Motorists plying the Mokwa-Lagos route in Niger have called for deployment of security to prevent armed attacks.
The motorists, in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), also appealed to the Federal and State Governments to construct temporary wooden bridges across the collapsed bridges on the route following serial attacks by armed robbers on the alternative routes they ply.
NAN recalls that two bridges that link Western and Northern parts of the country collapsed on June 4 and June 11, respectively, as a result of flood at Tatabu and Bokani villages, both in Mokwa Local Government Area of the state.
Malam Jibrin Ibrahim, the Chairman of Lagos Line Kpakungu Motor Park, Minna, on Wednesday called on the federal and state governments to construct temporary wooden bridges for small vehicles to transport passengers.
He said that smaller vehicles were now using Bida/Patigi, Enagi/ Lafiyagi and Gbajebo/Tatabu roads as alternative route to Western and Northern parts of the country.
“Vehicles using Bida/Patigi will have to park their cars for them to be transported across the river by a ferry to be able to continue with their journey while those using Gbajebo/Tatabu route have been lifting their vehicles through the bridge across.
“The Enagi/Lafiagi road is a bush route and motorists following the route have being complaining to the transport authority that they are constantly being attacked by armed robbers especially at night,” he said.
He called for government’s immediate intervention, noting that the situation has led to increase in transport fare.
He said that transport fare from Minna to Lagos/Ibadan before the collapse of the bridge has risen to N6,000 from N5,500, while Minna to Ilorin now cost N3,500 from N3,000.
The chairman also decried the drastic reduction of patronage of the park, stressing that about 10 vehicles usually convey passengers to Western parts, but only three vehicles hardly got loaded now.
Malam Aliyu Isaka, a commercial driver who spoke to NAN, also solicited the assistance of government in rehabilitating the road to reduce suffering of road users and to sustain economic activities in the area.
“In two occasions now, my vehicle had been attacked by robbers at night in Tatabu village when I stopped for the youths to lift the car across the collapsed bridge.
“They took away valuable items from passengers and myself. It was a vigilance group that rescued us out of the situation that night and I have been robbed twice on that same spot.
“Also any day it rained, I will have to wait for three to four hours for the volume of water to reduce before lifting my vehicle across the river.
“We are still managing this route because Abuja/Lokoja is very difficult to follow due to the gridlock.
“We are begging the federal government to help us because we don’t have any other business aside this one to sustain our families,” he said.
Another commercial driver, mr Akim Babatunde, decried the low activities at Lagos Line Kpakungu Motor Park, adding that majority of Lagos passengers now prefer Abuja/Lokoja route.
He said that Enagi/Lafiagi route that was being used as alternative route was a lonely and unsafe route.
Mrs Mary Okoli, a passenger, also appealed to the federal government for quick rehabilitation of the road to ease movement.
“I am not aware that a bridge collapsed, if only I knew before now, I will have resorted to Abuja/Lokoja route.
“But now that I am already inside the vehicle and I have paid my transport fare, I am begging the federal and state governments to do something urgently about the road.
“I am now imagining the hardship I will go through today before reaching Lagos,” she said.
Commenting on the development, Mr Bala Elkanah, the Police Public Relation Officer in Niger, told NAN that the command was yet to receive report on any armed robbery incident along Enagi/Lafiagi road and Tatabu village.
He advised motorists and commuters to always report cases of armed robbery to the appropriate authority.
Elkanah assured that the command would mobilise personnel to patrol the areas to ensure safety of lives and property.