Narrow bridges

Taming Azara and other deadly bridges along the Kaduna-Abuja highway

The Azara Bridge straddles the Unguwan Jibo in Kagarko and the Azara Community in the Kachia Local Government Area in Kaduna State. Located along the long stretch of the Kaduna-Abuja highway, motorists say the narrow bridge is fierce during the rainy season and has claimed many lives due to its lack of a protective barrier. Daily Trust takes a look at the dark history of the bridge and current efforts to tame its thirst.

On Sunday, August 15, 2021, the remains of Jigawa State Liaison Officer in Abuja, Alhaji Suleiman Jazuli, and his driver were recovered from the river flowing under the famous Azara Bridge. With the help of a crane and local divers hired by Ibbi in Taraba state, the shuttle Landcruiser Jeep Jazuli and its driver was pulled from the flowing river.

Kaduna State Police Command previously said the duo were involved in a horrific car crash during a heavy downpour the previous Wednesday. Poor visibility was suspected in part to be responsible for the crash which caused the vehicle to spin around until it hit one of the plastic barriers and then tumbled onto the bridge. Because the water level was high and swift, the Landcruiser that dived was submerged.

The combined efforts of local divers, officials from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and fire departments who worked for days had little success until the arrival of divers from Taraba State who located the submerged vehicle.

The old Azara Bridge, although under the Jere Chiefdom in the Kagarko Local Government Area in Kaduna State, borders the Unguwan jibo in Kagarko and the community of Azara in the Kachia LGA. The bridge is narrow and protected by a plastic barrier since its original guardrails have failed due to accidents, wear and tear and vandalism. This, however, has made the Azara Bridge fierce and thirsty in recent years.

Motorists plying the Kaduna-Abuja highway say the bridge has claimed many lives and the river below has over the years become the final resting place for several vehicles.

Nurudeen Mohammed, commercial bus driver at Mando Motorcycle Park in Kaduna, said Daily trust on Sunday that several motorists have traced the Azara Bridge and another Rijana front bridge as two of the deadliest crash sites along the highway.

Mohammed, who transports passengers from Kaduna to Lagos, said the Azara Bridge is better dubbed the “killer bridge,” adding that most commercial drivers have mastered the art of being careful when approaching it. “The bridge is narrow and has no barrier but a few plastic slabs, the road also gets slippery when it rains. This location has been a source of concern for all motorists traveling on the Kaduna-Abuja highway, ”Mohammed said.

He said most commercial drivers have experience with the road as it is their usual route, but unfortunately private drivers, especially those new to the axis, may not be aware of the danger that awaits them.

“A truck and a compact vehicle cannot pass side by side because the bridge is narrow, one vehicle has to drag behind the other, which means that it is dangerous to try to pass on the bridge and your level of concentration must be at its maximum. peak, ”he said.

Additionally, Malam Idris Alhaji Altine, who carries newspapers from Abuja to Kaduna and Kano states, said that being constantly on the road, the Azara Bridge has over the years become a death trap for motorists. Altine said the bridge had iron gates, but over time the gates gave way due to wear and tear and large truck accidents.

“Just three weeks ago, I was passing through and saw people around the bridge. I was told later that a vehicle fell. About 10 years ago, an oil and gas industry manager, his son and his driver fell off the bridge and it was days before their corpses were discovered.

“During the search and recovery, approximately four other vehicles, including a J5, were recovered from the body of water below the bridge. It’s because sometimes accidents happen at night and people may not know it, ”he said.

He said, however, that another dangerous bridge is the one around Rijana which has caused many casualties, adding that the side of the Rijana bridge when traveling to Abuja from Kaduna has no barriers while the other lane of the bridge. on the return to Kaduna presents deadly potholes.

Speaking on the Azara Bridge, however, FRSC Kaduna State Sector Commander Hafiz Mohammed confirmed that most of the barriers were missing, leading to the use of plastic barriers. Mohammed said that bridges usually have handrails or barriers, adding that in the past iron barriers were used on bridges, then there came a time when aluminum barriers and concrete barriers were used. . “But today we are talking about lenient roads; a concept that minimizes the damage and consequences of a traffic accident on the vehicle and the occupant. So, recent engineering technology on roads envisions forgiven roads instead of aluminum or concrete barriers, there are bouncing plastic barriers.

“If a vehicle hits it, it’s supposed to bounce, however, in the last crash on August 11, 2021, when the Jeep Landcruiser hit one of those plastic barriers, instead of bouncing, it tipped over and plunged into the river, “he said.

He confirmed that local divers from Ibbi in Taraba state had been asked to locate the vehicle’s resting place in the river. “They tied a rope around and a crane was brought in to remove it and the two bodies were found dead and later the vehicle was also removed.”

The state sector commander, however, said he had reported to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing engineer in charge of the road for temporary measures to be taken, adding that concrete barriers are now in place. been placed on deck.

Engineer Usman Yakubu, deputy director of highways at the Federal Ministry of Public Works and Housing, said that from its inception, the bridge had guardrails, but after being vandalized, the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) installed plastic barriers to warn approaching motorists.

Engineer Yakubu, who is also the engineer representative on Section 1 of the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road, said some of the plastic barriers were knocked down in the river and after the award of the road project, the barriers had been painted and placed on the bridges to alert approaching vehicles.

He said that with the ongoing expansion of the road, bridges along the highway would either need to be enlarged or dismantled to make way for new ones that will match the weight of the new pavement. He said, however, that this was not part of the current contract.

“Some of the bridges even have structural flaws, like the one in Azara, due to the activity of people taking sand from the river, the foundation of the bridge is exposed but due to the high water level you won’t can’t see it now. So eventually there may be a new contract for the bridges, we may have to dismantle them and have new ones. “

Ing. Yakubu said warning signs will also be installed so motorists know they are approaching the bridge. On the other bridges near Rijana, Eng Yakubu said contractors have been tasked with examining bridges with the same challenge, so that concrete barriers can also be placed for remedial action.

“These are temporary measures,” he said, adding that when the project is completed, the bridge will be fitted with modern safety designs to ensure safer travel, “he said.

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