By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Not once, not twice, not thrice has Anambra State Government pledged to construct a pedestrian bridge at the ever-busy Regina Caeli Junction axis of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway in Awka, the Anambra State capital. But, regrettably, none of these promises has been fulfilled.
Experientially speaking, these unkept promises usually come whenever vehicle knocks down pedestrian(s) attempting to run-cross the Expressway at the ever-busy Junction. Countless assurances from various government officials have been made, yet this vital infrastructure remains a dream deferred, even as the Junction continues to be synonymous with unfulfilled promises and tragic accidents.
The chronicle of these unmet pledges and empty vows by government dates back for years. And it is not just one government department or official who has made these promises. The State Commissioner for Information, the Works Commissioner, the MD/CEO of the Awka Capital Territory Development Authority (ACTDA), and even Governor himself, depending on who arrives first at the accident scene or addresses the media, have all voiced out these empty vows on behalf of the State Government, to erect a pedestrian bridge at Regina Caeli Junction.
Even the State House of Assembly has passed several resolutions urging the government to take construct the long-awaited pedestrian bridge. Each time, the government has nodded in agreement, but no progress has been made till date. The most recent call from the House of Assembly, just a few months ago in July, has also similarly yielded no tangible results.
These unending promises started during the immediate-past Governor Willie Obiano’s regimen when some Awka portions of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway were rehabilitated, with the attendant increase in the number of accident recorded thereon, especially the ones involving pedestrians attempting to cross the road vehicle.
Regrettably, despite all the accidents that happened at the junction throughout Obiano’s eight years in office, the pedestrian bridge never came into fruition.
For those daring to cross Regina Caeli Junction, it involves taking three perilous risks. First, they must navigate one side of the dual carriageway, then cross the gaping gutter that divides the lanes, and finally, cross the other side of the road. A wooden plank over the gutter serves as a makeshift crossing, but it has also become a gathering place for beggars, who also risk their lives there day and night.
Tragically, many pedestrians have lost their lives attempting this treacherous crossing. And many of the drivers that killed them were hit-and-run drivers, who zoomed off immediately after knocking them down.
Given that Regina Caeli Junction stands far from the Unizik Temporary Site Junction (which is the only pedestrian bridge in the whole Awka), and considering the critical role the Junction plays as a link between two sides of Awka Town, with its high traffic volume; constructing a pedestrian bridge at the Junction is not just a matter of convenience but an urgent necessity.
The frequency of accidents demands immediate action. The government must act swiftly to prevent more loss of life. If Awka is to be beautified and attain the status befitting a capital city, then a pedestrian bridge at Regina Caeli Junction is an absolute must.
In this tangled web of pledges, the ACTDA appears to be a perplexing figure. Established to beautify Awka and elevate it to the status of a true capital city, the agency’s focus seems to have shifted dramatically. Rather than contributing to Awka’s beauty, ACTDA is now often associated with the demolition of shops and houses, a bitter irony when compared to its original mission.
While the efforts of Governor Chukwuma Soludo to transform and modernize Awka are commendable, breaking the age-old jinx of the Regina Caeli Junction should be a top priority. The government should not wait for another innocent soul to be lost before reviving the talk about the pedestrian bridge. Time is of the essence; action is imperative.
The promise of a pedestrian bridge at Regina Caeli Junction has lingered far too long, haunting the city’s residents with each passing day. It’s high time the government turned these promises into reality and ensured the safety of its citizens. Lives are at stake, and the clock is ticking.
Governor Soludo, arise and break the jinx.
O si taa dịba mma, ọ dịbara gboo.