SPECIAL REPORT: Pedestrian bridges in FCT: How safe for users?

By kayode olaitan

Guaranteed safety on roads across the country has been a recurring issue that arouses the concern of all citizens.

Concerned citizens also observe that although it is a responsibility of everyone to ensure that the roads are safe, the responsibility rests much on some agencies of government to enforce measures aimed at guaranteeing safety of road users.

Unarguably, accidents often occur on Nigerian highways, major roads in cities and other busy routes, resulting in loss of lives, vehicles and other property.

Similarly, citizens are concerned more about road safety official’s records of regular incidents of knock-down of people on the roads by vehicles.

Conscious of the huge danger of allowing pedestrians to cross the expressways governments at all levels construct pedestrian bridges where there are busy and link roads.

These bridges are to facilitate safe crossing of the roads by the people and avert the adverse consequence of people dying from knock-downs by vehicles.

To enforce the use of the bridges in various places they are constructed and ensure safety of the people, government at all levels, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) also enacted laws prohibiting crossing of the roads.

This notwithstanding, perceptive observers note that people avoid the bridges, taking a risk of crossing them no matter how short they are in distance.

Such pedestrians, however, give excuse for their actions such as it is quicker to walk across lanes of expressway than to take on the bridges, fear of attacks and robberies by hoodlums around the bridges, among others.

According to some of the residents in FCT, the security around the bridges is in short supply while they are not lit at night, somewhat serving as havens for the hoodlums.

Observers note that the non-use of the bridges by the people has increased the carnage on the expressways in FCT.

They says it is regrettable that people run the gauntlet of crossing the road even as the law absolves any motorist who knocks down anyone on a highway where a pedestrian bridge is provided of any liability.

They also note that people deliberately go on the “suicide mission’’ of crossing the roads because there is no enforcement of the law against the act.

Whatever may the excuse for crossing the roads where facilities are present, the police insist that that adequate security is provided around the bridges in FCT always to check attack on users.

Police authority says plain-cloth personnel are deployed at the bridges regularly to, not only provide security for users, but apprehend persons who cross the roads.

DSP Anjuguri Manzah, spokesman of police in FCT, explains that many persons suspected to be hibernating at the pedestrian bridges across the territory have been arrested at different times.

Although Manzah will not give statistics, he says most of the suspects are being prosecuted, saying: “We have made remarkable arrest which I don’t have the statistics now and that is why we have a decline in crimes around the pedestrian bridges.

“To the best of our knowledge the command has made tremendous efforts in providing security at all pedestrian bridges in the territory,’’.

He says the police always have operatives in plain cloth and in uniform on surveillance and to provide security at the bridges.

“We have our operatives in plain-cloth and uniform who patrol such areas to ensure that there is adequate security at these points.

“We are also collaborating with the public to create awareness on how to ensure their personal safety while using the bridges.

“We have also embarked on stop-and-search operation which has recorded several successes with the arrest of suspects with exhibits’’, he explains.

However, some pedestrians around some of the bridges insist that using the bridge can be tiring and time-wasting.

Mr Bitrus Nya, one of them, says “it is often faster to cross the highway than to go up the bridge; all you need to do is to be careful and know when to cross.

“People are always attacked on the bridges, especially at night and on the lonely ones — bridges.’’

Also, Mr Wole Afunja, a pedestrian around one of the bridges in FCT, says “people avoid the use of the bridges because some are located far from some junctions leading to areas where people reside.

“Beside this, some of the bridges were not electrified, thereby making people to avoid them at night.

A resident of Kubwa in FCT, simply identified as Hajara, says “I have seen people robbed on the bridges and have, therefore, continued to shun the use of any pedestrian bridge in Abuja or elsewhere in the country’’.

Apart from that, she says she has been cautioning people close to her on the danger of using the bridges.

Mr Kayode Opeifa, Secretary, Federal Capital Territory Transportation Secretariat, nonetheless, says the security at the bridges ought to be the responsibility of the police.

He also admits that the police have been providing adequate security for the users of the bridges in the territory.

According to him, the bridges are designed to enjoy lighting from street lights on the major roads where they were located.

“If you look at the bridges along Airport Road, Outer Northern Expressway (ONEX) –Kubwa Expressway — particularly the one at Charlie Boy/News Engineering, pedestrians are enjoying the light from street lights on the expressway.

“It is the same at Banex, Wuye and Area 3 bridges, where the street light illuminates the bridges, and that is why the people there go to the extent of selling wares on the bridges because of the light’’, he observes.

He, nonetheless, notes that the only time that the bridges can be without light will be when they street lights develop faults.

He says the maintenance and engineering departments of Federal Capital Development Authority have the responsibility over the street lights and have always ensured that all lights work at all times.

He, therefore, advises pedestrians to use pedestrian bridges when the need arises to cross the road.(NAN)