BY LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU
They are no doubt a part of the social infrastructures built for one purpose: to link one point with another. Be it in the air, on the land or across the lagoon, they connect towns and decongest junctions to ensure free flow of traffic. In places with features of urbanity, they are a common sight. Thus, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, still counting, are some major towns that boast of them. They are bridges.
In Abuja, the rapid growing Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria, they are ubiquitous. Some are for pedestrian crossing located on the high ways while many are built over-head for vehicles. Currently, many are in use just as there are others under construction. One of such pedestrian bridges under construction on major highways in the metropolis is found around Mabushi, directly opposite the headquarters of Vehicle Inspectorate Office (VIO). When completed, it will connect residents of Jabi/Utako Districts and Mabushi.There is yet another one located just after Sheraton Hotel connecting Zone 4 and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Center at Central Area.
Along the ever-busy six lanes Apo-Maitama express way, construction of such pedestrian bridges is on-going at Area One and Zone Seven intersections to connect them with residents at Wuye District. Then enter Abuja- Kubuwa-Kaduna Express Way. Bridges litter Gwarimpa junction linking residents of Dawaki Area in Buari Area Council.
One is also found a little after Gwarimpa to connect people residing at Dutse Alhaji, Kubuwa town and Federal Capital Development Authority Estate (FCDA).
There is another in Abuja main town connecting Zones Three and Four just before the popular Police Station Wuse Market. Now, these are popular bridges that link people to various parts within Abuja metropolis.
But besides the services they render in the day time, the bridges are dangerous zones at night. This, at least, Abuja Bulletin (AB)’s investigations revealed.
Prompted by the claim of theft and rape perpetrated by hoodlums on the bridges, AB launched an investigation last week. The exercise was carried out on Tuesday and Thursday. The areas visited included Zones Three and Four, as well as Gwarimpa via Kabuwa Express way.
The bridge which spreads across the heavily residential Zones Three and Four show signs of old age. It is poorly lit. Apart from adjourning houses, there are bank buildings and other business establishments around. Besides, there is also a stretch of dualized road linking the road with Julius Berger Junction and Central Area. This makes the bridge a must-use for any pedestrian who does not want delays by the traffic or crushed by a fast moving vehicle. Day time on the bridge gives a sense of security but evenings and nights instill fear.
Abuja Bulletin arrived the scene at about 6 pm on Tuesday. Every thing looked normal and natural with scanty number of passers-by. Of course, no one would anticipate a criminal act at that time. Such happens unannounced. It wasn’t just the time for one. But a look around the vicinity revealed dangers AB beckoned to a female passer-by who obliged. Simply giving out her name as Peace, a conversation ensued. ”Good evening, ma. Do you live around here. How safe is this bridge at night? I heard it is dangerous to ply at night”, I frontally asked.
Peace drew a long look at me. Her answer helped my curiosity. She revealed that, on several occasions, many had been victims of hoodlums’ attacks on the bridge.
She told me that her fear, which informed her first reaction, was a feeling that I was one of the hoodlums. She said the hoodlums adopt many approaches to pull a fast one on their victims before disappearing.
Market on the bridge
Abuja Bulletin also visited the pedestrian bridge along Abuja-Kubuwa Express Way. One of the bridges along the road, that night, was a beehive of commercial activities. It was simply a market on the bridge. All kinds of wares were displayed. Pointed lines of light from all manners of Chinese lanterns and torchlight always attract a motorist’s eyes to the bridge.
The place parades more of Hausa petty traders. But in the dark cover of the night and the busy atmosphere, subtle attacks, snatching of female handbags, ecetera, go on. This was according to sources. My sources were many and randomly selected. Much as they buy and sell, Bukola, a resident of the area, said that most people trade and tread with caution. And that includes holding their handbags and purses tenaciously. They revealed that some girls had been raped in the area when they appeared unwilling to let go off their valuables. But almost, always, the targets of the hoodlums are mobile phones and wrist watches.
One could imagine that Abuja, being the seat of power, is well policed to prevent crimes, but hell no. The city, like many other cities in the country, has its black places.
Do not drive to some places in the FCT with your car window glass wound down even if the car is not air conditioned. The places include the junction linking NNPC Towers in Central Area, National Mosque and Zone Four. There is a traffic light at the junction which makes the place dangerous.
Investigations showed that many women motorists have lost their handbags and other valuables to common thieves and hoodlums who predate the place. A victim, Kauthar Umar, told AB that she lost her phone to the boys. Another victim, Kemi, said her handbag was snatched from her there. She was, however, lucky to have it back after days of combing the vicinity but not with the contents intact.
How they operate
While waiting for the traffic light to turn green, the hoodlums, targeting their victim would suddenly emerge from the bush around, grab the bag from the car and disappear. You dare not run after them if you love your life.
Many policemen out on night duty, many residents alleged, disappear from their duty posts anytime after 10pm thus making it easy for hoodlums to operate. Indeed, the policemen come out later, but they hardly meet emergency situations. If Abuja can be prone to insecurity on the bridges, especially at night, what then happens to other cities in the country? It is compelling to build bridges with electricity components, such that the street lights would be on throughout the night to curb the activities of the hoodlums.