Abdulwasiu Hassan — Abuja has some of the best-laid roads in Nigeria--multiple lanes, well spaced, wide and conducive to drivers roaring at top speed.
They are also the most dangerous roads in the country, according to the Federal Road Safety Commission.
"The crashes are in Abuja itself and all the roads leading into the city," said FRSC corps marshal Osita Chidoka at a public lecture in Abuja.
To get a sense of the dangers on the roads of the city, try crossing a major road. In fact, all roads in and out of the city are major.
The roads simply encourage top-gear drivers to floor their throttles.
Cars on four lanes bear down on you as you negotiate your way across. No zebra crossings to guide you, and no traffic lights.
It is a daily hair-raising experience for commuters, made worse by insufficient pedestrian crossings. Only few dot tens of kilometers of highways throughout the city.
The result is increasing number of crashes involving pedestrians and cars.
At least 30% of road crashes between 2007 and 2010 involved minibuses.
Four in every ten deaths within the period were also linked to them, totalling over 5,000 deaths.
Minibuses were also blamed for more than 27,000 road crash injuries.
The FRSC says even reducing crash in the Federal Capital Territory and neighbouring Kogi state by half could cause a serious reduction in crashes nationwide.
Hospital sources indicate hundreds of residents living the capital city are "brought in dead" to accident-and-emergency wards every years.
Years after the roads were constructed, the Federal Capital Development Authority, which administers the FCT, came under pressure to put up more pedestrian bridges on major roads.
They have come under recent flak for not being nearly enough. Without them, pedestrians have devised ways of dealing with Abuja's road traffic--crossing the lanes one at a time and in between vaulting over crash barriers mounted to separate the lanes.
They so do whether laden or not.
Construction began on six pedestrian bridges this September in efforts to improve safety levels on roads as part of the Safe Road Corridors Concept, said works minister Mike Onolememen.
The bridges are on:
Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway by Tafawa Belawa Way (Old Secretariat Junction)
Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway by Olusegun Obasanjo Way (Wuye Junction),
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)
Shehu Yar'adua Way by Kwali Way (Sheraton Junction)
Onolememen said the bridges could help reduce road crashes on Abuja's highways by as much as 50%.
The bridges are expected completed March 2013, six months after September.
They are funded by the World Bank, which is paying 90% of the contract sum, and the federal government, to pay 10%.
The first phase, involving four of the bridges, is estimated to cost $10 million.
But since September, according to the FCDA Transport Secretariat in charge of roads, the federal government's works ministry has taken over the project.
Head of the secretariat Jonathan Ivoke said the works ministry's takeover of the project meant FCDA could no longer take any decision on the number of bridges required and how they should be spaced to conveniently cover the stretch of highways they are meant for.
The works ministry has refuted the claims. It said roads in the FCT are the prerogative of the FCDA.
The ministry's public relations officer Theodore Ogaziechi told Daily Trust that the works ministry only agreed to FCDA's request for assistance in funding.
He said federal government funding covered only three of the bridges--sited at Area One, Sheraton Junction and Lugbe.
Ogaziechi said the ministry's involvement was limited to funding and excludes the location of the bridges, the intervals at which they are sited or any questions about them being sufficient for the intended purposes.
While both federal government and FCDA pass the buck between them, Abuja's millions of residents thronging in the streets daily must navigate treacherous traffic and hope to be careful enough not to get knocked down.