LAGOS, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA)- Some pedestrians in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja and environs have lamented the rising number of beggars and traders on pedestrian bridges.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the pedestrians in interviews earlier today, said the conversion of the bridges to markets by traders and siege by beggars have become worrisome.
The activities of the traders and beggars were regarded as hindrance to free flow of human traffic as the bridges were supposedly constructed at strategic points to help people cross busy highways without having to risk their lives.
Patience Okafor, a resident of Lugbe and a civil servant, expressed concern that men, women and children besieged the bridges, mostly in the evenings, to patronise traders, who spread their wares for sale.
“On these bridges, hawkers not only brazenly display their wares, but also engage in competition for buyers’ attention, while in the process hampering the bridge users’ movement.
“Right from the staircases of these bridges and even under them, pedestrians are treated to a display of various items, ranging from clothes, belts, shoe polish, to food, snacks and soft drinks, among others,” she said.
Another pedestrian, Mrs Okafor noted that on the bridges proper, the displayed wares and pedestrians had to compete for space.
“It is an eye sore, as you can see that apart from the hordes of traders, physically challenged persons and sundry characters that solicit alms have also made their presence felt on these bridges.
“They also jostle to make quick money from users of the bridge,” she said.
Expressing worry over the situation, Millicent Umoru, a resident at Lugbe added that the pedestrian bridge was no longer comfortable for people to pass through.
Mr Umoru said that the situation on the bridge was more worrisome.
“Many of the traders behave as if the place belongs to them. If you mistakenly step on their wares, you are in big trouble, you really need to mind yourself or have the traders to contend with.
“It is that pathetic. It seems the relevant authorities have given up on the place; other users even avoid pedestrian bridges because of harassment by beggars,” he said.
He said that there was, however, a big relief a few months ago, when some soldiers dislodged traders and beggars from footbridges at Lugbe.
“The recurrence of this ugly situation is when those soldiers were no longer around.
“I tell you the impacts of their presence were felt both on the road and on top of this bridge.
“I think the government should take action against this act and stop it completely,” Mr Umoru appealed.
One of the traders, Eze Nwachukwu, said that it was the economic situation in the country that conditioned him to the bridge.
He expressed the willingness to sell inside a shop but could not afford one due to the high cost of renting a store.
“Most of the shops being built by the government are too expensive. Where do I get such money?
“If not for lack of cash, you won’t see me here because it is not the best place to trade. Government should have sympathy for us,” he said.
Another trader, Lucy Benson, appealed to the government to consider some of the petty traders who could not afford to pay for shops by reducing costs of shops in the market.
“It is even risky for some of us to sell outside because our goods are not secured, you can imagine us packing things up and down every day, we want to come out to sell.
“If I could afford the prices of shops, why would I come outside here to sell when my goods are not safe?” She asked rhetorically.
Meanwhile, Muktar Galadima, Director, Development Control, FCT, while speaking with NAN, decried the alarming rate of which public infrastructure are mishandled.
Mr. Galadima said that FCTA had always frowned at the occupation of footbridges by beggars and its conversion to selling points by traders.
He described it as a violation of the FCTA environmental law which would not be allowed to go on.
“Such incursion is against the Abuja Master Plan. We won’t allow it to go on,” he said.
Mr. Galadima said that the department had the backing of the provisions of the FCT Act of 1976 as well as the Urban and Regional Planning Act of 1992, to enforce strict compliance with the Abuja Master Plan.
According to him, the FCT Administration has reiterated its resolve to recover pedestrian walkways in its efforts to ease human and vehicular movement, especially within the city.