Pedestrian bridges are built to avoid incidents of pedestrians who often lost their lives after being hit by fast moving vehicles on major roads. It has also helped reduce the staggering statistic of road users sustaining permanent injuries as a result of non-availability of pedestrian overpasses. The bridges have also brought relief to wheelchair users who are used to sharing the road and struggling with car traffic while trying to cross the road.
Although there are not enough pedestrian bridges built by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) on the main roads of the city centers, the money spent to build pedestrian bridges is enormous to ensure that ‘It provides a safe mode of transport for residents that does not interfere with other traffic on the road, unfortunately most of them are now used for other purposes.
LEADERSHIP Weekend observed that most residents stopped using the bridge and were seen standing under the pedestrian bridge or a few meters away from the bridges struggling to cross safely without using the pedestrian bridge.
“Ultimately, human life is sacrosanct and precious because the costly consequences of not using a pedestrian bridge have been unimaginable, the main reason bridges were built beyond making the city “precious “the nation a beautiful and safe ‘refuge’ for many,” said Gambo Dingyadi, a public affairs analyst.
Obviously, one would imagine that Abuja, being the seat of power, is well policed to prevent crime, but hell no. The city, like many other cities in the country, has its black squares.
When LEADERSHIP Weekend spoke with some residents of the Nation’s Capital about why they prefer to walk across busy roads rather than using pedestrian bridges, they emphasized the danger of crossing pedestrian bridges, especially at night.
“My phone was forcibly taken from me at gunpoint by thugs at Kubwa Bridge. Subsequently, I received a debit transaction alert via email overnight after several attempts to reach my bank’s customer service using my wife’s phone failed.
”I don’t know how the criminals got my PIN or phone password. Unfortunately I just got paid and they took all the money out of my account using POS. Even though I still use the pedestrian bridge to cross safely to avoid being hit by a moving vehicle, the memories of how I was robbed on this bridge cannot be easily forgotten,” did he declare.
This is the sad story of Samuel Ugobo. The 37-year-old private security guard who resides in Kubwa, lost N42,000 and his phone in a single night while using the pedestrian bridge to cross safely. His family suffered for an entire month while surviving on the support of friends and relatives until he was paid the following month.
Another resident who is a civil servant, Ms Catherine Danladi, while recounting why she stopped using the bridge, said she saw a trail of blood on one of the bridges as she walked to work in the morning. She said she was of the opinion that someone must have been stabbed on deck as the bloodstain was still fresh.
“Since the day I saw this trail of blood, I have not been able to get it out of my head. I no longer have the assurance of crossing pedestrian bridges alone in complete safety even during the day. I heard a series of sad stories of how people have been attacked on pedestrian bridges at night, just to rob them.
“I heard that a young woman was almost raped by thugs who took her phone, money and other valuables. She was almost being raped, if not for the arrival of some policemen who saved the lady from the hands of the thugs. But she was not lucky, because they ran away with her valuables,” she said.
A student from Edo State, selling goods on the Nicon Junction pedestrian bridge, who preferred to be called Nosa, explained that on several occasions they were told how young women were victimized thugs on the bridge. He said the thugs mainly target women who they believe lack the strength to fight back when attacked.
Nosa said she heard of an incident where two girls were raped on the bridge at Nicon Junction when they seemed unwilling to let go of their valuables and wanted to fight back. He said that in most cases the thugs are more than three to make sure they pull off the horrible operation.
“Sometimes when they want to operate, they come to us late on the bridge and tell us to leave that it’s already late, so we should close. If any of us try to argue with them, they will attack this person with knives and even will steal our goods. Most of the time we have to close for the day if we see them. Mainly their targets are mostly women, even though the ladies are walking in numbers on the bridge at night, they attack them and rob them of their cell phones, money, wristwatches and other valuables.
“The truth is FCT’s pedestrian bridges are always dark at night, there’s no way anyone can be safe. As you know, evil mostly thrives in darkness, that’s why thugs take advantage of the darkness around pedestrian bridges to perpetrate evil on innocent victims who can’t cross the highway Sometimes I wonder why the FCT Minister would build pedestrian bridges without putting electric lights on them to discourage criminal trends at night.
“I am of the opinion that if there were lightning on the pedestrian bridges in Abuja, it would go a long way in reducing the crimes recorded at night on the bridges daily. Also, there should be a uniformed police presence stationed on pedestrian bridges at night to discourage thugs from committing evil. Because if they see uniformed police around the bridges, they will be scared,” he said.
However, despite the safety issues encountered on pedestrian bridges at night, most people see some of the bridges, especially those near popular junctions, as great marketplaces for buying and selling during the day.
Some popular pedestrian bridges turned into markets are Galadima Bridge, along Kubwa Highway, Dei-Dei Junction Bridge and Mararaba Bridge. For the Mararaba bridge, it was overtaken by beggars of all kinds and pickpockets. Household items of all kinds are sold on these bridges ranging from food, clothes, cheap cell phones, phone accessories and others.
Commercial activities on the bridges always make it crowded, and pedestrians can only navigate the narrow space left by traders who spread their wares over a better part of the bridge. To avoid chaos, some pedestrians would decide to avoid crowds and choose to cross main roads instead of using bridges.
Surveys conducted by LEADERSHIP Weekend have revealed why residents of the nation’s capital now prefer to cross highways rather than use pedestrian bridges, with one of the main reasons being the long distance to get to the bridge or the fear of being attacked by thugs who use the bridges as a bate to obtain their victims and rob them of their valuables. It has been observed that most of the CTF bridges have been grossly abused and used for purposes other than what the bridges were built for.
LEADERSHIP Weekend also found that most pedestrian walkways in the Federal Capital Territory do not have mains power or adequate lighting. Meanwhile, for the few pedestrian bridges that have sections where people living with disabilities (PLWD) can use their wheelchairs, it has been transformed into public toilets where patrons and beggars answer the call of nature when pressed, which made it impossible for PLWD to use them.
Reports have also emerged that there have been endless allegations of robberies and rapes by thugs on the bridges at night, but during the day all seems normal and natural, with a limited number of pedestrians using some bridges, with little or no one anticipating any foul play at this time of day.
Ms. Salami Ephraim, one of the pedestrians who use the bridge daily, said the activities of traders on the bridge make it difficult for people to move freely, calling on the FCT transport secretariat to do something for the development.
Mr. Godfrey Ikechuckwu, a social analyst, opined that the FCT authority has a lot to learn from Lagos State regarding the enforcement of maintenance and use of pedestrian bridges.
“When you visit Lagos, you will see the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) everywhere, which makes sure that the traffic laws are not violated by anyone. If anyone dares to break the laws, whether by parking improperly, crossing busy highways, and selling on pedestrian bridges, that person must be prepared to pay huge fines. That’s why they always say in Lagos that fear of LASTMA is the beginning of wisdom,” he said.
Contacted, Public Relations Officer, Federal Capital Territory, Police Command, DSP Adeh Josephine urged the public to always report instances of harassment or theft at pedestrian walkways.
Adeh said the police needed the information to enhance security and ensure citizens went about their daily business without being harassed.
“I will immediately call the DPO whose locations are closed to pedestrian walkways to ensure they are increasing security around those locations.
“Everyone deserves the right to go about their daily lives without being harassed or intimidated.
“Please help me urge FCT residents to report instances of harassment to the police station immediately.”
She added that the police do not work in isolation as they need information from members of the public to protect them and ensure society is crime free.