There is growing anxiety and hope among residents of Kaduna State, especially those living and doing business under and around the Kawo Flyover, over plans by the state government to remodel the bridge.
While some residents and business owners are entertaining fear that their property will be demolished without payment of compensation, others are hopeful that it will be a new beginning for the people.
However, commuters are excited over the expansion because of the traffic congestion faced on the bridge daily.
Ibrahim Isa, who plies the road on a daily basis, said “There was a time I spent four hours just to go from one end of the bridge to the other because a truck driver broke the bridge barrier.
“I hope with the expansion of the bridge, there will no longer be congestion along the road because it is a major entrance into the state, which links it to other states in the north.
Our correspondent reports that the Kawo Bridge is a beehive of activities – from people engaged in buying and selling, to those either living under the bridge or using it as public toilet.
Businesses going on under and around the bridge include food vendors, second hand clothes dealers, rubber shoe sellers, fruit sellers as well as newspaper vendors, amongst others.
Also, many homeless people call the bridge home as their items can be seen under the bridge.
The Kawo Motor park and two filling stations are close to the bridge, which is the gate way in and out of the state.
The bridge, our correspondent recalls was constructed by the Makarfi administration. The present administration however said the bridge has not served its purpose of easing traffic and vehicular congestion, hence the need to remodel.
Alhaji Jibril Aminu, who sells rubber slippers under the flyover, welcomed the idea of the remodeling saying, “We have seen what the state government is trying to do and I am in full support of the initiatives because I believe if there are good road in the state, more people will come into Kaduna and there will be a boast in business.
“Though, I am a bit scared that we will have to move out of the vicinity, I believe it will be temporal and by the time we return, things will take a new dimension.”
Maimuna Musa, a Turaren Wuta (local incense) seller in Kawo market, prayed that the work will not hinder them from doing their business saying, “It is from this business that I take care of my family because I am a widow with five children.
“I am not against the work but I’m apprehensive because I do not know what will happen afterwards. I heard that government wants to relocate all markets along the road in the state, so after the bridge is completed, we may not be allowed to come back here and do our business.”
She called on the government to find alternative business places for the masses so that they can search for their daily bread.
On his part, Mohammed Musa, who has lived in Kawo for over 30 years, called on the government to keep to its promise of completing the project in 20 months in order to ease the envisaged hardship that residents will face when the construction begins.
According to him, “I was part of the stakeholder’s engagement forum with government officials and we were assured that the project will bring ease and not hardship to the masses. I want to further call on the government to compensate the people that their property will be affected by the construction.”
Also a food vendor, Maryam Abdul, who has been selling food there for about five years, expressed anxiety over the work. “I have mixed feeling because I am not certain what will follow after.”
Maryam, a mother of three, said she has a sick mother and younger siblings to take care of since the demise of her father two years ago. “I cannot afford to lose my business because I have many mouths to feed. Although I know there has to be change in any society, I pray this change comes in a positive manner.”
Our correspondent gathered from credible sources that the contract sum which is put at N7.58bn was awarded to MotherCat Nigeria Ltd with a construction period of 20 months.
The Managing Director of Kaduna State Roads Agency (KADRA), Engineer Mohammed Lawal Magaji, when contacted told our correspondent that the model for the new flyover will be ready by next week.
Magaji had recently, at a stakeholder’s engagement meeting, disclosed that the base of the flyover will not be tampered with as it is still strong; adding that additional roads and three roundabouts will be constructed apart from the flyover in a bid to further ease congestion.
“We will widen the existing bridge to accommodate two vehicles at the same time from both ends. We are expanding the bridge at both sides. To eliminate that parabolic shape, we are increasing the height of the shorter pears to meet up with the central height,” he said.
He further disclosed that a U-turn will be constructed at the last bus stop, so that vehicles do not need to go to the bridge site before turning, and Lafiya Road will be the alternative road for Kawo residents who want to go to town in order to reduce traffic pressure at the construction site.
While reassuring the stakeholders that compensation will be given to all those whose property will be affected by the project, provided they have valid documents, he hoped that when completed the bridge will ease traffic congestion along the road.
Already, the construction of alternative roads has commenced along Kawo Road as our correspondent observed that trees are being cut and side paths cleared to pave way for the roads.
Also, iron rods holds are being put together at opposite sides of the road close to the Federal Secretariat probably for the expansion work on the bridge.
While residents and business owner are skeptical of the construction work, commuters are optimistic that their days of long queues and hours in traffic will soon come to an end.