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Again, commuters count losses as FERMA repairs bridge on Keffi-Abuja highway

Commuters and travellers on the busy Abuja-Keffi expressway were on Tuesday thrown into anguish following a gridlock which forced many of them to abandon their…

Commuters and travellers on the busy Abuja-Keffi expressway were on Tuesday thrown into anguish following a gridlock which forced many of them to abandon their missions or devise ways to beat the traffic. The highway is notorious for hold-ups either due to accidents or repairs.  

The axis, which is the gateway to Nasarawa, Kaduna and Plateau states from the FCT is host to thousands of residents who daily commute to Abuja in search of livelihoods. 

Daily Trust reports that Tuesday’s gridlock was caused by the closure for repairs of one lane on a bridge at Ado village in Karu LGA of Nasarawa State by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA).  

A source told our correspondent that the bridge developed cracks which prompted the repairs. 

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Though the lane was later opened for traffic, many commuters said they were subjected to so much hardship while the repairs lasted from Sunday to Tuesday.

Our correspondent reports that the situation took many by surprise as there was little or no publicity prior to the commencement of the work. 

Security deployed  

Daily Trust further reports that a team of security operatives was deployed to the area, with the army and the police playing lead roles.   

It was observed that the security personnel, including men of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), were on ground throughout the repair period to direct traffic. 

However, motorists and other travellers said they didn’t get information prior to the repairs. 

Many commuters accused the officials of also not providing alternative routes before commencing work thereby grounding economic activities in the area and causing untold hardship to the people. 

Traders from Ado, New Karu, New Nyanyan, Auta Balefi, Kuchikau and Masaka, who spoke with our reporter, said the development had negatively affected them as they could not go to their various business places. 

A tailor who gave his name as Francis, said, “I can’t bear it any more. I won’t go to work tomorrow. I can’t kill myself. How can a road be locked up?” 

Similarly, a cake seller who gave her name as Mama Blessing, told Daily Trust that the situation affected her business, adding that if she did not make sales she might find it difficult to feed her children. 

Mama Blessing, who spoke in pidgin English said, “E no dey easy. We just dey suffer. My brother, if I no go my children no go survive.” 

People walk long distances 

Hit by the gridlock people, among them women and children, especially pregnant and nursing mothers, were seen trekking along the road as there were no vehicles to carry them. 

A nursing mother who declined to mention her name said, “I’m tired. Imagine, my child is sick; we are just coming from the Medical Centre, Mararaba. This is the worst day of my life.” 

Also, some travellers from Calabar in Cross River State said they were forced to sleep in their vehicles. 

Okada riders hike fares 

Residents of Ado, New Nyanyan, Masaka and others told Daily Trust that motor cycle operators, popularly called Okada riders, took advantage of the situation and increased their fares.  

A resident of Ado said, “One Okada rider collected N600 from Nyanyan. I was to dismount by Ado junction, but the worst happened. The road was blocked, so he ended up dropping me in One Man’s Village.” 

Daily Trust gathered that the fare from Nyanyan to Ado, which was N300 before the gridlock, rose to between N500 and N600; while from Mararaba to Ado which was N200 rose to N300 and N400 on Sunday and Monday.

Shop owners in One Man’s Village who also said they witnessed low sales accused government officials of being insensitive to the plight of the people, stressing that the bridge ought to have been repaired during the festive period when a large number of people were on break for Christmas and New Year.    

Residents call for other routes 

Residents of the axis have appealed to the federal government to address the issue of a single-route to Abuja by constructing more roads to link with the expressway.  

They also called for the immediate completion of the Apo-Karshi road which was awarded to Kakatar Limited, an indigenous company, in 2011, with a completion period of 20 months.

A civil servant who pleaded anonymity said, “Providing alternative routes will resolve many issues on the axis. The accidents that occur on this axis during the rush hours alone should be a strong reason for the completion of the Apo-Karshi project and opening of other routes.” 

A construction engineer, Sunday Asongo, said the notice for the repair of the bridge was given earlier, but that work was delayed as FERMA did not mobilise the contractor to site. 

Asked why an alternative route was not provided, he said, “I know the area you are referring to. It’s a tight area; you can’t provide another route, and especially because it was a repair that was billed for just a few days.” 

He added that blocking the lane under repair was normal if public notice had circulated and diversion signs stationed appropriately.  

When contacted, FERMA’s Deputy Director, Information, Maryam M. Sanusi, did not pick her calls or reply to an SMS sent to her mobile number by our reporter. 

 

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