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6 months after blasts, Nyanya park still deserted

The soldier’s fall, a loud thud, made several heads turn on the road close to Nyanya’s deserted Motor Park, a now unpopular part of the…

The soldier’s fall, a loud thud, made several heads turn on the road close to Nyanya’s deserted Motor Park, a now unpopular part of the satellite town and kilometres away from the centre of the capital city, where barricades littering sidewalks and checkpoints at strategic positions have become the order of the day. It was a couple of hours before midnight and the man in military uniform was distinct, even in the dark as he picked himself up. Where he had fallen was a rather conspicuous gutter separating that particular road from the fence where the bus station – that had felt the blood of many who had died months ago in a bomb explosion – stood. Now, deserted even in broad daylight, the place is guarded by soldiers, day and night. But it has not always been this way.
“In other countries, bomb blast sites bounce back, but not in Nigeria,” observes a commuter.
A few people simply walk through the park, just for want of a short cut, under the watchful gaze of the soldiers while some may not want to set foot there again. However, a few traders appear to be eyeing the vacant potential ‘trading spot’ with jealous longing as they pitch their goods on the border between the narrow road and its grounds, a man who did not want to be named revealed.  
Before the bomb blasts perpetuated by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, Nyanya Park had been where commercial motorists plying the routes to different parts of the country held sway. There also, the Abuja Urban Mass Transit Buses (UMPTCO) sat daily, while passengers boarded. It had been a beehive of activities with hawkers and other traders making brisk business. Noise was normal, but not anymore.
In broad daylight, military men are clearly visible – apart from those manning checkpoints – within the motor park. Guns slung on their shoulders, they patrol the premises as though sniffing for scents of killers. Under sheds others sit, watchful. Here, at the Nyanya bus stop, they wait, patiently.
Business picks up around – but away from – the park as dawn breaks, especially on Wednesday’s, when the Nyanya Market day, a long held tradition of weekly trade, begins. As the sun sets, traders increase in number, but these are the regular ones sometimes chased away by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board task force. They too have been affected by the bomb blast incident. It took months for activities to pick-up and the fear of many and fear, dissolve. But they are still afraid, still cautious. “Traders around say they hear the voices of hawkers calling out to customers from the park, across the road,” says a food seller. Inside the market, barricades have appeared. Although inconveniencing, there appears to be no objection from traders and customers.      
A stone throw from where the original motor park is, what seems to be an improvised park for both the AUMTCO and other commercial vehicles have evolved. Stepping carefully on muddy ground, close to a large gutter where a long queue of commuters stand, Dan Hausa explains why it is necessary to have a motor park. “It is important, even if it means resuming the use of the former place where the bomb blast occurred. But if this isn’t possible, the authorities should find a way of covering this gutter just to provide more space. Then again, the AUMTCO supervisors should be loading at least three buses at a time to clear the crowd, because every minute we waste here waiting to board the bus means a lot,” he explains.
But a driver of one of the buses says all their hope lies with the decision of the government on the matter. “We’re hoping that by January next year we would go back to our former loading point. That’s the rumour that I heard,” says Kayode Jacob.
However, not many drivers are as patient and hopeful as Jacob. Some of them narrate the episodes of crashes that had been avoided because they park by the side of the road.
“Where we park is very risky because passengers queue by the roadside,” explains Danjuma Adamu Bala. “Many passengers don’t patronise us now because all private cars you see here are commercial. Private cars can stop anywhere and pick, stop and drop, unlike us. So the law guiding the bus stop in Abuja does not work. In Lagos it’s not this way. All passengers know they have to go to the bus stop otherwise you can’t board a vehicle. In Abuja, this is restricted to only the Urban Mass Transit buses, which is not going to be possible because if you stop at the bus stop you will not see the passengers. So except there is a law that would guide the commercial sector and make the bus stop system work. We prefer the bus stop. It’s easier and safer, both for the passengers and us. It helps in checking crime that we have been complaining of. There should be a clear difference between the private and commercial vehicles.”
Another driver described the bomb incident as what has come and gone. “It’s time we relocated to the former bus park. But this time lessons should have been learnt and proper security measures put in place. For example, small cars should not be allowed to load and the park meant for our buses only. It would even lessen the traffic that we are causing parking here on one of the major roads leading into and out of Abuja,” he says.
After queuing for a while, a passenger who gave her name simply as Lorentia, finally finds her way into one of the long buses.“I rarely board here because the queuing method is hectic,” she intimates. And the security situation makes it worse. There should be a more secure place than this. Like my bag now, nobody knows what I am carrying.”
Ifeanyi Ughamadu, public relations officer, Federal Capital Territory Transportation Secretariat, says a new motor park is being built to ease the problem.
“We are building a new motor park of about four hectares at the back of Youth Centre here in Nyanya. It is an ultra-modern park of international standard. When we have reached a certain stage, vehicles would be able to move in while work continues. But I can’t say exactly when this would happen. We are planning for a pedestrian bridge that would link passengers to the park as against crossing the highway – the former park was just temporary,” says Ughamadu.

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