Borno State government seems set to fly over the challenges caused by human and vehicular traffic congestion around the Custom Area roundabout and market in Maiduguri metropolis, with a planned construction of a flyover bridge there, the first flyover in the state.
The government may, however, first have to prepare to solve the multitude of economic problems the execution of the project may cause the teeming population earning their livelihood there, majority of them for decades.
Over the years, the twin factors of metropolitan life and a growing economy characterized by a huge rural-urban drift, have connived with the influx of IDPs into the metropolis to cause human and vehicular traffic congestion at several locations in the metropolis.
Consequently, the government conceived the idea of building flyover bridges at the densely-congested Customs Area and Post Office roundabouts.
Residents and traders around the roundabout, while expressing total support for, and elation at, the construction of the project, however advised government to solve the numerous problems associated with the displacement and relocation of the traders and businesses that would be affected by the project, to avoid creating more economic problems.
“We are extremely happy with the flyover and are 100 percent in support of it,” Alhaji Abubakar Kolomi, the chairman of the Customs Area ABK Motors Association, said.
“As soon as government orders us to pack out of this place for the project execution to start, we will do so with all pleasure,” he assured, fearing however, “but we may all disperse to several places, and this dispersal will negatively affect our business as auto sellers, because the unity we forged that has kept us together for a thriving business may take a long time for us to restore.”
The motor dealers’ chairman, who said he has about 200 members, therefore, appealed: “Before the commencement of the project, the government should consider the possible negative implications of our displacement and dispersal, decades after conducting our business at one place in unity, and relocate us to a place suitable for our business to thrive.”
He stressed: “We have accepted to leave here for the project, but we are afraid of being dispersed, because it will negatively affect our business.”
Alhaji Modu Adam, the chairman of Abduri Motor Dealers Association, shared the same views with Alhaji Kolomi.
“We are happy with it because it is a remarkable development,” he said, noting, “It shows that the government has both the common man and the economy of the state at heart by providing a facility for easy movement and flow.”
He appealed: “We want government to relocate not just we in the motor business, but other traders and businessmen affected by the project, to locations suitable for them to continue their businesses; otherwise, the project may throw a large population of traders and businessmen out of what they have been feeding on for decades.”
Mallam Mato Maigyaran Agogo is the chairman of the Customs Area Wristwatch Repairers Association. He has been in the area for 45 years.
“We are very happy with the planned construction of a flyover bridge here, but the news should have come at the same time with a cheery announcement of suitable places we will be relocated to before the project begins,” he said.
“I’m sure everyone has told you that they are happy with the project; I am also happy with it because it is a sign that Maiduguri is developing like cities such as Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Kaduna,” Mohammed Umaru, a vulcanizer, said, noting that “no one will tell you he or she is not happy despite the effect it will have on his or her means of livelihood.”
“Our happiness doesn’t mean we should not voice out our fears that the flyover portends danger for many traders and businessmen as it may signal the end of their trades and businesses,” Mohammed, who has been a vulcanizer for 20 years at Customs Area, said.
He also pleaded with government to consider the traders and businessmen by relocating them to places where their trades and businesses will thrive.
“No trader or businessman can be happier with this flyover than us because we are the ones transporting majority of the traders, businessmen and customers to the market,” Umar Abdullahi, the treasurer of the Custom Area Tricycles and Motorcycles Transport Association, said.
“The traffic congestion problem the flyover is meant to solve has been very frustrating to us,” he complained. “It hinders us from picking passengers between locations due to the difficulties we face and the time we waste trying to penetrate the dense traffic at sections of the area and around the market.”
The commercial tricycle operator said, “We are happy with this project because it will ease congestion so that traffic can easily flow around this area.”
He however pleaded with government to provide them with a park before the project commences.
The construction of the Customs roundabout flyover began last Monday (January 6, 2020) after a ceremonial launch by Governor Babagana Umara Zulum in Maiduguri.
The roundabout around a major market, connects three routes, including linking Maiduguri to Dikwa-Ngala road, which leads to neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.
Contract for the project was awarded to a Chinese construction firm, Eighteenth Engineering International Limited, at the cost of N4.2bn from which 30 percent mobilization fee has already been released.
The project, Zulum and the contractors separately assured, will be completed by middle of next year, 2021.
The governor announced that a second flyover will commence early next year, around the Post office roundabout.
The Borno State government is opening up the state capital to the locations marked for flyover bridges as part of responses to increase in number of motorists caused by a population growth that is largely instigated by forced migration of families who have permanently settled in Maiduguri as a result of displacement by insurgents.
The new routes are also expected to contribute to better flow of traffic on matters of security and emergencies.
Governor Zulum, while flagging off the project, said he intends to complete and start many roads this year as already provided for in the budget he recently signed into law.