Saturday

UNIZIK junction death trap; problems, prospects


By O’star Eze



The most gruesome accidents have continued to be recorded along a highway junction known as UNIZIK junction in Anambra State capital, Awka, notorious over the years as a death trap given that it is a downward slope and a major road leading to Onitsha metropolis from Enugu State. This must be why the Peter Obi administration constructed a pedestrian bridge to prevent pedestrians from crossing the highway the wrong way and risking road carnage.


With the assistance of the law enforcement agencies, pedestrians are beginning to use the pedestrian bridge while eschewing crossing the highway illegally. Yet, reports still show that road carnage along that place persists.

A recent occurrence that calls to mind was on March 20, 2017 when a 10-tyred lorry fully loaded with sand failed break at UNIZIK junction and hit a black Hyundai SUV turning it 360 degrees. No life was lost but the SUV was irreparably damaged.

Orient Daily took to town to inquire why the spot remains a death trap and findings show that illegal loading of commuter buses along the expressway just under the pedestrian bridge is the primary cause of the accidents.

Chief Obiajulu Nweke, chief taskforce of TRACAS transport company, Awka 2, that works in the TRACAS park close to the pedestrian bridge told Orient Daily that the wanton loading of vehicles poses a huge risk to life under and around the bridge. He pointed out that for the past 15 years he has been working on the TRACAS loading pit, he had witnessed the loss of so many lives as a result of the activities of people loading outside the park and along the highway.

He decried the reluctance of the state government to take decisive steps in stopping the illegality. Stating that TRACAS, alongside other transport companies have constituted parks where they load and discharge passengers which they use religiously, he said it was a sign of irresponsibility on the part of the state government to continue ignoring the lawless transport workers who load along the road. In his words, “Why can’t the state government provide a park for these vehicles (called “ndi-aka-n’enu’) close to the junction and enforce its use by them?”

He said that the area has been an accident zone as a result of the people loading outside, and called on the state government to come and fix the problem. He however observed that the transport workers that pose the problem more are Awka indigenes. He said that the indulgence of the transport workers of Awka extraction to load along that expressway as a form of compensation was counter-productive given the risks involved.

Speaking with the Federal Road Safety Sector Commander, Sunday Ajayi, revealed that the UNIZIK junction expressway has been marked as one of the flashpoints in Anambra State by the corps. Ajayi said that it is so because of the concentration of people and business activities around that place and secondly because of the topography. “The slope is long and steep and because of this we have that kind of problem,” he described.

He added that the problem has been there even when the road had not been made expressway. “You are caught in between stopping people from doing business there and allowing vehicles to run through.”

He said that the corps has made efforts to enlighten people around the place to use the pedestrian bridge knowing that the place is dangerous. He added that at the instance of FRSC’s observation and recommendation, the Anambra State Traffic Management Agency (ATMA) and Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (OCHA) brigade have been there times without number to ensure there is sanity in the activities of people there.

Reiterating the need for all that operate around the area to take caution, Ajayi informed that the corps had advised the commuter drivers to maintain their activities inside the stipulated parks. He said that the corps also tows vehicles that park wrongly under or around the bridge.

He however advised Anambra people not to allow things to get down to such level before they do the needful. “Our safety is in our hands,” Ajayi noted and said that how one enhances his safety will determine what he would get. He added that the safety of people on the roads does not depend only on what the Road Safety Corps would do alone.

Orient Daily observed that in the wee hours of the morning, luxurious buses and other passenger buses, line up along the UNIZIK junction expressway offloading goods and passengers. And so it continues for the rest of the day, with buses and the Willie is Working bigger buses parking along the same road to pick or drop passengers.



Acknowledging that their system of loading passengers is risky, one of the drivers of the unbranded commuter buses, Ebuka Udeh (not real name) suggested that just as there are a good number of motor parks along the expressway with branded vehicles, the government could organize them to use a clearing that looks like a motor park just after St Michael’s plaza as their park. He said that this would make him and his colleagues stop their activities which fuel the carnage risk of UNIZIK junction.
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