Much to the chagrin of many, headache-inducing traffic jams - the scourge of Nigeria's former capital city, Lagos - appear to have suddenly become a constant feature in Abuja, the nation's ultra-modern capital. Taillights of cars stuck in traffic lining streets as far as the eye can see are now a common sight in the city. Tales of hours spent in traffic by commuters on their way to and from work are also frequently exchanged by residents these days. A city famous for its 'from scratch' planning should have anticipated emerging traffic challenges.
Town planning experts and residents attribute the gridlock in Abuja to a number of factors. There is a growing notion that the capital city currently plays host to more visitors and residents than its present level of infrastructure can handle, especially as socio-economic upheavals as well as insecurity in certain parts of the country are forcing more Nigerians to head to the FCT in search of peace and safety.
With the concentration of the federal bureaucracy's administrative structure in the city's centre, it is no surprise that the traffic flow to and from that direction on working days is to say the least frustrating. This has resulted in congestion almost everywhere people turn.
And although the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) authorities often assert that they are vigorously developing the FCT, those privy to the master plan say that infrastructural provision in the area is still largely within the first phase of the blueprint, which is clearly overstretched.
With hundreds of thousands of man hours now gobbled up by traffic hold-ups on a daily basis, clearly, there is the need for a robust management system to tackle this problem now. One approach to stemming the mad rush for the city centre, which is the main cause of the traffic menace, is to distribute government establishments across the FCT. We suggest that official agencies that have no direct bearing on the day-to-day running of government should be moved to other parts of the FCT.
There is also the need to turn attention to other phases of the FCT ring road infrastructure, in order to take pressure off existing roads. In the same vein, we urge the FCT authorities to put in as much effort to developing Abuja's satellite towns as is being exerted for the main city, in order to stem the craze to live or work in the city centre. Attention needs to be paid urgently to this growing problem before it gets out of hand and turns Abuja into a city of clogged roads, one that cannot serve anyone's interest. That would indeed make mincemeat of the vision its initiators had for a world-class, functional capital city.