Mud smeared, dust covered: An Abuja community’s daily commute struggle

AS Nigeria’s capital, one would not expect people living in Abuja to be in want of basic amenities like good roads, portable water, stable electricity and other essential services, but this is the case for residents of Ibwa community, a suburb in Gwagwalada Area Council, where the state of the road is a constant nightmare. Residents are either smeared by mud or covered by dust, Adedokun Theophilus reports.


Things almost fell apart for Idris Adam, a dark-skinned commercial farmer and a resident of Ibwa, in December 2022 when his wife developed a complication which required urgent specialist attention during the birth of their first child.

In excruciating pain after birth, the medical staff did not hesitate to transfer Zainab, Adam’s wife, to another health facility which could get the required medical attention.

Sadly, there was another hurdle for the unconscious mother and new father to cross –  the 15km road the links to the next community,  This road, known as Ibwa Road, which connects the predominantly farming community to other parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is barely motorable.

Idris Adam, Ibwa community resident
Idris Adam, Ibwa community resident

It’s a hurdle to ply that road during rainy or dry seasons, much less with a woman in need of medical attention in tow.

Recounting his experience during the birth of his child Adam, who is in his mid-thirties,  described it as “terrible”.


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“She had given birth successfully” he told  The ICIR “but there was a complication because she had lost a lot of blood and needed urgent attention. Unfortunately, she could not access emergency medical service because of the delay we experienced on the road”.

“The road was bad, she was bleeding and unconscious at the same time. I could not bear seeing her suffer as we journeyed through the road but there was nothing I could do”, he recalls.

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They spent more than an hour getting from Ibwa to Paiko kore, a neighbouring community.

Adam’s fear heightened because his wife still had the placenta in her womb and needed special attention.

President Muhammadu Buhari administration said it had constructed 13,000 kilometres of roads nationwide between 2015- 2021, but many roads remain deplorable across the country.

Apart from adding to health emergencies such as Adam’s wife, bad roads are also responsible for the deaths of many people in Nigeria.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.3 million people die annually due to road accidents worldwide, with more than half of all road traffic deaths among vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

The WHO report notes that Nigeria records the highest number of road accident death rates, with an estimation of 41,693 deaths globally.

The report further states that Nigeria contributes 2.82 per cent to the total number of global road accidents.

Meanwhile, a document obtained from the World Bank website says that the world bank between 2008 to 2017 approved three million US dollars for road construction, yet Nigeria ranks 54th on the list of countries with the number of road accidents globally.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that 1,834 people died out of 3,345 road accidents that occurred in the country between January and March 2022.

The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) further disclosed to The ICIR that 1,349 people were killed in road accidents between January 1 and April 12, 2023.

The Commission noted that  2,463 crashes occurred during the period. According to the FRSC, the crash involved 3,965 vehicles conveying 16,102 people. Out of that number, 1,349 people were killed, while 7,744 got injured.

Like Zainab, Usman Bawala a sixty-eight-year-old subsistence farmer and commercial motorcyclist, recounts his ugly experience to The ICIR at the Ibwa village on the state of the road.

Bawala recalls how he had a ghastly accident on the road.

A commercial driver Abubakar Sodiq displayed his extra clothe

After a laborious day, exhausted Bawala was in a hurry to get home and relax from work.

Noticing the cloudy sky and impending rain, he rode his motorcycle as fast as he could to beat the rain.

Unfortunately, he lost control of his bike and galloped into a ditch.

“I fainted when I lost balance, and I could not recall anything.”

Visible lines appearing as wrinkles sustained from the accident were still on his face when he spoke with The ICIR. He had a bone fracture on his right hand which made him bedridden for a while.

“I could not work for a month because the bone on my right hand broke,” he said.

He stressed that he now depends on menial work and members of his family to make ends meet.

Role model covered by dust

Aminu, a lanky Fulani man who lives in Gwagwalada but works in Ibwa as a secondary school principal, was not left out as he shares his ordeal.

“As a school teacher, I used to come here every day; we pay between a thousand naira to one thousand five hundred naira on transportation because of the road,” he says.

According to Aminu, teachers who reside outside the community are not exempted from the road problem as it impedes their productivity.

“We will have to trek from Paiko kore to Ibwa to and from during the rainy season because everywhere would be full of mud. Any day it rains, nobody likes to get on the road, including motorcyclists and people who trek.”

“Other times, we have to close before the stipulated time, especially when it is raining and we have to come to school with two clothes because of mud and dust,” the principal laments.

Similarly, the administrative head of LEA primary school Ibwa, Mohammed Shuaibu, laments that the dust from the road causes severe health challenges for the teachers.

A partly dilapidated bridge on Ibwa road

“That dust is really disturbing us, and we have had a series of health challenges because of it. We use face masks always, but anytime we forget our nose mask at home, we would develop catarrh and cough for that week because of the dust that was inhaled on the road.”

According to Shuaibu, there is a distant route that could be used to access Paiko kore but the route is far and unsecured.

The school teacher groans at the discomfort he undergoes to meet his targets in the classrooms because of the poor road.

“Sometimes I wear two to three clothes due to the dust. Like yesterday, I wore three clothes when I got to some places. I have to put off the first and second clothes. I also had to clean my shoes.

“You know teachers are role models, and the students have to see us as an example because you cannot tell your students to be very neat without serving as an example,” he adds.

Civil workers, farmers groan over the delay, losses due to bad road network

In the farming-dominated village, the majority struggle with loss annually because of the difficulties of conveying farm produce to markets.

After farmers had struggled to plough, cultivate, sow, irrigate and harvest their farm produces, conveying their crops to marketable places becomes a snag.

Bemoaning the difficulties farmers experience, Usman Abiba who has resided in the community for more than a decade, stated that the road devalues produce and reduces its market worth.

“The suffering that we experience is not a small thing. If you don’t have trousers, you cannot use the road.

“We often get to the market late, and when people are selling in the morning, we sell our produces in the afternoon,” she stats, adding that “you cannot escape catarrh and cough. If you get to the market, there’s no need to be asked where they are coming from because the dust or mud easily discloses that we are from Ibwa.”

In September 2017, the Federal Government lamented that infrastructure deficits, such as deplorable roads like Ibwa took over $9 billion from Nigeria after harvests.

The federal government again complained of recording over N3.5 trillion in similar losses in 2022. This, however, has a negative effect on the Agricultural component Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria.

Corroborating the government’s claim, another resident of Ibwa, Ismael Salamontu, highlighted how the residents toil to access neighbouring communities after their harvests.

A resident, Ismael Salamontu and her colleague display a piece of wrappers to be worn as change of clothing when they get to their destination after plying the Ibwa road.
A resident, Ismael Salamontu and her colleague display a piece of wrappers to be worn as change of clothing when they get to their destination after plying the Ibwa road.

Despite the dust enveloping the road wherever a motorbike rides on it, Salamotu notes that the road was manageable at the time The ICIR visited the community.

“It is better at this time of the year. If it were to be during raining season, you wouldn’t be able to access this community.”

Shady culvert and waterway

Finding by The ICIR revealed that a former chairman of Gwagwalada Area Council, Adamu Mustapha said that his administration captured the construction of culverts and waterways for the neglected community.

In an interview with DailyTrust in 2017, Mustapha noted that his administration had repaired the dilapidated Ibwa road.

“We have constructed a double cell-box culvert on Paiko-Ibwa Road. Before I assumed office, the two communities were completely cut off. The work as of today is 90 per cent complete, and this has eased the movement of people and goods to and from the communities,” he noted.

However, findings by this reporter through the deployment of an open-source tool, google earth reveals that culverts and drainage had not been constructed as claimed by the former chairman. This was also confirmed when the reporter visited Ibwa.

Helpless head of district groans

Speaking with The ICIR, the district head of Ibwa, Abubakar Suleiman, pointed out that the rainy season in the community, which ought to be a season of blessing, is always accompanied by suffering because of the bad roads.

While describing the torturous condition of his community during the rainy season, the community leader revered that it is always tough accessing other communities.

“We spend almost two hours from Ibwa to Paiko during raining season.”

He affirmed that he goes out of the community with extra clothes because of dust.

He also recalled how he slipped on his way to Paiko during a downpour.

The district head of Ibwa and the chiefs
The district head of Ibwa and the chiefs

The district head called on the Federal Government, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and the Chairman of Gwagwalada Area Council to intervene and construct a motorable road for the village.

Constructing the road could bankrupt the council; residents should pray – Gwagwalada Council

In an interview with The ICIR, a Deputy Director in the Department of Civil and Building in Gwagwalada Area Council, Jubril Sulaimon, noted that the Area Council lacked the financial ability to construct a tarred road for Ibwa.

Gwagwalada local council secretariat

According to the director, the dearth of funds is a major problem in running the area council.

“We have more than fifty roads of this nature in the council, and we must attend to most of them. If we use the resources of all the council to do one, what have we done? So what we do is to ensure every community has access to Gwagwalada”

Although Sulaimon mentioned that the council would attempt to do little maintenance on the road, he, however, cited that the plan for the construction was not feasible unless the road is considered an Intervention project of the Federal Government.




     

     

    “Our prayer is that one day, Ibwa should be one of those that should be considered by the federal government for intervention.”

    He added the council could not afford to construct the thirty-kilometre road at the detriment of other communities that required developmental projects.

    “The council cannot tar that road because we have similar areas with similar problems and to tar a road now because of the cost of the asphalt is very expensive.

    “Based on the financial capacity of the council, some culverts and grading could be done. What we can do is do partial work until we get an intervention to tackle it once and for all,” the director added.

    Stories with punches holding the powerful accountable. His determination to speak out against corruption and influence the conversation in Nigeria, the surrounding region and the continent inspires him.

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