid, even if that is the only thing this administration would do for us,” she added.
At 12noon, the gridlock still persisted, especially around Building Material to Check Point in Mararaba, Nasarawa State.
A passenger on a commercial bus, Moses Aondo, said he joined the bus from One-man village in Karu LGA of Nasarawa State to Area 11, Abuja at the cost of N200, “which is unusual and exploitative, only to get stuck in the traffic”.
A commercial bus driver, Andrew Smart, told LEADERSHIP Friday that they (the drivers) are not happy with the situation as it is not at all to their advantage as being believed in some quarters.
He said what is called opportunistic high transport fare does not balance their account at the end of the day. “You will agree with me that if this hold up is not there, before noon I would have run Wuse to-and-fro at least up to three, four times. But that is impossible now,” he said.
The Keffi-Abuja Road constructed many years ago, is 50km from Keffi in Nassarawa State to AYA in Federal Capital Territory. The road is the major link between the FCT and some states in the north central and north eastern zones like Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba, Adamawa Statee inclusing some states in the south east.
Major communities along this road, or along secondary routes serviced by it, with dense population of workers as a large number of the people who flock to the capital city on a daily bases in search of greener pasture reside in them, include: Nyanya, Karu, Jikwoi, Kurudu, Orozo, Mararaba, One-man-village, Ado, Asu, New New Nyanya, Nyanya Gwandara, Masaka, Kurudu, Orozo, Kuchikau, Uke among others all in Nasarawa State and the FCT.
Various factors have been identified by observers to be responsible for the ever-worsening traffic situation on the road. Following the demolition of the so-called illegal structures in parts of the FCT, especially the low brow areas of Karimo, Gwagwa among others, without any arrangement for alternative settlement for the dislodged residents who were mostly low income earners, most of them that were left with what remained for them after demolition, found home along the axis.
Apart from that, so many who were once tenants, paying very exorbitant rents in Abuja, have managed to build their houses in areas where they can afford land and the cost of building; Abuja-Keffi axis has a lion share of this number.
The proximity of the areas like Karu, Nyanya, Mararaba and adjoining areas to the Central Area, which is the hub of governmental and business activities, makes them attractive to those who flock to Abuja on a daily basis. Given this scenario, it is common sense that the dual carriage built years ago, can no longer serve adequately; expansion or plurality of lane is long overdue.
Some experts have opined that what could be attributed to outliving of lifespan, the road itself no longer enjoys the smooth, but tired, broken and in worse cases potholed asphalt surface that inhibit free flow of traffic in some parts. Between Kugbo in the FCT and Mararaba in Nasarawa State, is where much of the problem lies. In the morning when going to work, as one approaches the Mararaba Junction from the Keffi end, the traffic begins to crawl and thickens to a standstill as you negotiate the dogleg, popularly called Sharp Corner, through the Building Material stretch of the road onward. In the evening, it begins after Mogadishu Barracks in the FCT and at the worst times, especially wet days, commuters begin to experience the jam from AYA, FCT. The section of the road between “Sharp Corner” and Mopol Junction in Nasarawa State remains the poorest side of the road ahead of the Kugbo bend.
Most portions around this area, especially within the stretch of the building material market, are out of the normal shape befitting of a highway. At some points, muddy masses scooped from the side gutters are heaped at the roadside as stores of sand get to deface the asphalt as the rains lash at it, making it to spread and settle on the road surface as sediments.
The officials of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) have been seen severally carrying out maintenance works, yet to no avail as the interventions never endured.
Over the years, hopes for the people were hinged on rumours making the round that the road had been contracted out for expansion and lane pluralisation works; but these have continued to grow into despair as nothing tangible has happened.
Efforts made by LEADERSHIP Friday to get an update on what is being done at the moment to ameliorate the plight of commuters along the Abuja-Keffi axis from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing (Works Department) proved fruitless.
However, a senior director, who spoke under anonymity, said the Abuja-Keffi corridor is not on their responsibility list for attention. According to him, “That road is a World Bank-assisted project being undertaking by the Road Sector”. He however acknowledged that the road sector is under the ministry as a unit.
I’ve been in this traffic for three hours now and it is almost 11am already, and I am tired. The most annoying part is that even as it is now, there is no end in sight. We are suffering. Let the government come to our aid…a
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