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Monday, January 16, 2017

Port Harcourt’s pedestrians have no time for bridges (must see)

According to reports, When they were constructed in  the late 1970s by the administration of Alfred Diete Spiff when he was the military administrator of old Rivers State, the idea behind the pedestrian bridges in Port Harcourt was to prevent people from being knocked down by vehicles.
The bridges were situated in four sections of the stretch of Aba/Port Harcourt road, given the fact that it was the only major link to Port Harcourt. The bridges are located at Leventis Bus Stop, Gada Street, Garrison junction and St. John’s Bus Stop.
However, worried about high number of vehicles and to ease movement into its corporate head office, the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NNDC), constructed an air-conditioned pedestrian bridge near the popular GRA junction. The bridge is fortified by policemen.
Perhaps, the facility is the only pedestrian bridge that is functional in Port Harcourt as others have been taken over by urchins who have found a home in them.
As an example, our correspondent was accosted by a man at the Leventis pedestrian bridge whose properties ranged from plastic buckets, worn out foam, empty cans of beverages, assorted containers of drinks and filthy rags.
The man, who simply identified himself as Akpan and believed to be mentally incapacitated, told our correspondent that he has been living in the bridge for more than one year.
In an interaction, he said: “I came to Port Harcourt in 2012 and secured a job in a private organisation. My appointment was terminated in 2014 and from that time till date I have not secured any job. My rent expired and I was not able to renew it, hence the reason why I am staying here.”
But, the likes of Akpan occupying a pedestrian bridge, poses a great danger to pedestrians who are made to use the facility. Investigations by Daily Trust revealed that some bridges in Port Harcourt are not being used because apart from a ready accommodation for destitutes, they have been converted to toilets and refuse dumps.
Some residents who lack toilets as well as passers-by that are pressed have found pedestrian bridges a safe haven to obey nature’s call.
Some residents of Port Harcourt gave different reasons why they prefer crossing the road instead of using these bridges. Paul Johnson said. “I know safety wise that it’s very good to use the foot bridge to avoid being knocked down by vehicles. But I find it extremely easy and convenient crossing the road because it is very fast.”
According to him, he finds it boring climbing the bridge because its takes a little time going up and down, adding that the fear of being attacked by lunatics and criminals is also a very big challenge.
A resident of Ogbunabali area, Monica Ogbu narrated to Daily Trust her experience on one of the bridges: “I had one terrible experience one day when I wanted to use a footbridge situated at Garrision. As I was ascending, I was hearing a voice. I saw a madman sexually aroused and screaming in ecstasy. I was very terrified that I had to make a quick detour down the staircase. That madman would have raped me.”
Another resident who preferred not to be named said:  “I will never use any of the bridges because they are inhabitable. They are occupied by lunatics and criminals.  They are used as refuse dumps and rest areas. It is risky crossing the road but one has no choice. It is better to take risk and cross the road than risk your life of being attacked by criminals.”
But risking crossing the road than using the bridges has taken its toll on Port Harcourt residents. No day passes without vehicles knocking people down as they   attempt to cross the road.
Our correspondent was recently faced with a gory sight of a man who was crushed by a hit and run at oil mill junction.  Witnesses said when the man was knocked down, oncoming vehicles bumped on him.
A motorist who plies the Port Harcourt/Aba expressroad, Peter Amucha blamed pedestrians for abandoning the foot bridges and preferred crossing the road.  He said: “One has to be very careful while plying the Eleme road. I have applied all cautions each time I am driving through this road. The pedestrians care little about the danger. In most cases, it is us the drivers that apply the brakes to enable them pass. This is very bad. Nigerians are lawless. They disobey the laws of the land even at the very risk of their lives.”
However, both Rivers State Government and the Federal Road Safety Commission, (FRSC), appear to be non-challant in enforcing safety regulations and ensuring that pedestrians use the bridges.
As it is, the state government is yet to enact a law that will compel pedestrians to use the bridges.
A staff of the FRSC, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said it is not the responsibility of the Commission to monitor the use of pedestrian bridges.

Source: Daily Trust
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