By Anita Osagiede/ Favour Ukabiala
Some pedestrians in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja and environs have urged government at all levels to remove traders and beggars from bridges which they converted to mini markets.
The pedestrians in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, said the conversion of the bridges to markets by traders and siege by beggars had become worrisome.
They said that their activities should be halted to enhance free flow of human traffic.
Pedestrian bridges throughout the world are constructed at strategic points to help people cross busy highways without having to risk their lives because of some reckless drivers.
They, however, expressed worries that the purpose of those bridges had been defeated by the traders and physically challenged who misused them.
Mrs patience Okafor, a resident of Lugbe and a civil servant, expressed concern that men, women and children besieged the bridges, mostly in the evenings, to patronise traders, who spread their wares for sale.
”On these bridges, hawkers not only brazenly display their wares, but also engage in competition for buyers’ attention, while in the process hamper the bridge users’ movement.
“Right from the staircases of these bridges and even under them, pedestrians are treated to a display of various items, ranging from cloths, belts, shoe polish, to food, snacks and soft drinks, among others,” she said.
Okafor noted that on the bridges proper, the displayed wares and pedestrians had to compete for space.
“It is an eye sore, as you can see that apart from the hordes of traders, physically challenged persons and sundry characters that solicit alms have also made their presence felt on these bridges.
“They also jostle to make quick money from users of the bridge,” she said.
Mr Millicent Umoru, a resident at Lugbe also expressed worry over the situation, adding that pedestrian bridge was no longer comfortable for people to pass through.
Umoru said that the situation on the bridge was more worrisome.
“Many of the traders behave as if the place belongs to them. If you mistakenly step on their wares, you are in for a big trouble, you really need to mind yourself or have the traders to contend with.
“It is that pathetic. It seems the relevant authorities have given up on the place; other users even avoid pedestrian bridges because of harassment by beggars,” he said.
He said that there was, however, a big relief few months ago, when some soldiers dislodged traders and beggars from footbridges at Lugbe.
“The recurrence of this ugly situation is when those soldiers were no more around.
“I tell you the impacts of their presence were felt both on the road and on top of this bridge.
“I think the government should take action against this act and stop it completely,” Umoru appealed.
“It is not only here in Mararaba, if you go to city centre in Abuja and places like Airport road, Kubwa expressway, where we have heavy human traffic, the situation is the same.
“People are no longer comfortable to use the bridges as traders and beggars have taken over them,” she said.
Ogar alleged that even criminals were operating on the bridges, snatching peoples’ items like phones and handbags.
She appealed that action be taken by the government against using pedestrian bridges for trade and dwelling places, adding that bridges should be used for what they were built for.
One of the traders, Mr Eze Nwachukwu, told NAN that it was the economic situation in the country that conditioned him to the bridge.
He expressed the willingness to sell inside a shop but could not afford one due to the high cost of renting a store.
“Most of the shops being built by the government are too expensive. Where do I get such money?
“If not for lack of cash, you won’t see me here because it is not the best place to trade. Government should have sympathy on us,” he said.
Also, another trader, Mrs Lucy Benson, appealed to the government to consider some of the petty traders who could not afford to pay for shops by reducing costs of shops in the market.
“It is even risky to some of us to sell outside because our goods are not secured, you can imagine us packing things up and down every day, we want to come out to sell.
“If I could afford prices of shop, why should I come outside here to sell when my goods are not saved,” she said.
Meanwhile, Alhaji Muktar Galadima, Director, Development Control, FCT, while speaking with NAN, decried the alarming rate of incursion into public infrastructure in the territory.
Galadima said that FCTA had always frowned at occupation of footbridges by beggars and its conversion to selling points by traders.
He described it as violation of the FCTA environmental law which would not be allowed to go on.
“Such incursion is against the Abuja Master Plan. We won’t allow it to go on,” he said.
Galadima said that the department had the backing of the provisions of the FCT Act of 1976 as well as the Urban and Regional Planning Act of 1992, to enforce strict compliance with the Abuja Master Plan.
According to him, the FCT Administration has reiterated its resolve to recover pedestrian walkways in its efforts to ease human and vehicular movement, especially within the city.(NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Dorcas Jonah/Idris Abdulrahman