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How road rehab pitched men against women in Abuja

The situation of the single-lane road that leads to Byazhin, a community on the edge of Kubwa town in Abuja, was a source of concern…

The situation of the single-lane road that leads to Byazhin, a community on the edge of Kubwa town in Abuja, was a source of concern for decades until intervention from women volunteers in the area about two years ago. 

Daily Trust learnt that hitherto men in the area were the ones who led the struggle to rehabilitate the road, but with little impact, despite years of taxing road users and property owners in the area.

With the men’s seeming failure, the women’s volunteer group, Byazhin Able Women Association (BAWA), has since won the hearts of the people in the community having made the area accessible from tokens collected from motorists and using same to rehabilitate the road in phases.

Though, as has been gathered, it was 19 women that started the struggle, about half of them have withdrawn, as not all of them could withstand the rigours of the work from 6am to 2pm daily. 

BAWA was among Daily Trust’s Unsung Heroes nominated in September and published in the newspaper’s edition of October.

In a previous interview with this reporter, the group leader of BAWA, Mrs Bola Shitta, alleged that the police arrested them three times at the instance of the men who “failed” in the struggle. 

A similar experience played out last Monday when policemen stormed the area looking for the women, only to find that they had already closed for the day.

Confirming the development, one of the women, Khadija Yunusa, who is the technical resource person of the group, said following the development, her group had decided to cease work, starting from last Tuesday. 

Also speaking, the group’s leader, Mrs Shitta, who recalled how bad the road was before their intervention, said commercial tricycle and motorcycles were deserting passengers once the name “Byazhin Across” was mentioned to them due to the road’s condition.

She said, “But so far so good, in the course of our intervention, we reconstructed a bridge on the road, putting drains on the two sides, and cast the road with cement and gravel that made it accessible by motorists. 

“We succeeded in doing all these with the support of residents, other road users, as well as some churches and philanthropists who were convinced from what we have been doing.”

The women group further disclosed that following the publication in the Daily Trust Saturday of their Unsung Heroes nomination, a philanthropist approached them and supported them with working materials and blocks worth N4m.

Mrs Shitta explained that, “He also donated bags of cement, stones and dust. He pleaded with us to double our workers so that the work would be faster, but we told him that the money that we used to realise on a daily basis was between N30,000 and N50,000, and as such we had to do the work gradually with few members.

“That was when the man gave us N2m, in addition to the working materials that he donated. He went ahead to bring in an engineering company and awarded them a contract of N33m to construct nine culverts across the road that links Byazhin Across, where our previous work stopped, and the  Ijayapi and Pese communities’ boundary.”

The women leader also said the man equally donated about 20 street lights that were due to be fixed at strategic locations along the road. 

Daily Trust further learnt that as these developments were going on, the women were shocked to be called upon by the men’s leadership to an emergency meeting where they were directed that they should cease from further work and other engagements on the road.

Mrs Shitta said the men told them that a senator had decided to bring in his constituency project to the road, and as such the executed drainage carried out by them would be destroyed and replaced with the standard one by the company that got the contract. 

She said, “They also said the road’s size would be reduced from its present level to seven metres. We called their attention that doing that would amount to ruining the people’s little contribution and that of the philanthropist. 

“We pleaded with them to maintain the work and continue with whatever they wanted to do from where we stopped, or go to other places where such works were needed, but to no avail, as they insisted that the government had its own standard.’’ 

John Wayas is the community’s vice chairman, and he spoke to Daily Trust Saturday over the said senator’s intervention. He said the struggle on the road intervention started in 2000.

“And all the while we have been going up and down to the serving area council chairmen, FCT Administration and other stakeholders. Now our Senator, Philip Aduda, in collaboration with Bwari Area Council, has promised to intervene on the road as part of his constituency project.

“And as you may be aware, we have three categories of roads: federal, state and local, all of them have their own standards, and this community’s own falls under the local. Each of the three roads mentioned has the level of its parametres. But the matter should be further discussed with the contractor in a stakeholders meeting comprising the women group and the community leaders.”

Our reporter was at the community’s chief’s palace on Wednesday where the issue was further discussed and at the end the stakeholders agreed that the contractor should maintain the level of the road size started by the women group, and the women were directed to henceforth, stop their daily taxing operation on the road. 

Speaking to Daily Trust thereafter, Mr Yunusa said they accepted the decision, adding, however, that their request for refund of money to enable them settle cost of supplied working materials was yet to be granted by the contractor or the men’s leadership.

On his part, the village head of the community, Malam Isa Danjuma, who presided over the parley, said the community would remain grateful to the women, just as he expressed pleasure with the new intervention from the politician. 

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