Unbelievable! See what these Nigerians are doing on pedestrian bridge

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In Lagos state years ago, the former governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu modernised the pedestrian bridges at Ketu, Mile 12, Fadeyi, Oshodi, Mile 2, Ojo cantonment, and a host of other places, and in the process dislodged numerous traders and beggars who had occupied the bridges. Now a similar modernisation is expected in Abuja and its environs.

Pedestrian bridges throughout the world are constructed at strategic points to help people cross busy highways without having to risk their lives dodging speeding vehicles and reckless drivers.

Such bridges assist the public, impatient motorists and agencies in charge of road safety to control or reduce deaths resulting from road accidents, especially of children and old people, as they eliminate the proximity of speeding cars and pedestrians, especially in high density, well-populated areas of cities.

The impetus for the construction of pedestrian bridges in the Federal Capital Territory was born out of the frequent accidents recorded on its major express roads, a high proportion of which involved people who wanted to cross the roads to their destination.

Before the bridges were constructed, more than 100 people died from road accidents yearly, many arising from reckless driving or over-speeding along the city’s major highways, according to statistics from the Federal Road Safety Commission.

However, recently the original purpose for which the pedestrian bridges within Abuja and environs were built seems to have been lost, as they have become virtual shops for traders or points where beggars assemble to beg.


Mararaba Pedestrian bridge

Nigerian petty traders, who are known for their ingenious business acumen and their eagerness to take risks, have discovered that pedestrian bridges can be put to a different use and they have relocated to the bridges to set up display corners or sales points on the railings and on the floors, making it difficult for pedestrians to move or use the facilities freely.

When NAIJ.com asked about their reasons for trading on bridges, some of the traders cited the high cost of getting shops in conventional markets, good patronage from commuters, and no requirement to pay taxes and levies like their co-traders in conventional markets.


At Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway by Shehu Shagari Way, near the popular Nicon Junction bus stop, traders were plying their trade while customers bought from them without fear of arrest. Products displayed at the bridge included shoes, underwear, used clothes, belts, fruit, and groundnuts.

Usman Mohammed, one of the traders, told NAIJ.com’s reporter that selling on the bridge affords them ample opportunity to dodge task force operatives. He added that many petty traders cannot afford the high fees charged for shops or stalls in FCT markets.

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“In Abuja, some of us cannot afford to pay for shops and at places like this which are used very well by residents. Market moves better because people must pass here and since our own products are cheaper than what they will get in the markets, customers will always patronize us.”

He disclosed that some officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board are “cooperating when we settle them. They know that we have to feed our families.”

At the Galadima Bridge along Kubwa axis traders are seen to carry on their business openly.

Emenike Chukwuemeka, one of the traders at the Galadima Bridge, said: “I  prefer to stay at this bridge because of high patronage from passers-by. I can come here with 20 pieces of shoes and I will sell up to ten, but when am in the market sometimes I don’t sell up to five pieces.”


Bridge within the FCT

Helen Ojoma, a customer at the Galadima Bridge, said: “The marketers see the pedestrians as an opportunity to make sales since they know people will always use the bridge. At times I come here to buy some clothes and I have discovered that they are cheaper than those in the market.” 

On Lugbe airport road, petty traders swarm to the bridges every evening to do their business, despite harassment from the authorities, and these ‘bridge traders’ do not lack patronage from commuters.

The Nyanya and Mogadishu barracks bridges seem to be the only ones on that axis yet to be invaded by petty traders and beggars.

Nasarawa state

From Mararaba, on the eastern fringes of the capital city to Nasarawa state to the main city centre, you will find the Mararaba bridge entirely taken over by beggars and petty traders. Their presence has prevented pedestrians from using the bridge. Traders can be seen doing brisk business, and mini-kiosks have also been constructed by the traders.

Emeka Nwankpa, a shop owner on the ever busy Mararaba road, confirmed that the bridge is besieged with petty traders and beggars, especially in the evening, when they impede the free flow of human traffic across the bridge.

He added, however, that some pedestrians would still not use the bridge even if there are no traders there, citing height-phobia and delay as their reasons.

Mary Ezekiel, a regular customer of the Mararaba pedestrian ‘bridge market’ said she prefers buying some things from the bridge.

“Though this bridge market is quite risky, I prefer them because of their cheap commodities and they save me the stress of going into the rowdy Mararaba and Nyanya market just to pick up few things,” she said.

Some pedestrians described the bridge as a no-go area, as it is seen as a den of hoodlums.

“Due to the rowdiness of the bridges, I don’t use it. Sometimes I imagine there will be some dangerous people there like pickpockets and other petty thieves. So I don’t even go up there. Even though it is dangerous, I prefer to cross the road directly than using the pedestrian bridge,” Friday Benjamin said.


Nasarawa state

While some people say that the traders are the reason why pedestrians have neglected the bridge, others are of the opinion that using the bridge is seen as a punishment, and that traders and beggars occupy the bridges because people do not usually use them for their intended purpose.

Obong Iyang told NAIJ.com that the illicit activities have taken over what was supposed to help Nigerians who previously spent time waiting to cross the expressway.

According to him, the use of the bridges for such activities is due to the fact that pedestrians refused to use the bridges to cross the roads.

He disclosed that a man was knocked down and killed by a moving vehicle along the Mararaba expressway on Friday, January 10, 2014, while trying to cross the road.

Mr Iyang also called for a special task force that would ensure pedestrians use the bridges to cross the busy roads.

Speaking also to NAIJ.com, Adams Ibrahim said: “I can’t say exactly why people don’t use the pedestrian bridges put in place for them even though crossing the expressway is difficult; recently, a man was killed by a car while trying to cross the road.

“The other reason I think people choose to cross the busy roads rather than using the bridges, is because there is no task force in place within these bridges ensuring that people who want to cross the expressway are either penalised or are fine to serve as a deterrent to others.”

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When our reporter asked a woman with two children, who was waiting to cross the expressway at the popular Mararaba junction, why she did not use the pedestrian bridge, she ignored the question and walked away to beg drivers of moving vehicles to allow her to cross the road.

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Despite its prevalence, the authorities of the FCT and Nasarawa state government have condemned trading and begging on the bridges, calling on perpetrators to desist.

The chairman of the FCT Special Task Team on Abuja Environmental Protection, Squadron Leader Abdullahi Adamu Monjel, last week threatened street hawkers and beggars with jail if apprehended.

According to him, the period of amnesty allowing the beggars and street hawkers to leave the Federal Capital City had elapsed. He claimed that his team was going all out against offenders to remove them completely from the streets of Abuja.

He said: “We have already given them the benefit of the doubt and now the time has elapsed. What is left now is to enforce the relevant municipal laws. Anybody we arrest will be taken to court and prosecuted accordingly. If somebody refuses to comply with the rules and regulations based on what we have said, then we will arrest the person accordingly.”

Monjel stated: “As a matter of fact, we don’t want hawkers and beggars within the city centre of Abuja. They should keep away from the streets of Abuja. Anybody that wishes to come out, we are ready for the person as we will take him/her to court where he will be prosecuted and taken to jail.”

Speaking on the cleanup campaign the task force carried out on Friday, tagged a “show of force exercise”, the chairman said it was essentially to tell the public that the Task Team was equal to the task and would arrest whoever fails to comply with the directives as stipulated by the Abuja environmental laws.


A trader displayed his wares on the bridge

Idris Muhammed, a Nasarawa state government official speaking in Lafia, said that the state government is working towards addressing the issue of beggars and traders in the state.

According to him, Nasarawa state is copying Kano and Kaduna states where street begging has been banned. He said that the state government would also follow due process which would be backed by a bill going through the state assembly.

Mallam Idris Muhammed warned that if the bill is passed into law, street beggars and traders on pedestrian bridges in the state would be prosecuted.

“Anyone caught begging or selling on the street or bridge will face the wrath of the law,” Muhammed said.

The post Unbelievable! See what these Nigerians are doing on pedestrian bridge appeared first on Nigeria News today & Breaking news | Nigerian newspapers.

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