SPECIAL REPORT: Why Lagosians may never fully embrace pedestrian bridges [PHOTOS/VIDEOS]

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The Lagos State Government on Sunday, February 11, 2024 officially announced its decision to commence full enforcement of the use of pedestrian bridges within its metropolis.

Lagos as a commercial nerve and metropolitan state is not new to avoidable stories of ‘hit and run’ accidents involving motorists and pedestrians crossing highways instead of using foot bridges.

According to a 2023 data from the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Nigeria has the highest rate of death from motor accidents in Africa; leading 43 other nations in the number of deaths per 10,000 vehicle crashes”. “Nigeria is followed by Ethiopia, Malawi and Ghana with 219,183 and 178 deaths per 10,000 vehicles, respectively”.

FRSC disclosed that 1,349 people were killed in road accidents between January 1 and April 12, 2023. According to the Commission, the crash involved 3,965 vehicles conveying 16,102 people. Out of that number, 1,349 people were killed, while 7,744 got injured.

It is in the light of the foregoing that the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab in his February 11 directive on behave of the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration described crossing of major highways in the state by pedestrians as an offence, adding that any defaulter caught will be prosecuted.

Wahab via his X handle (formerly Twitter) stated that officials of the State Environmental Safety Corps (LAGESC), popularly known as Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), alongside other agencies have been instructed to enforce this directive immediately, stating “Crossing the highway is an offence in Lagos State.

“Lagos State Government has given a marching order to LAGESC officials, (KAI) Marshall and other law enforcement officials to arrest anyone crossing the highway and then charge them to court immediately.”

The commissioner, further urged residents to make use of pedestrian bridges, “Please, use the pedestrian bridges across the state,” he said.

Following this directive, the LAGESC officials were dispatched strategically to different pedestrian bridges in the state to enforce compliance. However, a two-week on-the-spot assessment and monitoring by NewsClick Nigeria team revealed states of the bridges including what both enforcement officials and pedestrians face daily.

 

Why we are not comfortable using pedestrian bridges – Lagos residents 

NewsClick Nigeria team spoke to a cross section of pedestrians on why they seldom use the bridges and their responses are as captured below;

Acrophobia: According to Wikipedia, Acrophobia, also known as hipsophobia, is an extreme or irrational fear or phobia of heights, especially when one is not particularly high up. Residents told NewsClick Nigeria team that they would rather use the highway than the pedestrian bridge because of the height.

A pedestrian at Ikeja Along Bus Stop who identified himself as Mr John said the bridge is ‘too high’. He said “I use the bridge because it is safe but the bridge is too high for me. Anytime I use the bridge, I always feel tired but  I still have to use it for my own safety. This is the reason most people do not use the bridge here at Along,’ he said.

Another pedestrian at same location who identified herself as Mrs Qadri said she uses the bridge as part of her sacrifice for national development. ‘I am of the opinion that for real development we need to make sacrifices. The bridge may not be comfortable for everyone but that is the price we need to pay for our safety. I use the bridge out of willingness,’ she said.

Health challenges: Some pedestrians said their underlying health challenges makes it difficult for them to use the bridge. Mr Ola in Palmgroove said he doesn’t use the pedestrian bridge because it is more easier to cross than using the bridge. He also said that he can’t use the bridge because he is asthmatic. ‘The bridge is so tall that I run out of breath using it. I almost pass out on the bridge one time and there was no one to come to my rescue. Since then I have stopped using it. I know the bridge is meant to be safer but due to health reasons I can’t use  it. If the government create electric bridge then I’ll change my mind. Some of the bridges are not accessible for  physically challenged. So I feel the government needs to do better if they truly want to help us.’

A young lady who identified herself as Miss Tomi said: ‘I hardly use the bridge because of my BP issues. I have high blood pressure. My blood pressure usually escalate anytime I use the bridge.’

Mrs Omozuwa in her fifties said: ‘I have rheumatism. This long bridge isn’t for someone like me please. I can’t be climbing such steps with my legs. I prefer to cross.’

Overcrowded: Some pedestrians said they avoided using the foot bridges because it is usually overcrowded and as such unsafe to use. ‘You need to see the number of people waiting to use this bridge. That in itself wastes time. So to avoid time wastage, I just cross,’ a pedestrian at Oshodi told NewsClick Nigeria

A recently built pedestrian bridge turned refuse dump at Oyingbo, Lagos Photo Credit: NewsClick Nigeria Media

 

Filthiness: The sight and stench oozing from some of the foot bridges visited is better imagined than experienced. ‘You can’t ask people to use the pedestrian bridge in such condition. Most of these bridges are now dumping sites. Let government or the KAI people themselves come and see this for themselves and still in their conscience arrest those crossing the roads,’ a pedestrian at Oyingbo seeing using the express told our reporter.

Lack of Fitness: NewsClick Nigeria reporters observed that some residents are generally not fit and thus find climbing the bridge an extra burden. A middle aged woman at the popular Berger Bus Stop said: ‘I have to lean on the railing each time I use the bridge because I feel dizzy almost immediately. A resident at Iyana Ipaja, Miss joy said: “I don’t make use of the bridge please. I prefer crossing, the bridge is too long for me.

Beggars’ colony: ‘Most of these bridges have become beggars haven. They’ll bombard you and sometimes harass you if you don’t do their bidding of giving them money. And it’s not just kids, some adults too have joined these begging teams. So it’s better not to just go through that stress. I’m better off crossing,’ a pedestrian at Maza Maza said.

Dilapidation: Some of the bridges visited are either totally abandoned or in bad shape. Most don’t have illumination for night usage.

Insecurity: ‘Who will rescue us when these criminals strike? The attack and steal from people even in broad day light. It’s better to cross than fall victim of these criminals who can even kill to get what they want from you. The Lagos State Government needs to fix all these lapses before forcing people to such foot bridges,’ a Lekki resident said.

 

KAI/LAGESC officials should be civil in their enforcement – Environmental expert

Some environmental experts have appealed to the Lagos State Government particularly the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab to prevail on the KAI officials to be civil in their approach while effecting compliance. They also asked LAGESC to train and allow only female officials arrest female offenders while male officials arrest male offenders.

‘The decision by the Lagos State Government to start enforcing compliance to pedestrian bridge usage is belated but still a welcome development. However, since February when government empowered KAI officials and other sister agencies, we’ve seen videos of these people brutally harassing so called offenders. Most worrisome is a video where some male officials were since bundling female offenders inside their vehicles. This is highly unprofessional and condemnable. Government was supposed to have factored these cases into consideration before calling for enforcement. Train female officials to arrest female offenders and male officials to arrest male offenders. And the arrest should be conducted in a civil manner except incases where the offender proves stubborn or tries to evade arrest,’  an environmental expert, Biola Owoeye said.

 

We’re working to fix most of the issues raised – LAGESC

Meanwhile, the State Environmental Safety Corps (LAGESC) has said agency is working intensively to address most of the challenges raised by Lagosians on using the pedestrian bridges.  The Corp’s spokesperson, Ajayi Lukman, said efforts were in place to clean, rid the bridges of miscreants and also fix leakages on roofs. LAGESC Corps Marshal, Maj.  Olatunbosun Cole (retd.) in a recent reaction to conviction of some miscreants obstructing pedestrians from using the bridge said: ‘The conviction of these criminal elements is a right step in the right direction, being that they have caused irreparable havoc to Lagosians in transit by harassing men, and women and dispossessing them of their valuables, which forces them to risk their lives by crossing the highways.’

A LAGESC official, Taiwo Ogundairo who spoke to NewsClick Nigeria reporter at Cele Express Bus Stop said pedestrians are free to approach them if they have difficulty in using the bridge rather than crossing. He said those caught will be arrested and charged to court immediately and maybe sentenced without option of fine. ‘People comply especially when KAI officials are around so that they won’t be arrested. Those arrested are usually taken to the head office before being charged to court. The offenders are usually asked to sweep a certain pedestrian bridge and there are no option of fine,’ he said.

‘People with bad sights are at liberty to walk up to any officer, and request they should be assisted in climbing the bridge,’ he said

Ogundairo also denied that KAI officials demand bribes after arresting offenders.  Our officials don’t demand for bribe after arresting an offender. Such official might be dismissed from service if caught,” he said.

 

We’ll continue to make scapegoats out of erring residents – Commissioner

 

The Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab had said that clampdown on residents who float government’s order will not stop. He said residents who also pounce on LAGESC officials effecting arrest will not be speared.

 

Editor’s Note: We strongly recommend usage of pedestrian bridges provided by the Lagos State Government. Life is sacred and once lost cannot be replaced. Government should also take into consideration genuine concerns of residents. This way we can have a balance and a safer Lagos.