The gridlock along Keffi-Abuja Expressway is a recurrent decimal. Experience has shown that it occurs almost on daily basis. But the hit of it all is during morning and evening rush hours when workers and other categories of commuters set out for the business of the day, when they return in the evening as well as when transporters, in their countless numbers, hit the road for brisk business. Under these scenarios, the highly loaded road ‘crazily’get busy with a sea of vehicles that may either stop flowing or flow slowly, especially when it meets any hiccup or impediment such as auto crash, road patch exercise, broken down vehicle(s), task force monitoring exercise etc.
Not only do transporters struggle to wangle their ways out of the gridlock, workers and other people who set out to meet up with resumption or appointments times in the morning and are bent on returning home after the close of day, agonise a lot during the usually traumatizing holdup which comes with different kinds of consequences. For instance, some workers have suffered sanctions due to regular lateness to work, while others have lost business deals due to inability to meet up with appointment.
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One major cause of the gridlock is the presence of big trucks, tankers and other kinds of long vehicles that compete for space with the small ones such as cars, buses, bikes etc.
In a bid to forestall road mishaps commonly caused by big vehicles, government placed a ban on the operators not to ply the road in the day time and evening until 11.00 pm as a part of gridlock control measures with a view to ensuring free flow of vehicles on the road.
When the ban was announced initially, the vehicle operators vacated the road. But it is appalling that pockets of them have started returning to the road. They now flout the rule as they are seen plying the road outside the approved official time with impunity. This, sometimes, worsens the gridlock situation, especially when a couple of them hit the road.
The question now is that, are the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) and other government task force agents who are supposed to enforce the rule actually doing their jobs? If yes, why do vehicles that have been barred from plying the road in the day time in a bid to assuage the road trauma be seen flouting the rule and plying the road? Or are the officers compromising? There must be sanctions for any vehicle that flouts the rule.
It is high time the government task force mandated to enforce the rule began to live up to expectations by arresting the recalcitrant operators and bring them to book accordingly.
If the hammer is not applied as soon as possible there is a likelihood of full return of big vehicles on the road. If that happens, then the gridlock situation would worsen and road users would continue to groan.
Operators of big vehicles must also agree with the fact that the ban on them not to ply the road in the day time and evenings until 11.00 pm is not only in the interest of the small vehicle operators well as other commuters. It is also in their own interest. When they compete for space on the road with small vehicles, chances are that they might crash them especially because of difficulty in applying brakes briskly, unlike small vehicles that could do so. In such a circumstance, who bears the cost? They, of course. Also, if they ply the road at the stipulated time, they own it to themselves as only few small vehicles could be found on the road at such times. Therefore, they should be happy to leverage such convenience and save themselves the gridlock trauma. In addition, they must also understand that they are not bigger than the law. If the law says that they should stay away from the road in the evenings and in the day time, they must obey it accordingly.
They must also understand that government that slammed the ban knows what it’s doing. Or do they think otherwise? If they do, they should wait and see. Very soon, the hands of the law would catch up with them and they would face the nemesis. Then, it would be too late for them to realize that government knows what it’s doing.
The government task force also needs to understand that they owe the people a responsibility to ensure that the road is not only safe for the people at all times but also passable. That is when they could be seen to be doing their jobs well.
Government must be seen to be serious about the ban by enforcing it. Otherwise, the nuisance being gradually constituted by big vehicles operators would degenerate to a larger magnitude.
Felix Emmanuel writes from Abuja