Until 2012, there were few pedestrian bridges within the Abuja metropolis and some major satellite towns. But as the population of the city grew, many residents, apparently worried by the loss of lives of hapless residents as they crossed the wide, busy roads, intensified calls for more pedestrian bridges to be constructed at strategic places to aid pedestirian movement.
Iin a Swift response to this call, the former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Sen. Bala Moham-med, now governor’ of Gombe State approached the World Bank for financial assistance to construct pedestrian bridges in Abuja.
Some of the approved locations within the city centre were the popular Area 1, by Old Federal Secre-tariat junction, Finance junction in Wuye district and Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway, by Banex junction.
Others were built at NICON junction in Maitama district, VIO junction in Mabushi and Ladi Kwali Way by Sheraton Hotel, among others, along Kubwa and airport expressways.
Majority of them are now open for public use but sadly, some of these bridges have been abandoned to dust, grass and hoodlums that have turned some of them to safe havens for their criminal planning and execution.
LEADERSHIP Sunday observed that despite the growing number of deaths as a result of not using pe-destrian bridges, residents still prefer taking the risk to cross the roads, instead of utilising the pedes-trian bridges.
Some of the pedestrians might, perhaps, present plausible reasons for such a practise. It might be a fallout of the difficulties in getting to the bridge, distance to bus stops, physical strength, phobia for heights or other peculiar reasons.
Further investigation by our reporter identified the key reason behind the abandonment to that of security of pedestrians whenever they use the bridges, particularly during the early hours when work-ers are rushing to their various workplaces and the evening hours when they are returning from work.
During these hours, when visibility is drastically reduced, virtually all the roads in Abuja, some of which are a three and five-lane expressways, are extremely busy.and some of the drivers throw caution to the winds each time they are on the road.
Hoodlums, some of whom are armed with dangerous weapons, take advantage of the situation and carefully position themselves at the top of the bridges under the cover of darkness to dispossess inno-cent people of their belongings. Their targets are mostly women that might not have the physical strength to resist or challenge them. Some of the bridges where these sociopaths operate freely are:
Mabushi Express Pedestrian Bridge By Zankli Hospital, directly opposite the headquarters of Vehicle Inspectorate Office (VIO). It connects residents of Jabi/Utako Districts and Mabushi.The bridge is dan-gerous zone at night. This, at least, some LEADERSHIP Staff can attest to.
There is yet another one located just after Sheraton Hotel connecting Zone 4 and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Center at Central Area.
There is another in Abuja main town connecting Zones 3 and 4 just before the popular Police Station Wuse Market. Now, these are popular bridges that link people to various parts within Abuja metropo-lis.
The bridge which spreads across the heavily residential Zones 3 and 4 show signs of old age. It is poorly lit. Apart from adjourning houses, there are bank buildings and other business establishments around. Besides, there is also a stretch of dualised road linking the road with Julius Berger Junction and Central Area. This makes the bridge a must-use for any pedestrian who does not want delays by the traffic or crushed by a fast moving vehicle. Day time on the bridge gives a sense of security but evenings and nights instill fear.
Abuja-Kubuwa Express Way Pedestrian Bridge: In fact, when LEADERSHIP Sunday visited this bridge, it was a beehive of commercial activities. It was simply a market on the bridge. All kinds of wares were displayed. Pointed lines of light from all manners of Chinese lanterns and torchlight always attract a motorist’s eyes to the bridge.
The place parades more of Hausa petty traders. But in the dark cover of the night and the busy atmos-phere, subtle attacks, snatching of handbags, phones , wrist watches me them, , go on. This was ac-cording to sources. Some respondents told.our reporter that victims appeared unwilling to let go off their valuables were often stabbed while the ladies were raped..
University of Abuja pedestrian bridge
Until recently, the activities of hoodlums, particularly at the top of the pedestrian bridge in front of the university main gate in Abuja raised a lot of concerns. Several students, particularly ladies, have fallen victim to the goons.
Recall that some years ago, a 200 level student of History and Diplomatic Studies in the University of Abuja, Miss Simi Boyi lost her life to a speeding vehicle that knocked her down while she was trying to escape from some hoodlums that had accosted her shortly after alighting from a commercial vehicle enroute Abuja city centre.
Her death sparked outrage and angered other students. In registering their anger and dissatisfaction over the lukewarm attitude of the management of university towards the security of students, they blocked the Abuja International Airport highway, bringing activities there to a halt.
NICON /Banex Junction Pedestrian Bridges
Several lives have been lost at these junctions due to the unwillingness of residents to use the pedes-trian bridges there. They have equally brought down the barricades erected to prevent them from crossing the road.
LEADERSHIP Sunday observed that during rush hour on week days, Pedestrians from Kubwa, Gishiri, Mpape and neighbouring Maitama district use the route while a few others who are either in haste , cross the busy road carelessly.
While the lucky ones cross safely, the unlucky others get knocked down by oncoming vehicles as a result of either miscalculations or the carelessness of the drivers. The non-usage of the footbridges at the junctions has paved the way for beggars, smokers and other criminal elements to take up position at the bridges.
Wuye pedestrian bridge
It is unimaginable that despite daily fatalities on the Nnamdi Azikiwe expressway, which stretches from Julius Berger roundabout to Garki, all through Asokoro district, pedestrians, particularly traders in Wuye market and those resident in Wuye, still prefer crossing the road.
A pedestrian, Mazi Okechukwu Nnamdic said, “ our major challenge is that the bridge was positioned a bit far from the bus stop, where it would have been easier for them to use each time they alighted from public transportation.
LEADERSHIP Sunday observed that even the barricades erected by government have not stopped ad-amant residents from crossing the road, instead of using pedestrian bridges.
Area 1, Old Federal Secretariat pedestrian bridge.
This pedestrian bridge seems to be the worst hit by “lack of patronage.”
Like others, activities of hoodlums on this bridge is the major factor for it’s abandonment.
Miss Mimidoo Tyase who resides in Area 2 said she was robbed twice on the pedestrian bridge and on the.same.spot.
She said, “ I stopped using the bridge after being repeatedly robbed of my valuables. It happened at different days when I decided to use the pedestrian bridge after the close of work The road was so busy that I decided not to take the.risk to cross it. As I climbed the isolated bridge at that dark hour, I saw some young men at the top of the bridge. As I made to run back, they warned that I either coop-erate with them or risk being hurt.
Reacting to the presence of traders and beggars on some of the bridges, Civil servant, Mrs Adaore Emenike, said there is something about the situation that makes him uncomfortable. “I feel insecure about them because I see most of the beggars as kidnappers on the bridge.”
One could imagine that Abuja, being the seat of power, is well policed to prevent crimes, but hell no. The city, like many other cities in the country, has its black places.