BY Emeka Odom
….. there is no place within the FCT and environs that reminds anyone of life in the slums of Lagos more than the Mararaba-Nyanya corridor along Abuja-Keffi Road. It is an anarchic axis shared by the FCT Administration and the Nasarawa State government.
Even before 5am, the lengthy traffic gridlock that occurs on Nyanya axis of Abuja-Keffi Road would have started building up. The hooting from cars and heavy duty vehicles are the wake up alerts for most residents who live along the long stretch of the corridor. The howling out of bus stops/transport routes by conductors and the humming sounds from commercial motorbikes whose riders willfully ply against the flow of traffic and further scare the daylight out of pedestrians with blasts from horns of trailers and trucks they connect to their bikes add to the bedlam.
A bike operator by name, Musa, said the reason for changing his motorcycle’s horn to that used by lorries is to avoid intimidation by cars and other vehicles drivers and to cause intimidation himself. A combination of all these and more are the hallmarks of the ever-choked AYA-Nyanya–Marraba-Keffi Highway.
This area of the federal capital territory comes with peculiarities. From Nyanya, the last satellite town in the FCT enroute Auta Baalefi in Nasarawa State, is about 10 kilometres along the Abuja–Keffi Expressway. It boasts of a high population density along the two arms of the road. The place equally is a huge market for just about all kinds of wares. Given the population, the disorder and the choking environment, the corridor easily reminds a first time visitor to the area who is familiar with Lagos of the slums of Lagos, such as Ajegunle, Oshodi, Agege, Bariga and Mushin.
Every minute of the day, from 5am to 11pm the place is busy and riotous. Given the nature of the corridor, it is only natural that it would be a hotbed for crime and criminal activities. From snatching of phones, cars, pocket-picking to high noon robberies and rape, anti-social elements, aided by the ever heavy human and vehicular movements as well as long traffic gridlocks which often stretches more than five kilometres, making movements in this area very cumbersome and stressful continuously have field days,
For those who operate cabs and taxis in the FCT, this axis is a no-go area, because it has everything to ruin the day of all those who operate with time.
Given this scenario, motorcycle and tricycle operators are the best favourites of residents of tis corridor.
One more bizarre feature of this area given its traffic complexion is that it is a place where traffic rules do not exist or matter to anybody, even the law enforcements, who watch idly as road users flagrantly take laws into their hands.
For this reason, motorcycle and all manners of road accidents occur with alarming regularity. Apart from the ever-busy express road, which is fraught with gapping potholes and all other signs of wear and tear, all the feeder roads and arteries, from Nyanya to Masaka, are in run down shape which makes one think that this corridor, though part of the responsibility of two governments, does not feature in the programmes of either that of the FCTA and or Nasarawa state government.
The corridor eloquently speaks of absence of urban planning. There is no provision of potable water and no clear cut and proper street/house naming/numbering formula for proper identification and navigation.
It should be noted, however, that in all of these areas, only Nyanya though falls within the FCT Administration, Mararaba, Masaka and the other areas along the Abuja-Keffi corridor are all in Nasarawa State, but the entire place practically share the same fate in terms of infrastructural and social neglect and decay.
In most of the streets, there is the absence of gutter and proper drainage system and where they exist, they are blocked by refuse. Apart from the everyday throwing of refuse into the narrow gutters, the residents have a practice of discharging their wastes into the gutters and onto the roads when it is raining, leaving the water in the gutters stagnant and stinking.
Just like what one would find in Mushin, Ajegunle or Bariga in Lagos, residential houses are erected without sparing thoughts for the comfort of the-would-be occupants- rooms in this area are not well ventilated and most of the houses are mere shanties- making the place fertile for epidemics and spread of communicable diseases.
Perhaps, what baffles the curious mind is what really attracts the large number of residents that live in thisaxis, and what is it that has kept some people constantly attracted to this chaotic area of the FCT where life and living are clearly at variance with the serene, peaceful and well-structured life in the capital city area of Abuja? Why have people continued to pour in daily into this slum area which now boasts of a population far more than can be found in any of the satellite towns of the FCT. In spite of the absence of social amenities and basic infrastructure, people on a daily basis, pay house rents and struggle to occupy apartments in this area.
While rent and cost of food stuff is relatively cheaper here, Chief Aweka, who hails from the Niger Delta, but has spent over 30 years in the area, “This area of the FCT is far better than other areas like Gwa-gwa, Karmo, Mpape or Lugbe. The reason is because FCDA cannot disturb you here as this place falls under Nasarawa State.” Other residents attest to the fact that residents of the area are free from FCDA regular harassments.
Another reason is that the area has semblance of the typical Lagos setting where all ethnic groups live in a communal lifestyle. According to Oga Duru, as he is popularly known around Kabaye area of Mararaba, “We feel at home here, and all Nigerians live as one without discrimination of Ibo, Hausa, Idoma, Yoruba, etc.”
Given the hassles and stress residents of this area pass through in accessing transport as well as the long hours they spend on traffic to and from their various places of work in the city; most of them actually wake up as early as 4 am in order to beat the traffic and meet up with resumption time in the office, and equally come in as late as 10 or even 11pm in the night and this routine goes on daily except on weekends, how does it impact their health, psyche, relationship with their spouse/family bonding as well as other social engagements.
According to Dr Tijani, a social psychologist, the continuous stress and near absence of the man at home, since he has to leave home that early and come back late, many times after the children must have gone to bed, will greatly hamper the sustenance of a healthy family bonding and relationship. In that case, according to him, his children only see him on weekends and public holidays,
“What about if he has to travel or work weekends”, he queried. The social psychologist asserts that “We have been confronted by this phenomenon every now and then, and we have strongly advised people, especially family people, men and women, to prioritise their time and not sacrifice the time that is required for family bonding and relationship for professional excellence. We have several cases of infidelity and extra-marital affairs because the man is not available to perform his duty and when he is around, he is tired and fagged out because his health is affected by the stress of traffic and work”.
On the part of Rev Akor, a marriage/relationship councilor, “As much as we recognise the need to engage in a meaningful economic activity in order to cater for the family, however, married couples must make themselves available to attend to the need of their partners, emotional needs is very primary.
“When a married person, whether man or woman, is always not available to fulfill his/her marital obligation, it puts the other partner under undue pressure, and that is not good, except on medical, health or travel cases”, he said.