Road users in Abuja are experiencing frustration in strategic areas of the capital city where faulty traffic lights often times lead to major gridlocks and multiple car accidents.
Motorists who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES expressed dissatisfaction with the traffic control situation, which they say was badly affecting their daily activities.
Nonso Ifedili, a commuter, said he had witnessed accidents happen because the traffic lights malfunctioned at busy road points.
“Recently, a cab I boarded to Area 3, Garki almost had a head-on collision with another vehicle close to the National Defence College. The traffic lights showed green on all the stands at the same time, resulting in a maddening rush”, he said.
A taxi driver, Mohammed Umaru, who shuttles between Berger and Wuse, said the deteriorating traffic situation is not making transportation business lucrative anymore as so many traffic lights in major areas of the city are no longer in working condition.
He said this has led to constant gridlock, especially during evening rush hours with or without the presence of traffic wardens. According to him, motorists feel more obliged to obey traffic lights than the wardens.
Wisdom Itodo, a banker, also spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on the phenomenon.
“Here at Bolingo Junction, traffic lights are not working and we have to wait for directions from the wardens who are not accurate sometimes, the situation is just very bad”.
Baba Dayo, another motorist, said the problem is not only that the traffic lights are not working but that the ones working are not strategically positioned.
“Where is the wisdom in putting about three traffic lights on a street? For example, Mississippi Street in Maitama has about four traffic lights. The traffic situation there coupled with the many intersections can only be imagined”, he said.
Out of the 18 traffic lights between Berger and Central Area, our reporters observed that only four were working perfectly.
Muhammadu Ribadu road, which is a cardinal route adjourning the Presidential Villa, has had no workable traffic and street lights for over three months, Hassan Bayo, a motorist who plies the road on a regular basis, noted to our reporters.
Same situation was observed on the road leading to the National Assembly and the adjourning Shehu Shagari way.
It is not only the malfunctioning traffic lights that is making driving on Abuja roads an ordeal.
For those entering the city from the airport at night, the expanse of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua road, otherwise known as airport road, is only lit by head lamps of moving vehicles.
For months, some of the street lights on this major road that serves as the gateway to the city centre have not been working.
With the absence of light, many businesses suffer as the darkness that has enveloped the city affects them.
Speaking to this newspaper, the Special Adviser to the FCT Minister on Media and Publicity, Abubakar Sani, said that the traffic and street light issues are part of the problems inherited by this present administration.
He however attributed part of the blame to vandalism of the facilities.
“Unfortunately, we have cases of vandalism. People climb the poles to remove some of the integrated circuit. It is unfortunate.
“But I can assure you that all these challenges have been identified and gradually being overcome. As a matter of fact, the administration is introducing lights that will be less vulnerable to vandalism so as to ensure that traffic flows steadily around the city”, Sani said.
On the issue of accidents as a result of poor condition of traffic and street lights, he said “over 70% of accident are actually caused by human errors as a result of reckless driving, drunkenness, and things like that.
“You cannot even attribute accidents to traffic light because the traffic lights are there to regulate vehicular movement, if you obey traffic rules, you are not likely to be involved in any accident.
“However, that is not to say that due to some errors here and there, there may not be accidents that could be attributed to traffic lights. But that does not in any way signify that traffic lights in the FCT are not optimal”, he said.
Abuja as the federal capital city, was created 40 years ago on February 4, 1976. It became Nigeria’s capital on December 12, 1991, when Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria’s then military president, took the seat of government from Lagos.
Abuja is divided into two parts. The entire territory is made up of 8000 square kilometres: 250 square kilometres of this is the federal capital city including Garki, Maitama, and Asokoro.
The remaining portion is made up of satellite towns where the majority of residents reside.
“A lot of resources has been deployed to develop only the 250 kilometres in the past”, Mr. Sani explained.
“But because of the desire of this administration to shift development to the satellite towns, a lot of resources are going to be used to develop infrastructure in the satellite towns in other to make life meaningful and enjoyable to the residents.”
It can be recalled that a few weeks to the end of the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration, the capital City witnessed what most residents called an 11th hour’ fresh installation of traffic lights, in a move which seemed very suspicious.
Some of the new installations were at Jabi, Utako, Kado, Gwarimpa, Garki, Maitama, Asokoro, Kubwa and some satellite towns. The project was commissioned by the then FCT minister, Mohammed Bala.
However, since Muhammad Musa Bello assumed office as the 16th minister of the Federal Capital Territory, little has been done to improve the street and traffic light situation.
In fact, many of the existing ones broke down or started malfunctioning.
From Aminu Kano Crescent, Adetokunbo Ademola, Ahmadu Bello Way to Muhammadu Ribadu and the adjourning Shehu Shagari road, which links the Presidential Villa, street lights are not working at many sections of the roads and majority of the traffic lights are in bad state.
This often causes commotion among motorists and increases the chances of road accidents.
“Of course most of the traffic lights are not working perfectly. That’s why we are here, our job would have been a lot easier if the traffic lights are working effectively,” Dorcas Audu, a police sergeant and traffic warden stationed opposite Access Bank near Wuse Market, said.
She however said that the present administration was working to improve the traffic situation.
Abuja, ‘the fastest growing city in Africa’, as modelled by its creators, is gradually becoming a sharp contrast of its original plan. The infrastructure and public utilities in the city are deteriorating as the authorities seemed helpless.
According to the 2006 census, the city of Abuja had a population of 776,298, making it one of the ten most populous cities in Nigeria.
According to the United Nations, Abuja grew at the rate of 139.7% between 2000 and 2010.
By 2015, the city was experiencing an annual growth of at least 35%. A closer look at the city reveals a capital city plunged into new depths by its deteriorating infrastructure, an ever increasing population and neglect by government.