27 January 2013

Nigeria: Abuja's Harrowing Traffic Crisis


In recent weeks some of the FCT's transport policies coupled with ongoing construction works in many parts of the city centre have set commuters nerves on edge

The Olusegun Obasanjo road in high brow Zone 2 section of the city is normally a stress free way for many motorists who ply the route on any normal day. But in recent weeks the road has become a frenetic space through which hundreds of vehicles struggle daily to pass through on their way to other parts of the capital city such as Utako, Area one, Life Camp and other enclaves which accommodate many businesses and government outfits. The reason for this is not farfetched. With ongoing road reconstruction works at snail speed in the Zone 5 and Zone 3 areas of the city, many motorists by pass these routes, preferring to pass through the choked up road on their way to various destinations. The ensuing traffic logjam is better imagined. But this area is just one of the many points presently creating pains for many vehicle owners and commuters alike.

A visit to other parts such as Area 11, Garki, will reveal similar construction works going on. This creates a gruesome traffic gridlock for many commuters who have to daily pass through the section which hosts the Louis Edet House. Tens of police officers experience hardship on a daily basis as they attempt to bring sanity to the road while at the same time looking out for potential security threats to their profession. It is not unusual to see heated arguments ensuing between irate motorists and equally red eyed armed personnel. Just a few kilometres to the area, on a small stretch of the road leading to the war College, another construction project is going on which reduces the movement of motorists to snail speed as they have to avoid hitting the ubiquitous construction barriers. These are just a few of the road projects going on around the city. Also in city areas such as the Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway by Tafawa Balewa Way, Old Secretariat Junction and 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 and Shehu Yar'adua Way by Ladi Kwali Way, Sheraton Junction, the city authorities are building additional pedestrian bridges to cater for the peculiar needs of commuters. In most cases the construction works in themselves are adding pressure on vehicular movements.

A cross-section of commuters spoken with while lauding the reconstruction works going on at present however agree that the projects should have been done in phases so that the pressure on commuting would have been less. 'While it is commendable that these projects are aimed at improving the state of the roads in the city, what they (FCTA) should have done is to simply spread the projects and take them one by one. As it is now motorists are suffering with the numerous diversions in many parts of the city. You are not even sure of which route to take anymore. And then the chaotic traffic situation is terrible to say the least,' says a media executive.

A cab driver in the city tells Sunday Trust that many of his colleagues have simply abandoned the Wuse route due to the chaotic traffic situation there. 'For someone like me if you stop me and tell me to take you to Wuse I will simply zoom off. I no longer take the route. Even when it was still peaceful to pass through there I was not always enthusiastic to pass the route due to the numerous traffic problems there. Now that they are doing all these road projects it has given many of us more reason to abandon the route,' he lamented.

It would be recalled that about a week ago, the authorities banned the movement of mini buses (araba) into the city centre especially the ever busy Wuse market axis. Due to popular outcry, the ban has been lifted for a period of 3 weeks pending the outcome of meetings between stakeholders. But movement of the green buses and indeed other transport services into the Wuse market area remains banned. This has led to other sources of worry for many commuters, many of whom have one businesses to conduct at the market. Nowadays the buses plying the route simply discharge their passengers either at the Zone 3 junction or at the other Berger junction end. Commuters then have to walk the remaining one kilometre or so to get to their destinations in Wuse.

Jonathan Dauda, a commuter believes the authorities are not in tune with the sufferings of the masses. In a short interaction, he says policies affecting the masses ought to be well thoughtout and articulated before being implemented. 'You can see how I am suffering to get to my destination now. This should not be so. Before policies are implemented they must be studied very well so that the end users like us will not suffer. It is sad.'

Joseph Ejedi, a mini bus driver feels the same way. In a voice tinged with frustration he opined: 'we are praying that the series of meetings between our officials and the government will yield positive results. The present transport policies do not favour us at all. Many of us are gradually getting tired of the job as we cannot meet up with 'daily returns' to our employers.'

Official comments from the FCTA could not be sourced at press time but a city source noted that most of the projects would be completed very soon to pave way for smooth commuting in the capital city adding that all the construction companies have a strict deadline of completion. Recently in a phone in radio program, the Special Assistant, Media to the FCT minister, Nosike Ogbuenyi told residents that all the transport policies being embarked on by the administration are aimed at making Abuja to be at par, development wise, with other advanced cities around the globe. While noting that such changes take time, he agreed that no serious development could take place without a measure of pains on the part of the residents.

But for residents like Lawrence Nyoror, a business man, when proper sensitization and publicity is carried out, such pains could be minimised. 'You just don't wake up one day and ram down the throats of people, policies even they are is for their benefit. You need to carry them along so that they will support you all the way. But am afraid this has not always been so with our leaders...'

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