By KENNETH DARENG

JOS  and Bukuru axis within the Plateau State  capital in recent times can be said to have been bitten by the bug of vehicular traffic gridlock which was only associated with big Nigerian commercial cities such as Lagos, Aba, Benin or Port Harcourt or even the present Abuja, the nation’s capital.

The case of Jos is now a daily experience both in the morning and evening. These are considered the normal rush hours to either drop children at school or those heading to offices or business areas. The same goes with the evenings where the same hardship is encountered as the same scenario plays itself in the reverse sequence.

Motorists plying the Yakubu Gowon road axis are usually confronted with the gridlock throughout the day as a result of tankers and other heavy duty vehicles coming into the city centre to offload fuel. Or heavy duty trucks that are usually parked by the NASCO gate which adversely affects smooth vehicular movement towards the Old Airport roundabout. At the same time creating congestion along Kufang/Miango junction road that stretches right to the State Low-Cost Housing area.

The gridlock at the Abattoir road which connects to the J.D Gomwalk – State Secretariat usually affects motorists plying the Plateau Hospital area right down either the Hill Station round-about or in most cases goes straight into the city centre from the state House of Assembly to Ahmadu Bello way Jos.

The worst of the gridlock is often experienced along the British American Junction which is a Federal roundabout which serves as a connecting route for vehicles traveling to the North East via Bauchi State. The same road is on 24 hours basis, a busy road as residents of Laminga, Rikkos, Angwan Rukuba and Shaka depend solely on that road for connectivity to other parts of the Jos metropolis. The northern axis of the state capital is another area worst hit by gridlock that causes headache for commuters as heavy duty trucks and tankers depend on the Bauchi road and Zaria road as gateway either in or out of Jos because these roads provide access to Kaduna, Kano via Jengre. While at the other end, Bauchi road provides the only access to Bauchi State.

The volume of traffic from Zaria road creates heavy congestion along the Zaria-by-pass leading to Gada-Biyu down to Polo roundabout thereby choking the Zaria road to other adjourning roads especially Katako area and neighbouring streets.

In the recent past, all roads to Jos metropolis were not as busy as they have become today. This is despite the fact that more access roads have been constructed and in most cases dualised by the state government in order to ease the flow of traffic within the metropolis and environs.

SUNDAY STANDARD investigations revealed that the influx of heavy duty trucks and fuel tankers are mainly the cause of the traffic congestion in all the locations that serve as the artery for the free flow of traffic. This can also be attributed to the fact that goods/products have to be loaded or offloaded at some points. In the process traffic movement is obstructed for hours. Motorists and commuters bear the brunt of   inconveniences of long hours of waiting on queues. And if one is not so lucky, chances are that another queue or traffic congestion awaits the commuter at another end of the town and so, the routine goes back and forth.

According to Mr. Jonathan Sabo, who spoke with the SUNDAY STANDARD, “The cause of the traffic congestion  these days is just due to the act of lawlessness on the part of those tanker drivers and truck drivers who defy all sense of responsibility to either offload or discharge those goods or products right in the middle of the day when they are supposed to do so at night when most businesses must have closed for the day. That is what is done in civilized countries. Imagine a truck or a tanker being parked on the middle of the road around Terminus, imagine the hours of gridlock. In fact, one trailer not well parked can hold traffic as far as Bauchi Road, Murtala Mohammed Way and can even affect Gada-Biyu to Zaria road”. Sabo gulped.

Similarly, a resident of Low-Cost area, Nathaniel Okoye told the SUNDAY STANDARD that, “My nightmare is when my children resume school because for me to take them to school in the morning at Police Children’s School along J. D Gomwalk road is a terrible experience due to the constant traffic congestion I experience both in the morning and evenings daily”.

But to Monday Job, a commercial motorist in Jos, “The problem is not that of the heavy duty trucks along the road, I blame the state government and other successive past governments for not seeing these coming. You can see that the population of Jos and environs have doubled. Meaning commercial and other government activities should grow but it appears there was no proper town planning put in place to accommodate this present situation.

“Worst of all, after the 2001 and 2008 crises in Jos and with the threat of Boko Haram bombings and for security reasons, some roads that were supposed to ease traffic congestion have either been blocked or restricted. For example, the road from West of Mines that connects Hill Station road via the State High Court is blocked. The one from post office that connects the same road around the National Museum is also blocked. Tell me how you expect free flow of traffic”.

Another case in point is that in spite of a task force to evacuate illegal motor parks and markets, it appears all these measures are not working. Either the officials are compromised or somebody somewhere is pretending not to know his or her work. Otherwise, how can people be allowed to pack vehicles on top of the road pavements at Ahmadu Bello way or how do you explain people turning the road to second hand clothes market at Ahmadu Bello way?

Chindi Okeke told SUNDAY STANDARD that “The solution is simple; construct mini gates that prevent heavy duty vehicles from plying certain routes within the city. It will force the drivers to change their attitude of driving into the city from every direction.

“Secondly, the state government can make provisions for a park for such types of vehicles and even serve as a good revenue generation for the state which at the same time can provide avenues for smaller operators in the transportation business to thrive. For instance, truck pushers can benefit from such business activities. That is how the economy is supposed to grow.

Following the collapse of the country’s refineries, and that of the railways, Nigeria began to witness the emergence of massive transportation of petroleum products by road and in the process tankers and other heavy trucks are competing for parking space especially during loading and offloading of products or goods.

Other factors SUNDAY STANDARD gathered as contributing to the gridlock in major cities of the country and in particular Jos, are lack of government’s response to such challenges. For instance, in Lagos, the state government and military had to issue an ultimatum to truck drivers to vacate some locations that are known for constant traffic gridlock.

Luka John, a businessman in Jos metropolis said “Honestly, the present daily traffic congestion in Jos has negatively affected my business because we deliver goods and services within the metropolis. We have a problem of quick delivery to our clients on timely basis because of the gridlock.

“It is seriously affecting us in this line of business of goods delivery. Government should do something about this urgently”.

John also called on the state government to intensify efforts at ensuring free flow of traffic especially on affected routes, by towing away vehicles or trucks and prosecuting offenders. He however noted that the monitoring and enforcement task force and measures put in place seemed to have been overwhelmed by the deluge of heavy duty vehicles into Jos and what is termed an attitude of wrong parking at various locations.

Madam Beatrice Davou, a resident of Rukuba Road Jos lamented that, “Once it is 5:00 oclock in the evening, the ugly traffic gridlock we experience going back home from work is really terrible. Sometimes one is caught up in the gridlock just between J. D Gomwalk road to Gada Biyu for hours and the reason is mostly attributed to heavy duty vehicles plying the route and keke operators who have also formed the habit of either picking or dropping passengers around the Gada Biyu bridge.

“Another problem on that road is that an illegal motor park to Rukuba Barracks has emerged immediately after the overhead bridge which also creates the slow flow of vehicular movement thereby affecting those of us who use that road to get to our homes on a daily basis. I want to appeal to the government to do something about all these illegal parks by the roads. Look at the one around Polo roundabout which serves as a point for loading passengers going towards Bukuru.  How can government allow such within a roundabout?”, she queried.

SUNDAY STANDARD was able to identify other points used as illegal parks that are also contributing to the cause of traffic congestion in Jos. And the notable ones are the NITEL roundabout which has been overtaken by Keke and taxis soliciting for passengers right from the road from Domkat Bali down to the roundabout leading to Yakubu Gowon Way which motorists at one end also use as a park to Abuja and other destinations.

The Tudun Wada/Mado junction can be one good example of a slum type of vehicular and human activities especially where the Keke operators always have a field day trying to outsmart each in search for passengers within the junction thereby affecting the flow of traffic and even for those on the opposite side driving towards Hill Station junction.

Around the Zaria bypass, the hustle and bustle around the Luxuriant terminals and the other parks around Angwan Suya-Gada Biyu road is another cause of traffic congestion mostly in the mornings and evenings.

SUNDAY STANDARD sought the views of the Plateau State Commissioner for Transport, Hon. Mohammad Muhammad who disclosed that the ministry is aware of the challenges being faced by commuters and motorists at various locations of the state capital due to the daily occurrence of traffic hold ups. He said the ministry is already addressing the matter by way of designing a permanent solution to ease traffic congestion within Jos city and environs. According to Muhammad, “We are collaborating with critical stakeholders such as the National Union of Road Transport Workers, security agencies with our VIOs and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) etc to maintain proper parking particularly along Yakubu Gowon road and other affected areas.

“There is a committee now in place that is working out the modalities for the construction of modern truck terminals at Zaria road along Babale area and another one at Maraban Jama’a with another being proposed along the Yingi, Jos International Breweries (JIB) area.

“The truck terminals are expected to be equipped with facilities such as parking lots, security out post, storage compartments, offices and toilets facilities etc that would meet international standards”.

The commissioner also noted that although such can be considered a long term plan, the Plateau State Ministry of Transport is going to ensure that in the interim, measures are put in place with the collaborative efforts of stakeholders  to ensure the free flow of traffic within Jos metropolis and its environs within the coming days. He also noted that, “Citizens also have the responsibility to ensure that they adhere to proper use of public infrastructure like roads where motorists are expected to observe the parking rules and regulations for the convenience of other users.

Haruna Maisaje, in his opinion, the problem is with the keke riders. “The state government should either ban them or restrict their operations to a distance not beyond half a kilometer. Let them operate within short distances and government should allocate specific areas or parking lots for them instead of the present situation where they are found everywhere causing more traffic congestion on the road. Ministry of Transport, Survey and Town Planning should be able to synergize in coming up with designated motor parks and should ensure strict compliance. That would be part of the solution” Maisaje remarked.

Joseph Abok, a student of Civil Engineering with the University of Jos, told the SUNDAY STANDARD that in order to ease the traffic situation in Jos, the state government must be prepared to take drastic measures against violators of the traffic laws. “It is only in a lawless society that a truck gets a flat tyre on the middle of the road and neither the driver is apprehended or the vehicle towed away. The VIO, FRSC should be properly equipped with modern gadgets to take care of these challenges rather than just blaming it on wrong parking”.

Abok also added that government must also consider the rate of population growth and be proactive in providing infrastructure that would enhance efficiency and growth within the system especially by constructing more roads to open up those blockages, create diversion or alternative routes like it is done in bigger cities.

Even for security reasons, the idea of few roads in a densely populated area can be a big risk and dangerous. A good example is the road from Naraguta to Bauchi which is the only gateway road from Tilden Fulani in Bauchi State. If there is blockade at the Naraguta axis, where else can one follow?

So you can see why the road from Fobur to Angware which can link up to Rinji/Magama Gumau in Bauchi can serve as an alternative for commuters. That road alone can reduce driving hours from Bauchi to Jos and also take care of the traffic congestion along the Bauchi road/Farin Gada axis”.

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