30 November 2012

Nigeria: City in Need of Pedestrian Bridges


The FCT authorities move to build some pedestrian bridges, but residents say that there is need for more.

It was a bloody morning at the area three junction of the Nnamdi Azikiwe expressway. The tears could not help but flow from the eyes of all those that witnessed the accident.

A group of pedestrians attempting to cross the road on one side of the wide expressway had crashed into another group coming from the other side. In the ensuing melee that happened, an elderly man had been pushed to the hard ground of the highway.

In a split second he had leapt up to vault the remaining meters to safety. But, alas, perhaps due to old age, he was not fast enough as an oncoming vehicle had hit him as he made to jump clear. In a matter of minutes he has become a crumpled pile of flesh in the nearby drainage where he had fallen. The frightened driver takes one look at the bloody state of affairs, quickly steps harder on the throttle and speeds off obviously to avoid the subsequent mob action that would have erupted. Slowly in the early morning haze, residents, many on their way to work gather round the body. A bold youth walks up to the accident victim to feel for a pulse pointing to life. Fortunately, there is one. There is equally no serious head injury. But a look at the crushed arms and legs speak volumes. Here lay a victim who may never make use of his legs again.

On many highways across the capital city, incidences like this are commonplace. Accidents involving pedestrians attempting to cross such massive roads in the absence of pedestrian bridges or footpaths are regular in places, especially where there is high human and vehicular density, and many public and private organisations. It is also not out of place to see groups of pedestrians from either side of the highways crashing into one another in such areas, with the resulting casualties leading to mortality at times. Residents especially decry the slow response of the city administrators to providing pedestrian bridges and walkways in specific areas of the slowly expanding city.

A resident who witnessed a similar accident has this to say about the situation of things, as regards the lack of adequate bridges to assist pedestrians who cross these numerous roads on a daily basis. 'It is saddening to say that the pedestrian in Abuja is left at the mercy of motorists, many of whom are untrained. The most dangerous road that has claimed many lives is that one that passes the area one axis of the city. Many people have lost their lives there. I have a friend that is currently in the hospital after being hit by a motorist when crossing the express. I think the government should study the areas of the city where people need these bridges and build them immediately, to avoid further carnage on our roads,' she enthuses.

According to a report from the Asokoro General Hospital, Abuja between January and December 2011, 289 victims were hit on such highways in the city and were recorded as 'brought in dead', BID. Out of this figure, 159 were female and 130 were male. The authenticity of the report posted online could not be ascertained however, as at press time. But a cross section of residents spoken with and various news reports, point to the fact that many lives have been lost on the highways of the city due to lack of these essential infrastructure.

Enenche Elisha, a painter, agrees that the loss of lives could be mitigated through prompt government intervention: 'the construction of these bridges will greatly reduce the number of casualties especially on this area one road. I have seen many serious accidents on this road since people have to cross the road everyday in the absence of an overhead pedestrian bridge. The government has finally woken up to its responsibilities as they have started to build one here. If people now decide not to make use of the bridge and get hit by motorists, then it is no longer the government's fault.'

Perhaps after spirited outcry by concerned residents, the FCT administration has commenced the erection of about 6 pedestrian bridges in areas they say have high human and vehicular population. In a comment on its official website, the minister Bala Mohammed stated that a joint effort between his administration, the World Bank and the federal government will see to the completion of the projects. "Our determination in this regard cannot and will not in the least be compromised, because the lives of our citizens (pedestrians) crossing these roads are vital for our socio-economic renewal and indeed national transformation," the minister said.

According to him, "the collaboration between the World Bank and the Federal Government in financing this project at a ratio of 9:1 respectively under the Road Sector Development Team of the Federal Ministry of Works, is therefore imperative and represents the way forward for all critical infrastructure in line with the Federal Government's policy of promoting partnership with multi-lateral and private sector financiers."

Findings reveal that the World Bank has approved $10 million for the project. According to the minister of works, Architect Mike Onolememen, the areas covered include locations with high pedestrian traffic: Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway by Tafawa Balewa Way, Old Secretariat Junction and Namdi Azikiwe Expressway by Olusegun Obasanjo Way, Wuye Junction. Other locations he said include Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway by Ahmadu Bello way, Banex Junction, Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway by Shehu Shagari Way, NICON Junction, Shehu Yar'Adua Way by Okonjo-Iweala Way, VIO Mabushi Junction and Shehu Yar'Adua Way by Ladi Kwali Way, Sheraton Junction. The bridges to be constructed in this phase are awarded by the government to Messrs Dutum Company Ltd, Rural Steel Bridging Ltd and Enerco Nigeria Ltd with a contract period of six months each, the minister said. A visit by the reporter to some of the locations reveals that work has started in earnest.

Meanwhile, residents urge the government to look at the city as a whole, in order to note other areas where such structures are needed. Philip Daniel, a technician tells Daily Trust: 'it is a step in the right direction for this administration. People have been dying on some of these roads for quite a while, due to the absence of pedestrian walkways. They should look at other areas where they are needed. They should equally go a bit forward by erecting barriers between the different lanes so that anyone who attempts to cross the express lane, even after seeing the pedestrian bridge will not be able to do so. That is what is done in places like Lagos where pedestrians who cross the express, are punished by law.'

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