Like the story of the Aba women riot, women residing in Mararaba, Nyanya, Jikwoyi and Karu areas of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja my soon take to the streets to protest the persistent gridlock on the Mararaba/Nyanya road.
Forty two-year-old Mrs Amina Usman resides in Mararaba in the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The mother of two who is also a widow, is an employee of the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
Every morning she wakes up as early as 5am to get her kids ready for school before she embark on the journey to her office in the city centre, Abuja.
Ordinarily, the journey from her home to her office should not take more than 30 minutes, but every day she spends between three and three and half hours on the road from her house to the office and repeats same in the evening after work.
“It has been a terrible experience,” the poor woman told LEADERSHIP Weekend recently. “Hard as I tried, I have never reached my office any time earlier than 10am. The traffic is just something else.”
Amina who lost her husband two years ago told our reporter that most times when she returns from work, she was always too weak to cook for her children, and sometimes, the children would have been sleeping before she returned.
According to her, “The situation on that Mararaba/Nyanya road is better experienced. You wouldn’t understand how we feel. You need to come here early in the morning or in the evening when people are returning home. Sometimes you feel so tired sitting in the vehicle that your body will even begin to pain you. On a number of occasions people have collapsed because of heat and poor ventilation.
“The problem is that this is the only road leading to town and over 50 per cent of the people who work or do business in Abuja live within this axis.”
She said it is not just that she wakes up early to take care of her kids that really stresses her, but the fact that she has to spend hours on the traffic.
For Miss Rosewell Chidiebere, a single lady selling phone accessories at UTC Area1 Abuja, if she had her way she would have moved out of Nyanya and rented an apartment in Abuja, “But I can’t afford it,” she said with anger written all over her face. “The houses in Abuja town are so expensive that you need to be super rich to be able to afford them. That is why you find out that most of the people who are working or doing business in the Federal Capital Territory are living in far-away places and that is what is responsible for this traffic congestion on the roads. Look at me, I am stressed up because of the number of hours I have to sit in bus every day because of traffic.”
While calling on the government to help by opening up more roads or even moving some of the ministries and parastatals to the satellite towns to check the incidence of everybody trooping to Abuja every day, she said the health implications of the daily experience on the road is grave.
“You can imagine the volume of carbon dioxide people are inhaling from the exhaust fumes,” she said. “If you check, most of the people living in the Mararaba/Nyanya axis are either suffering from high blood pressure or one respiratory illness or the other. Nobody has taken time to look at that because in this country, nobody cares about the poor. I am sure if this heavy traffic is in town, they would have found a solution for it.”
Rosewell who said she has been living in Nyanya for about three years, said it has been a nightmare moving from Nyanya to town and from town to Nyanya. “Sometimes I am scared of going home,” she said. “The mere thought of what I am going to face on the road especially on Mondays and Tuesdays, scare me and sometimes I just feel sick even when I have not boarded a vehicle.”
Also relating her experience, Christiana Abbah, who lives in Jikwoyi, said she spends more time on the road than she spends in her office because of traffic jam. According to her, “From Nyanya to Abacha Barracks, it is always bumper to bumper in the morning and in the evening when people are returning from work, the traffic moves to the other side. From Abacha Barracks to Nyanya, apart from being bumper to bumper, sometimes you can stay in one spot for up to an hour. You will sleep, sweat and wake up, sometimes your legs would be swollen and the blood may even stop flowing. My sister, it is a terrible experience, if I have my way, I will pack out of here.”
She said that it appears government is unconcerned as there is no effort to even create an alternative route for people to use. “Can you imagine the number of man-hour being wasted on this road every day, the amount of money, the nation is losing. Government workers get to office very later every day, exhausted and before they recover their breath to start work, they are hurrying to leave the office to be sure they get home early. And it is like officials in the ministries are aware of the situation, they do not issue query to their subordinates for coming late or leaving early. For how long shall we continue to live like that?”
Mrs Kay Enwefah another resident of Jikwoyi, has three kids to take care of before heading to Wuse market where she has a fashion designing business. For her, she has resigned her fate to the situation. “You can imagine a married woman with three children and her husband to take care of in the morning before going out,” she said. “To meet up, I usually wake up between 3am and 4am. I leave my house by 6am, but even at that, I get to the market around 9am and sometimes 10am. Imagine after that long hour on the road in addition to the fact that I woke up early, I enter my shop tired, stressed up and even depressed and hardly can do much before I close for the day. That is not all, I have to face the same challenge on the way home. At times I feel so frustrated that I just want to get down from the vehicle and trek home. The most annoying part of this is that most times you won’t even see the cause of the traffic, sometime it may not necessarily be the road but two drivers that ran into each other and in the cause of arguing and fighting they cause a huge traffic jam.
“I know how many customers I lost because there is delay in finishing their job. The situation is really bad and we need government to come to our aid. The government should please do something about that road, if possible expand it more, although the road is wide enough but the population residing there is massive. We need alternative roads.”
Miss Christabel Nwaeke is a member of the National Youth Service Corps. She is serving at Infinix Energy Oil and Gas at Area 2, Abuja, but she resides in Karu. She is not used to waking up very early. But to be able to make it to her office early, she is forced to rise as early as 5am. ”It is really stressful,” she said. “Even after waking up that early to beat traffic, I still get stuck in traffic and end up being late at work.
“This is not what I bargained for. Coming back the story is not different, in fact, it is even worse. I leave the office by 4:30pm but still get home as late as 8.30pm or 9pm. Before I lie down and catch some sleep, it is time to wake up again.
“The annoying thing is that despite the heavy traffic and the long hours one has to sit in the vehicle, the drivers still carry overload. Imagine a small car where you have four passengers at the back seat and two at the front. Everybody is just crammed up like stock fish before you get to where you are going your legs are swollen, the tips of my toes hot like boiling water, sweat all over my body. Its terrible.
“Most times after a heavy work at the office and the thought of facing this annoying gridlock from Abacha Barracks to Karu, I just go to a friend’s place in town to pass the night. I do that mostly on Friday so that on Saturday morning which is not a working day I will go back to my humble abode stress free.”
She appealed to the government to do something about what she described as an ‘ugly situation’. “If the government can create another road that leads go town, or better still open the road that lead from Orozo to Apo, people from Jikwoyi, Orozo and Karishi won’t be using this Nyanya road anymore and it will reduce the hold up as it will only be those coming from Masaka, Ado, Mararaba and Nyanya will be making use of this road.”
Miss Susan Fiona Okeke, who also lives in Karu, behind the High Court, says she is always irritated commuting on the Nyanya/Mararaba road. According to her, “I usually wakeup by 5am in other to do some house chores before leaving my house 7am. Anytime I have appointment, I try as much as I can to leave my home latest 5am in other to beat the traffic. A journey that is supposed to take me 30 minutes, due to the annoying traffic I sometimes spend up to 1:30 minutes.
“The traffic usually really get me frustrated, most times I feel depressed, tired, restless, irritated and I feel some sharp pain around my body. I sometimes feel like stepping down from the car and just walk.
“I had a very painful experience recently, precisely on the 5th of August this year. I was travelling to Onitsha in Anambra State, from Nyanya. On getting to Karu Bridge everywhere was blocked, no way to go back, no way to go forward, we spent complete four hours on a particular spot, and it took us five hours from Nyanya to Abacha Barracks. Honestly it was an experience I will never forget in a hurry.”
“This is the only road linking people to town,” said 56 year old Christy Kazah Bulus who resides at Lokogoma District but works at Karu. “People from Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa states and more than half the population of people who work in Abuja stay along Nyanya/Mararaba axis.
“The traffic situation on a daily basis is usually terrible in the morning and evening even though the afternoons are always traffic free. It gets better for one going against the traffic like me. It is quite unfortunate that people wake up as early as 3am or 4am to avoid the gridlock.
“If houses were affordable in the city, there would be less number of people plying this road. So government need to do something and very fast too.”
She said the major reason the gridlock has persisted is because the Karishi/Apo road has not been completed. But according to her, “We are hoping that the Karishi road will be completed this December. That is what the government said. They said they couldn’t continue the work because there was too much rain. We are hopefully that by March- April next year the road will be completed.”
The story of the Nyanya/Mararaba gridlock has become a national embarrassment and course for concern for citizens especially those residing or doing business along that route.
Apart from the heavy traffic, the frequent accidents with many casualties makes the road one of the most dangerous in the country.