Pedestrian bridges are created to avert skyrocketing incidences of people who lost their lives after being knocked down by fast-moving vehicles on major roads, and to stop the staggering statistic of road users who sustain perma- nent injuries sequel to the non- availability of means to cross ma- jor roads. It is also giving succour to wheelchair users who are ac- customed to sharing the road and battling automotive traffic while trying to cross the road; though not enough pedestrian bridges (also known as footbridges) are consistently built by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) across major roads, espe- cially at the city centres, enough to provide a safe mode of passage for cyclists and walkers and to en- rich the area.
Money spent on building the pedestrian bridges are huge to en- sure that it provides a safe mode of transit for residents that do not interfere with other traffic on roads or waterways. However, LEADERSHIP Weekend observed that a large population of the pe- destrians in the city and its satel- lite towns were sighted standing beneath the pedestrian bridges or some metres away from them struggling to cross safely, without using the bridges.
Ultimately, human life is sac- rosanct and valuable, just as the costly consequences of not using a pedestrian bridge have been
unimaginable, the primary rea- son why the bridges were con- structed beyond making the na- tion’s ‘gem city’ a lovely and safe ‘haven’ for many. Sadly, the acci- dent and emergency care unit of a typical Nigerian hospital are usu- ally flooded daily with patients having horrific tales of being hit by a moving vehicle while cross- ing highways underneath where these pedestrian bridges are lo- cated.
Investigations by LEADER- SHIP weekend unravelled rea- sons residents in the nation’s cap- ital prefer crossing the highways to using the pedestrian bridges, one of the prominent features of FCT Abuja sited some me- tres away from major junctions. Some of the pedestrian bridges are spread across densely popu- lated residential areas like Area 3, NICON Junction, Lugbe, Gwarin- pa, Kubwa, Dutse junction, FCT suburb like Mararaba among oth- er areas with a successful design aimed at providing a safe mode of transit for pedestrians that doesn’t interfere with other traf- fic on roads.
LEADERSHIP Weekend find- ings show that most people pre- fer crossing the busy expressway directly rather than using the pedestrian bridges, either be- cause of the distance to get to the bridge, or fear of being attacked by hoodlums that use the bridg- es as bate to get their victims and dispossess them of their valua- bles. It was observed that most of
the bridges in the FCT have been grossly abused and used for oth- er purposes other than what they were constructed for.
Most of the pedestrian bridg- es in the FCT do not have elec- trical power network supply, or are not adequately illuminat- ed. Meanwhile, for the few that have sections where persons liv- ing with disabilities (PLWDs) can use their wheelchairs, it has been turned to public toilets where us- ers and beggars answer the call of nature when they are pressed, which has made it impossible for PLWDs to use them.
Reports received by our cor- respondents revealed that there have been endless claims of theft and rape perpetrated by hood- lums on the bridges at nights, but, during the day, everything looks normal and natural, with scanty numbers of pedestrians using some of the bridges, with little or nobody anticipating any criminal act at that time of the day.
When LEADERSHIP Weekend spoke with some residents of the nation’s capital on why they pre- fer crossing over the busy roads on foot rather than using the pe- destrian bridges, they harped on the danger of passing through pedestrian bridges, especially at night.
“My phone was forcefully col- lected from me at gunpoint by hoodlums on Kubwa Bridge. Af- terwards, I received a debit trans- action alert via email at night, af-
ter several attempts to reach my bank’s customer care service us- ing my wife’s phone failed.
“I do not know how the crim- inals got my pin or the phone password. Sadly, I just received my salary, and they withdrew all the cash in my account using a POS. Even though I still use the pedestrian bridge to cross safely to avert being hit by a moving ve- hicle, the memories of how I was robbed on this bridge can’t be eas- ily forgotten.”
This is the sad story of Samuel Ugobo, a 37-year-old private se- curity operative who resides in Kubwa, who lost N42,000 and his phone in just one night while using the pedestrian bridge to cross safely.
Another resident who is a civ- il servant, Ms Catherine Danladi, while narrating why she stopped using the bridge, said she saw a trail of blood on one of the bridg- es while on her way to work in the morning. She was of the view that someone must have been at- tacked on the bridge as the blood- stain was still fresh.
“Since the day I saw that trail of blood, I have not been able totakeitoutofmymind.Ino longer have the self-assurance to cross safely through the pedes- trian bridges alone, even during the day. I have heard a series of sad stories of how people were attacked on pedestrian bridges at night, just to steal from them.
I heard of how a young woman was almost raped by some hood- lums who took her phones, mon- ey and other valuables. They al- most succeeded if not for the arrival of some police personnel that rescued her. But she was not lucky enough, as they ran away with her valuables,” she said.
A student from Edo State sell- ing wares at Nicon Junction pe- destrian bridge, who preferred to be addressed as Nosa, explained that they had, on several occa- sions, heard the report of how young ladies became victims to hoodlums on the bridge. He said that the hoodlums mostly target females who they believe do not have the strength to fight back when attacked.
Nosa said that sometimes in August 2020, they heard that two girls were raped on the Ni- con Junction Bridge, when they appeared unwilling to let go of their valuables and wanted to fight back. He said that on most occasions the hoodlums were more than three in number, to ensure that they were successful in their operation.
“Sometimes, when they want to operate, they come to those of us selling late on the bridge and force us to leave, telling us that it is late already. With their knives, they attack any person that tries to stop them. They also usually steal our wares. Most times, we close for the day on sighting them. Ma- jorly, their targets are females, even if the women are walking in numbers on the bridge at night, they will attack them and dispos- sess them of their mobile phones, money, wristwatches, and other valuables.
“The truth is that the pedestri- an bridges are always dark in the night. There is no way somebody can be safe. Like you know, evil thrives mostly in the dark, that is why the hoodlums make use of the dark places around the pe- destrian bridges to perpetrate evil on innocent victims who cannot cross the expressway. Sometimes, I wonder why the FCT authori- ties would construct pedestrian bridges without installing elec- tricity light on them to discour- age criminal tendencies at night.
“I am of the view that if there were constant electricity light on Abuja pedestrian bridges, it would go a long way in reduc- ing crimes recorded daily on the bridges at nights. Also, there should be uniformed police pres- ence stationed at the pedestri- an bridges at night to discourage hoodlums from committing evil, because if they see uniform po- lice around the bridges, they will be scared,” he said.
However, despite the security challenges faced on the pedestri- an bridges at night, most people see some of the bridges, especially those located near popular junc- tions as big markets to buy and sell during the day.
Some popular pedestrian bridges turned markets are that of Galadima bridge, along the Kub- wa expressway, Dei-Dei junction bridge and Mararaba bridge. For Mararaba bridge, it has been overtaken by beggars of all sorts and pickpockets. Household items of various kinds are sold on these bridges, ranging from food, clothing, to cheap mobile phones, phone accessories, and others.
The business activities on the bridges make it always crowd- ed, and the pedestrians can only navigate through the narrow space left by traders who display their wares on a better part of the bridge. To avoid chaos, some pe- destrians would decide to avoid the crowd and opt to cross over the major roads, instead of using the bridges.
Mrs Salami Ephraim, one of the pedestrians that use the bridge on a daily basis, said that the activi- ties of traders on the bridge make it difficult for people to have free movement, calling on the FCT transport secretariat to do some- thing about the development.
“The way people do things in Abuja most times, it is as if there is no government in place to en- sure sanity. How can a bridge meant for people to cross major roads be turned to market? We find it difficult to use the bridg- es at night because of hoodlums, and during the day we find it dif- ficult to use them because of beg- gars, traders, as well as the corre- sponding buyers who patronise them.
“I think that the government should do something about this situation. They should not only concentrate on sanitising the major roads, but they should also look at the pedestrian bridges that have been converted to mini markets and ensure that they correct the anomalies. Bridg- es are meant to be walkways and not business centres.
“It is because of the abuse of pedestrian bridges by people that made a promising young lady lost her life some weeks ago while crossing the ever-busy Area 3 expressway. She had just left her house at Area 2 on a Sunday even- ing to meet her relative who was visiting Abuja for the first time. It was on their way back, that she got knocked down. The person she had gone to receive, being young- er, was able to cross faster and so escaped death by a whisker,” she said.
However, while some residents detest using the bridge because of their experience, some residents have a strong conviction about their safety so use the bridges, no matter the time of day. For a resi- dent of Lugbe, Ibrahim Abdullahi, he said he uses bridges any time of the day for his safety, adding that he has never been attacked.
According to him, “I make use of most pedestrian bridges in the FCT. I don’t like crossing over the road. I am sure of my safety when- ever I am using the bridges. I have used the Nicon Junction bridge, Lugbe bridge, among others. I make use of these bridges no mat- ter the time of day.”
Speaking further, he said al- though he had heard of incidences where people were robbed while using the pedestrian bridges, he still preferred using them. How- ever, he urged residents to keep using the bridge, most especially during the day time.
“I have witnessed cases where pedestrians are being crushed by oncoming vehicles. It is always a sad view. Although most residents also complain that the bridges are located far away from the junc- tion. I still believe that it is safer and in a way help to burn down some calories,” he added.
Mr Godfrey Ikechuckwu, a so- cial analyst, holds that the author- ity of the FCT has a lot to learn from Lagos State when it comes to the enforcement of the main- tenance and usage of pedestrian bridges.
“When you visit Lagos, you will see the Lagos State Traffic Man- agement Agency (LASTMA) eve- rywhere, making sure that traffic laws are not violated by anybody. If anybody dares to violate the laws, either by wrong parking, the crossing of busy expressways, and selling on the pedestrian bridges, that person must be ready to pay huge fines. That is why they al- ways say in Lagos, that the fear of LASTMA is the beginning of wisdom.
“You dare not cross the road an- yhow, and drivers do not just stop at any point they want along the road either to drop or pick pas- sengers. There are designated bus stops and pedestrians take the bridges. But in Abuja, even when there are barricades to pre- vent people from running across
the roads, in a few days, they are broken,” he said.
Ikechukwu explained further that in Lagos, there are laws back- ing whatever enforcement made by the LASTMA and once some- one is caught violating the laws by crossing the road, he or she will bemadetopayafineorsentto prison; but in Abuja, there are no such laws.
“The absence of an enabling law to try certain offences in the FCT could be because the federal ter- ritory, unlike other states of the nation, has no legislative house of its own, hence the Federal House of Representatives also serves as the law making body for the FCT, one of the reasons for the delay in the quick enactment of neces- sary laws.
“I believe that if proper traf- fic laws are enacted in the FCT, and more people are forced to use the pedestrian bridges dur- ing the day and at night, the in- security recorded on pedestrian bridges would reduce, because of the crowd that would be using the bridges mostly at nights. The laws would strictly ban trading on bridges and stop the abuse by res- idents,” he said.
A trader who was seen crossing over the road, Mohammed Gam- bo, said he doesn’t feel comforta- ble using the bridges, because it takes about 10 minutes for him to reach, climb, and descend from the pedestrian bridge located at Finance Junction, in Wuye dis- trict, before returning to the junc- tion.
He said he was aware of the risk involved for not using the bridge, but stressed that he was used to crossing over the road as it took him less than four minutes to monitor vehicular movement and cross over the road.
Speaking further he said if the bridge was meant for them it would not be far from the junc- tion.
“I am of the opinion that those who constructed the bridges did not want pedestrians to use them. It is too far from the junction. The pedestrian bridge should be con- structed closer to the major junc- tion. It will also help in reducing incidences of pick-pocketing and phones snatching by hoodlums,” he added.
A senior official of Abuja Met- ropolitan Management Council (AMMC), who declined to men- tion his name, simply told LEAD- ERSHIP Weekend that there is a need for proper financing so as to ensure that residents use the bridges. He lamented that the ad- ministration lacked the needed re- sources and manpower to force Abuja residents to comply with the use of pedestrian bridges.
”What we are doing at the mo- ment is to provide barricade to discourage passers-by from crossing over the road, and this is amidst limited budget. The ad- ministration has done its part, and we urge FCT residents to continue using the pedestrian bridge,” he added.