Dorcas O. Aluko
On the last day of August 2022, Mr. Folarin Ghaffar, 42, left his workplace in Festac, Mile 2 around 7 pm but couldn’t get a commercial bus to transport him to Oshodi where he resides.
After waiting at the bus stop for over two hours, he finally got a bus and he was in Oshodi within 30 minutes. As soon as he alighted at Charity Bus Stop, he took the pedestrian bridge to get to the other side of the road but his action left a sour taste in his mouth.
While on the pedestrian bridge, some young men who had disguised themselves as pedestrians robbed Mr. Ghaffar of his money, phones, and other valuables. They even took his ATM card and made sure he was left with nothing. Mr. Ghaffar tried to raise an alarm but he was surprised that everyone kept to themselves.
He said, “The road was busy and I didn’t want to risk my life by crossing. I was also skeptical about using the bridge but I decided to use it when I saw some men doing the same. I never knew they were robbers. As soon as we got to the top, they accosted me and forcefully took my money, phone, ATM card, wristwatch, and ring.
“I shouted for help but passers-by acted like they didn’t hear me. When I got down the bridge, some people came closer and told me I was lucky the robbers didn’t injure me. They said robbery on the bridges in Lagos was a normal thing and that is why crossing highways is a better option”.
Mr. Ghaffar is not the only one with gory tales about the usage of pedestrian bridges in Lagos as robbery on pedestrian bridges is currently on the rise in Lagos State. This has made many people avoid bridges like plague. Before such incidents happened at night alone but now it happens even in broad daylight.
It was even discovered that some of the traders who display their wares on the bridges are accomplices to the criminals operating on the bridges. Little wonder the state government has banned trading on the bridges.
‘Crossing the highways or Using the bridges: We don’t know which is safer
Another victim of a pedestrian bridge robbery, Stephen Emmanuel said that the government says the bridges are built to save lives but they have become avenues for harnessing crimes.
“Every time on the radio, government agencies announce that we should rather use bridges. But it is a pity that the bridges they are encouraging us to use are death traps. Some time ago, I was on the first pedestrian bridge at Ojota when I felt someone touch my pocket. Before I could say Jack Robinson, my phone was gone.
“When I tried to shout, a guy walked close to me and showed me an axe he had hidden in his clothes. I had no option but to continue moving while mourning the loss of my phone quietly. Whenever I hear the public service announcement on the radio about using bridges, I will always disregard it without a second thought because I don’t know which is safer crossing the busy expressways or using the bridges” he added.
Crossing the highways is too dangerous – Drivers
While pedestrians seem to think that crossing the roads is faster, less stressful, and sometimes safer, drivers do not agree. They believe that bridges are necessities and that is why the government built them.
A commercial bus driver, Olatilo Johnson claimed that refusal to use pedestrian bridges adds to the problems that drivers are facing already.
In his words, “As drivers, we are facing a lot already on Lagos roads but whenever pedestrians refuse to use bridges, they add to our problems. Imagine driving at a speed on an expressway and you have to suddenly swerve to a side or press the brake because you don’t want to ram into someone crossing the road carelessly.
“This gets you injured and your car may become damaged if you are not cautious enough. As a driver who is on the road most of the time, I can tell you that some lives wouldn’t be lost if they had used the bridges.
“Truly, crimes happen on these bridges day and night, especially when people are not vigilant. However, this does not mean it happens everywhere. There are still crime-free places. People in these kinds of places should not hide under the pretense of avoiding crime to cross the expressway” he said.
The people have no excuse
A traffic warden, who is stationed at Jakande Estate Gate Bus stop in Isolo, Lagos, Joana Chinedu claims pedestrians have no tenable excuse to avoid using bridges, adding that Lagosians won’t obey traffic rules or do the right thing unless they are compelled to do so.
He said, “Lagos is filled with different kinds of people: people who won’t obey simple ‘stop’ when told to do so. Robbery happens everywhere, not on bridges alone. One just has to be careful and very vigilant. Lagosians have no excuse for not using the bridges that the government built with a lot of money.
“I know some people will say that people living with disabilities can’t use the bridges but the truth is that the new ones that are just being built can be used by them. In fact, I’ve noticed that new solar-powered lights are now attached to the bridges around so that there can be enough illumination at night, thereby reducing crime rates.
“Lives are lost every day because people want to get to where they are going faster but they don’t care about safety. I’m not saying robbery does not happen on bridges. I am saying that one should not say that because he wants to secure his gadgets and money and lose his/her life in the process. Everybody should just be vigilant and also avoid night walking”.
“We are doing our best” – LAGESC
While addressing the issue in an exclusive interview, the Public Relations Officer of Lagos Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC), Mr. Lukman Ajayi said that the agency is trying its best to ensure the safety of pedestrians.
He also noted that the government builds and is still building bridges because it has value for people’s lives.
“In Lagos, those who will take bridges will take it and those who will cross will cross. They always arrest defaulters for persecution. The government is spending a lot of money to construct bridges.
“Each of the posters you see costs more than #20,000. If you get to Ikorodu Road and Oshodi, we have signposts. People don’t want to take the bridges because crossing the highway is faster and people die. We will continue praying for them that they will come back to their senses so that they will know that the bridges are meant for them and not for animals”.
Ajayi also noted that there is an installation of solar-powered lights on the bridges and that officials of the agency on special assignment stay at their post for 24 hours.
“Part of the measures put in place is to station our black Maria buses where those who are arrested will be kept before taking them to court. When they are taken to court, they are tried and then fined, if found guilty. Officers also don’t leave their duty post until 6 pm so that compliance during the day is achieved” he added.