On daily basis, terrible accidents are recorded at the various junctions within the Abuja city center as a result of faulty traffic lights; worsened by the poor driving attitudes of drivers. Ezeh Fred writes
AS the seat of Nigerian government, and one of the fastest growing cities in the world, Abuja is battling with the experience of significant increase in human and vehicular movements, especially at peak periods of the day, when people move from one part of the city to another in the course of their daily activities.
The city was designed with the best of architectural masterpiece in town planning, with the intention to correct some obvious architectural errors especially in road network that was visible in Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria.
However, with a good road network in Abuja, coupled with traffic lights for easy drive round the city, motorists were no doubt provided with the choice of using different routes to access their various destinations.
Regrettably, the smooth and joyful driving experience of motorists has began to vanish as the major junctions within and outside the city center have continued to record one form of accident or the other on a daily basis, with some of the crash claiming either the life of the driver or that of the passengers as the case may be.
A cross-section of Abuja motorists, who interacted with Nigerian Pilot metro, attributed the increase in the rate of accidents at major junctions in the city centre to malfunction of traffic lights stationed there to serve as a control for motorists on the way to drive safely.
Also, some of the motorists claimed that poor driving attitude of the drivers is also responsible for the daily record of car crash at the junctions.
The former Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Transport Secretary, Engr Jonathan Ivoke, told Journalists at one of his functions that,“it is only a little percentage of the accidents that happen in FCT that can be attributed to malfunctioning traffic lights. It is noteworthy that Nigerian road users have bad attitude towards the use of roads.
“Due to the good road network in the city, some road users drive at a very high speed, throwing caution to the wind, and when accident occurs, they end up crashing on either the traffic lights or street lights provided by the government with tax payers money for the purpose of adding beauty to the road.”
The former Corp Marshall, Federal Road Safety Corp, FRSC, Mr. Osita Chidoka, had also attributed the high record of road accidents to bad state of the roads as well as poor attitude of drivers using the bad roads. “There is no doubt that if a driver uses bad road well,he or she will arrive his or her destination safely, but if the same driver use good road badly, he or she will never arrive his or her destination safely” he said.
Meanwhile, a taxi driver, Mr. Kayode Oluwaseun, who plies Wuse-Garki market route in Abuja, said the bad state of traffic lights, especially at night, has been the major cause of accidents in the city centre.
“If you have the opportunity of coming out very early in the morning as we do, you will be amazed at the kind of fatal accidents that happens at these traffic junctions during the previous night hours, especially the traffic junctions along Kashim Ibrahim way in Maitama, City Plaza junction along Ahmadu Bello way and other busy junctions. As less busy as those roads may be at night, accidents at those junctions always claim the lives of either the occupants or the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident.
“It’s true that these traffic lights work with public power supply, which obviously is not up to the demand of Nigerians, but having knowledge of this, traffic policemen should always be stationed at these points incase the light goes off.
“The faulty state of traffic light at Arewa Suit junction, NNPC junction, along Herbert Macaulayway, has on several occasions resulted in fatal accident leading to the death of people. We have on several occasions reported to the FCT authorities using different means, including the FCT Call Center, but nothing durable was done to salvage the situation.
“The light is so confusing that, sometimes, it passes two opposing sides at the same time, thus causing head-on collision as a result of misunderstanding by the motorists. The light may work in the morning and pack up in the evening. Some days back, I was driving from Wuse to Radio House through Defence College; the light was showing green on my side while it had already shown green to the opposite side. It was very confusing that day.”
Another motorist, Mrs. Mmesoma Ugwu, expressing her frustration over the inability of the FCT Transport Secretariat to find a lasting solution to the periodic breakdown of traffic lights, especially at the major junctions in the expressways in the city center said, “I have been wrongly penalised twice by traffic policemen who double-crossed me, claiming that I violated traffic light when I knew that I didn’t, but it was because of the malfunctioning state of the traffic light.
“Abuja is a big city, designed with the best architectural masterpiece in Nigeria. To this end, FCT administration who are the city mangers should, through its different secretariats, departments and agencies, ensure all round the clock monitoring of critical infrastructure in the city, and should also liaise with the FCT call center so that they can be getting prompt and right information regarding the new developments across the city” she advised.
On enquiry, the FCT transport secretariat told Nigerian Pilot metro that the secretariat had never relented in its quest to provide a better road condition in FCT. Before leaving office, former FCT transport secretary, Engr. Jonathan Ivoke said he had taken it upon himself to periodically drive round town to see things for himself instead of relying on the reports by his foot soldiers.
“It was interesting to note that 90 percent of traffic lights in Abuja uses bulb, which can die at any time of the day, and they are also powered using the public power supply system, except for few recently installed ones that rely on solar for power.
However, it’s obvious that government is working assiduously to ensure a significant improvement in power generation and distribution for an obvious improvement of socio-economic life of the people.
“Due to technological improvement, we tried to convert some of the traffic lights to solar power so that the issue of power outage can be a thing of the past. Again, reckless driving by some drivers in Abuja also contributed to the destruction of these public utilities, however, we are committed to ensure the functioning of traffic lights through regular maintenance” he noted.
He explained that FCT department of monitoring and evaluation, apparently charged with the responsibility of moving “round the clock” to monitor public infrastructure in Abuja has procured more utility vehicles for such routine patrol all over the city with a view to getting information on the infrastructure and reporting back to the FCT administration for urgent intervention.
“We also play our part by reporting to the appropriate department responsible for fixing the traffic lights across FCT, but I think they are faced with the challenges of fund, am sure they are putting heads together to ensure the quick fix of the lights immediately they get the funds for that” the department said.
Meanwhile, Public Relations Officer, FCT Directorate of Road Traffic Services, Mr. KK Iloduba Junior, explained that the hands of the Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIO, are tied regarding the malfunctioning state of traffic lights in FCT.
“Sometimes, our officers are compelled to control the traffic manually if they stumble on a malfunctioning traffic light in any part of the city where motorists are colliding with each other. I know the FCT authorities, whose obligation is to provide such services, are doing their best to ensure that face lift is given to traffic management in Abuja.
“Right now, Abuja is one of the safest cities in Nigeria, and as a result, so many people tend to relocate to Abuja from other parts of the country in search of security as well as greener pasture. So, it’s normal for an increase in both human and vehicular movements in the city” he noted.
However, the VIO spokesman argued that it will be out of place for policemen to continue in manual system of traffic control especially at major junctions, when technology has made an easier, accurate and more efficient way for traffic control.