15 December 2012

Nigeria: Uncompleted Pedestrian Bridge - BUK Students Live in Fear of 'Reckless Drivers'

Kano — Students at the old campus of Bayero University Kano (BUK) are raising renewed concerns over the government's failure to complete a pedestrian bridge, whose construction began after five students were killed by over-speeding motorists in the area, within three months.

The crushing to death of Maryam Uba, a student of Accounting and Auditing in September this year, sparked protests by the students of Bayero University Kano. The angry students blocked the BUK road, a vital transportation artery connecting Kano city to Gwarzo road where the varsity's new campus is located.

Maryam was said to be crossing to the other side of Kabuga junction from the other end of the BUK expressway on a busy Friday evening, when suddenly, a truck making a turn bashed into her. She died of excessive bleeding before she could get medical help while the truck driver fled, witnesses said.

Before Maryam, a final year student of Geography Fahd Auwal, fondly known among friends as 'Madobs,' was also crushed to death on the same road.

Another young lady, Khairat AbdulKadir, a level 200 student of Applied Zoology, was also sent to an early grave by an over-speeding vehicle while she was crossing the BUK road. She was said to have been left for almost 45 minutes before she was taken to the hospital, where she eventually died two days later.

Afterwards, two other victims died in similar circumstances on the same route, which many of the students branded a "corridor of death".

Piqued by the string of deaths and critical injuries recorded on the BUK expressway, hundreds of students took to the streets and demonstrated against what they called government's insensitivity to their plight.

The students lamented that late Maryam was the fifth victim to be killed by reckless hit-and-run drivers within only three months.

The angry youths waved placards and chanted slogans denouncing the government and school authorities, burned tires, and used buses to barricade the road, causing traffic gridlock for hours.

The protesters demanded for the installation of traffic lights, speed breakers and the construction of a pedestrian bridge by the government.

"We cannot continue to see our colleagues being killed by over speeding drivers without the government taking any action. Five of our colleagues were killed as a result of reckless driving on this road in this semester alone," Usman Musa Rano, the Student Union Government (SUG) President told Weekly Trust in Kano.

"We immediately demand the installation of traffic lights, the construction of speed breakers and pedestrian overhead bridge in the area otherwise we would be left with no choice but to continue shutting down this road until our demands are met," the union leader warned.

The rally was cancelled only after the Dean of Students' Affairs Professor Muhammad Badmus gave the infuriated students assurances that the varsity authorities would ensure their demands were met.

A week after the incident, the state government began to erect a pedestrian bridge few yards away from the main entrance of the varsity's old campus to the delight of students. But that delight came to naught when work on the bridge suddenly stopped.

When Weekly Trust contacted Rano, he said the students' union was told that the work was stopped because of the presence of an electric pole carrying high tension cables near the bridge.

"We were told that the pole needed to be removed from the location, because it would be dangerous for people to be crossing the bridge with electric cables close to their heads," he said.

However, several weeks later, the electric pole was seen still standing close to the half-constructed bridge, prompting fresh worries among students.

A student of Political Science, Audu Ahmad, said he was disappointed with the suspension of the bridge.

"Considering the speed with which the government started the construction, nobody thought it would stop just like that without any explanation. We are surprised why the work stopped when the road is becoming busier every day," he said.

"It will help if this pedestrian bridge is completed in time because it would end the difficulties we face crossing the road."

Another student Fatima Bashir said female students are particularly at risk of being crushed by reckless drivers because "we are not good at crossing the road."

"Sometimes, a lady can stand by the roadside for almost an hour waiting for the convenient moment to cross over to the other side of the road. If you notice, most of the victims of traffic accidents on BUK road are women," she observed.

Fatima said at times she had to seek for a male friend's assistance to cross the road. "But not all ladies would seek that kind of assistance from a man. You know some guys are not honest, the moment they help you cross, the next thing they would be asking is to become friends. That's why many of us would rather wait no matter how long it takes," she explained.

"Therefore, the government would save us a lot of hardships if they complete the pedestrian bridge. But they should make the structure transparent so that women would not be targeted for sexual assault by thugs, especially when it is dark," she noted.

Nonetheless, the Director of Civil Engineering at the state Ministry of Works, Engineer Marwan Ahmad Aminu, told Weekly Trust that the contractor handling the project has been given directive by the government to resume work on the bridge by last Friday or risk losing the job.

"It has been resolved at the state council meeting that if the contractor does not proceed with work on the BUK pedestrian bridge by Friday (yesterday), the contract would be revoked from him," he said.

A source at the ministry who gave insight into the issues that stalled the bridge said the contractor had been reluctant in moving the high tension electric pole at the site because he did not consider it part of the contract.

"But the government insists that the responsibility of removing any obstacle found at the site lies with the contractor since he has accepted to do the job. All the other contractors that were awarded similar jobs at the same time with him have almost completed their works," he said.

The source added that the contractor's alleged connections with powerful administration officials were also another reason why he failed to finish the work. "The government has to apply pressure on him."

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