Once upon a time, the multi-million naira pedestrian bridge in Panseke, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, built by the immediate-past governor of the state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, was a pride for the State and its people.
Arguably, the longest pedestrian bridge in Nigeria and Sub-sahara Africa, people marveled at its beauty and architectural structure, and it was reckoned with as symbol of infrastructural in the State Capital and the state at large.
The bridge was a connecting link that provided crucial trade route for the residents and also prevent pedestrians being knocked down by vehicles.
Over the years, the bridge became more than just a physical structure. It became a source of pride and identity for the people of the town. They would often bring visitors to see the bridge and share stories of its construction and importance to the community.
But as time passed, the bridge aged quicker than it’s ‘destiny’. Cracks appeared on the concrete, rusted metals beam and the once-beautiful structure becoming a shadow of itself began to crumble.
The bridge that had once been a symbol of their progress and pride was now a reminder of neglect and decay. It now wears a bad look as traders and pedestrians now drop their waste and feces on the bridge.
This reporter walked across the bridge and noticed that some parts of it had become a temporary home for beggars. These homeless individuals were using the bridge to conduct their daily business of alms begging.
This reporter also noticed unpleasant smell oozing from the bridge. It was discovered that heaps of garbage being dumped on the bridge daily were responsible for the foul smell.
PLATFORM TIMES gathered that traders were dumping their waste on the bridge at night, some even defecate on the bridge, turning it to a toilet.
A student of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Collins Nwabueze, told PLATFORM TIMES that he had seen “the traders dropping their wastes on the bridge at the close of work every night.”
Albeit pedestrian abandoned the bridge owing to the unbearable stench and resorted to alter active means of crossing the roads.
Some pedestrians also abandoned the bridge for fear of pickpockets near the bridge at night as thieves would target unsuspecting users, snatching their bags and flee.
Another passerby, Ife Adepoju while giving more insight into the disheartening situation, said, “Our people are just so unreasonable, this bridge was made to save our lives as many are being crushed down while crossing the main road.
“But people have turned it into a death trap. They litter everywhere with wastes of all kinds and there is a part of the bridge that is messed up with feces. As beggars abode here, they have a section used as their toilet.
“The traders dump their wastes here every night regardless of its impact on public health. I have on many occasions seen the traders dropping their waste here at the close of the day.
Another passerby, who plies the bridge daily said, ” The bridge is messed up. This place stinks a lot. Refuse here and there all the time. Anytime I ply this bridge I have to use a nose mask because of the unpleasant stinking odor.
A trader, who displaced her goods on the bridge, identified as Iya Alaro confirmed that the traders drop their waste on the bridge every night.
She said, “I and the beggar over there sweep this place every day even at the close of the day but when we get here the next morning, everywhere would have been messed up.
“The traders drop their wastes here late at night and the cleaners that sweep the bridge come once a week.
Nwabueze said he “believes these traders are ignorant of waste management because they have been dropping their wastes here for a long time now. it didn’t just start today.
“Could you believe that there were wastebaskets hung around this bridge till late last year? But these people would rather drop their waste on the floor.
“It baffles me every time I pass by and see waste on the floor of the bridge with empty wastebaskets there.
“Most of these traders don’t even know the purpose of the baskets. And that is the reason most of them indulge in this indiscriminate refuse disposal.”
At the time this reporter visited this site, Bose Adewale (not their real name) was seen eating despite the heap of waste and rotten odours oozing from it.
When asked if she knew it was unhealthy to eat in such an environment, Adewale told this reporter that she knows but had no choice, saying, this is where she makes her daily income.
She said, “I know but what can I do? I stay here all day. This is where I sell my goods from morning till evening time.
“So, it is impossible for me to leave my goods to go elsewhere to eat. God will protect me.”
Dumping Wastes On Bridge, Threat To Public Health- Expert
Speaking with PLATFORM TIMES, Professor of Public Health, Prof. Tanimola Akande said that disposing of waste on the bridge poses a threat to public health since it exposes people to infections, adding that such an environment provides a favorable breeding ground for rodents, which also has implications for public health.
Akande said “such an environment also encourages the breeding of rodents, which has public health implications as well.
“Indiscriminate dumping of refuse promotes the prolific breeding of arthropod-borne disease pathogens like mosquitoes, houseflies, lice, tsetse flies, and cockroaches which transmits diseases like malaria, typhoid fever, cholera, gastroenteritis, amoebiasis, diarrhea, dysamoebiasis conjunctivitis, sleeping sickness, filariasis, relapsing fever and so on.
“It can also lead to respiratory diseases like pneumonia and asthma may also occur.”
The damages on the bridge is blamed on both government negligence and criminal activities by hoodlums.
Traders told PLATFORM TIMES that the iron rod used to mark the road under the pedestrian bridge was removed overnight by unknown perpetrators.
PLATFORM TIMES confirmed that the iron rod was detached, and people are now walking through the area that was once barricaded to prevent pedestrians from jumping the road.
Windstorm has also detached some parts
We Did Not Neglect It- Govt
The Commissioner for Environment, Ola Oresanya refuted the claim that the current administration has neglected the bridge since it was not their initiative.
Oresanya stressed that the Abiodun-led government has been continuing all the unfinished projects left by the prior administration and that all edifices in the state are being maintained.
He said, “Panseke Bridge is a passageway for pedestrians daily and there is resultant high human traffic that uses the bridge daily. You will therefore expect various forms of abuse common to our public places. I am aware that there’s daily attention given to the bridge just like we have road sweepers around the area. It is not true that the place is abandoned.
“You can confirm that all the road constructions started by the previous Government in Abeokuta in particular and around the entire State have been completed by this administration.
“The infrastructure is not for this Government or any previous one but for the people of the State. It is unthinkable that any sane Government will abrogate its responsibility toward the people just because it was not initiated by them.”
The bridge, which used to be illuminated at night, is now in darkness.The roof which used to provide shades during sunlight and rain has also been removed. Rainstorm had taken its toll on both the electrification and the roof.
It was also gathered that scavengers also damaged parts of the bridge while trying to cart away some materials from the bridge.
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