Beware of miscreants on footbridges

Pedestrians queuing to use the Ojota Bridge

By their nature, pedestrian bridges, also called pedestrian overpass, or pedestrian overcrossing, are supposed to be invaluable assets in city centres owing to their several benefits.

According to research, they do not only facilitate smooth flow of traffic by removing all conflicts between human and vehicular traffic at strategic locations, in some climes, pedestrian bridges are designed to, in some cases serve cyclists, animal traffic, and horse riders.

Additionally, footbridges also help in complementing the landscape where they are located, as they can be used decoratively to visually link two distinct areas. In this sense, footbridges are both functional as well as beautiful works of art and sculpture.

Lagos with an ever-expanding human population, plays host to the highest number of footbridges in the country. Some of these bridges are located in areas where human traffic is very high at certain times of the day, and very low at other times.

But being high up there, footbridges do not insulate users from insecurity in the larger society, as miscreants lurk around either end of the bridge when darkness falls to harass and dispossess unsuspecting members of the society of their valuables, including money and mobile handsets.

That explains why residents of Charley Boy Bus Stop in the Gbagada area of the state, as well as those living around Charity, Oshodi, are calling on the state government to descend heavily on miscreants, who perpetrate evil on and around footbridges once darkness falls.

Mathew Ehijiator, a technician, told The Guardian that between 5am and 6am, the Charley Boy Bus Stop footbridge remains unsafe for usage as petty thieves usually have a field day at the side of the bridge that is usually deserted.“These thieves usually lurk around on the other side of the bridge once they observe that a lone pedestrian is on his/her way.

As the pedestrian descends, they attack and make away swiftly with whatever they can,” he said.Ehijiator added that this is why people don’t like to use the footbridge in the evening for fear of being robbed by miscreants.

He pointed out that the situation was very worrisome in December last year, as well as February and towards the end of March this year, when the miscreant resurfaced.While pointing out that residents of the area are in need of another footbridge, as the only one there now is miles away from the nearest footbridge, he called on the state government to consider constructing another one at First Pedro Junction for people who alight at other bus stops along the road to cross safely.

Another resident of the area, who simply gave his name as Emeka, told The Guardian that the rate of accidents on the road around the area was high as most people prefer to dart across the expressway, rather than use the bridge and be robbed.

He therefore, urged the state government to consider providing adequate security around footbridges in the state to ensure protection, as pedestrians would be encouraged to use the bridges when they are sure they won’t be robbed at the other end.

Vice Chairman, Charley Boy Okada Riders’ Association, Rafiu Lamina, who spoke in the same vein, confirmed that these petty thieves usually station themselves strategically around the foot of the bridge at the other side, which is mostly deserted at night.

He said: “Once the unsuspecting victim alights, they emerge from nowhere dish out some slaps and snatch their bags and run into the nearby bush and vanish into thin air.”According to him: “From 8: 00 p.m., it is usually unsafe to use the footbridge. Though the bridge is illuminated at night, the robbers stay around undercover from where they pounce on their victims.

Investigations also revealed that despite the heavy presence of military formations and police around the Oshodi area of the state, robbery by miscreants is still a regular occurence.

At the Charity Bus Stop, traders close to the footbridge informed The Guardian that due to its proximity to the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre, Oshodi, miscreants usually give the bridge a wide berth.

According to a trader, Mrs. Rose Obe: “Miscreants do not snatch handbags or attack people on the bridge because they fear what the military men would do to them if they are caught.”She, however, revealed that about 100 metres away from the bridge, between the hours of 7pm and 8pm, touts operating under the cover of darkness still snatch bags and handsets from women in the area.

Speaking in the same vein, Samuel Alade, who does business around that location said the bridge itself is safe for passage, but area boys still torment its users.“Miscreants operating on motorcycles snatch handbags from unsuspecting women around the service lane here. This was very rampant early this year, but has now subsided,” he said.

A commercial motorcyclist, Ademola Fasakin, who also spoke, remarked that the presence of soldiers around the entrance of the military facility serves as a deterrent to some of the petty thieves, who might want to commit any crime on the bridge.

At the footbridge at Ajao Estate Junction, a newspaper vendor, Peter Okenagba, said it is safe to use it in the day, but could not tell whether it is also at night. A taxi driver, who works till late around there, maintained that the footbridge does not attract heavy human traffic hence not that attractive to miscreants.

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Pedestrian bridges
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