•Dogon Gada residents, FCT, lament over collapsed bridge


From Okwe Obi, Abuja

Dogon gada in Hausa means a long bridge. But it is a community in Lokogoma, Federal Government Territory (FCT), Abuja. And it is roundly underdeveloped.

Aside pockets of criminality, periodic power outage, the harmattan dust and muddy paths during rainy season one concern troubling residents is the collapse of the only bridge linking the community to other parts of the city.

The bridge collapsed due to movement of heavy-duty trucks to construction sites, perennial rainfall and the de-silting of sands in commercial quantity. This further weakened the bridge and expanded the erosion space. The erosion led to flooding claiming lives on a yearly basis.

For now, the only viable means in and out of this community surrounded by highbrow estates, is through motorcycles. Before now, residents contributed money to fix the structure whenever there was a crack.

But this time, the cost of building a durable bridge is beyond the financial strength of the people who are mainly traders, artisans and a handful of public servants.

The few car owners drive through longer and tortuous routes out of the community. Those without vehicles are at the mercy of commercial motorcyclists who do not only drive roughly, but charge exorbitantly for them to take commuters in and out the area.

Residents share a common anxiety, which is the wet season that will finally ground and isolate the area because each passing day poses uncertainty, if left unaddressed. Also, schoolchildren and older women who cross the bridge daily bug the minds of residents.

While some are packing out of the community, others with low income are bearing the trauma pending when help would come. Mary Mathias, an office assistant, working for a civil society organisation, packed into the community last year. But she is now agitated and considering running out of the suburb because of the bad roads and flooding.

She said she came into the area because of the beautiful tales she was told by a friend about the area and the proximity to her office in Garki 2. For Mathias who has phobia for a large body of water and motorcycles, staying in such a community would continue to taunt her and increase her blood pressure whenever she sees the dilapidated bridge and the rough riding of motorcyclists.

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She said: “The bridge is bad. Last year, we lost a bike man because of the flood that swallowed the bridge. It took days for the water to dry up. Now that the bridge has finally collapsed it is going to be difficult for most of us to move around comfortably.

“I came to this community last because of the beautiful story I heard. But that beautiful memory is changing. I normally come back late from work. You can imagine me a lady who cannot swim struggling to pass through the bridge. I am scared. I will relocate as soon as my house rent expires.”

Innocent Okeke, is one of the oldest landlords, told Daily Sun: that some people in the community have decided to bill each compound N10,000, for the commencement of work: “We have never had it this bad. We are tasking ourselves for the project because we cannot leave the bridge like that. Vehicular movement is difficult to pass through and you know that things are hard.

“While a handful have complied, some residents are yet to contribute. We are begging the FCT administration to help us before the rains get severe.

“If you come here during the rainy season, you will not like this place; the flood is something else. People have been dying here.”

A motorcycle rider, Musa Ibrahim, detailed the harrowing experiences he and colleagues experience: “I am an Okada rider in this community. I can tell you that the bridge is a death trap. First timers always have accidents because of bridge. We need help. Motorcyclists are always colliding especially at night because of the nature of the bridge.”

Another resident who opted to be anonymous, doubted the sincerity of the handlers of the project: “I have my reservations about those selected to collect this money. You know when money enters hands of some people it is always a problem for them to bring it out.

“I am begging the Minister of FCT, Nyesom Wike, to take over the project. If this bridge finally breaks down we are doomed. He always gives timeline for a project like this.

“If you have noticed, some people have not complied. When will they comply? When will work commence? We do not have time. This is one of the areas affected by flooding every year. It is close to Efab Estate where flood runs into people’s houses. It is not a joke.

“Aside the obvious spot of concern, other areas suffer same fate because of flooding and lack of drainage system. Most prospective house owners have suspended construction work because of the flooding.”

Michael Ude, another resident said: “We are in need of assistance. This community is going down by the day because of volume of water. We need good drainage system around the community.

“If you go down the community, there is a swamp there. People cannot build. But with a strong drainage system, we will not have much of a problem. But our immediate challenge is the bridge.”