THE Ashaka Rail Bridge was built around 1961, during the construction of the Eastern Rail Line that links some Eastern states through Enugu to Benue, Plateau, Bauchi and Gombe states to Maiduguri.
However, the tracks that were meant to be the easiest route of transportation across the country are now worthless since the route no longer provides train services and have since been abandoned.
With rail services out of the way, residents of the affected states now resort to the use of the broken bridge situated along the border between Gombe and Yobe State, in Ashaka, Bajoga town, Funakaye Local Government Area of Gombe State.
For the people of Ashaka and its neighbouring Kulani Local Government Area of Yobe State, the challenged bridge remains the only route that gives hope to their inter-community businesses.
The bridge brings together some villages in Yobe State, including Garin Boshe, Garin Maikumo, Bularafa, Teteba, among others. These communities cannot do without visiting Bajoga for business and medical attention just as Gombe communities, especially those living in Bajoga, do travel along the failing bridge to Yobe villages for one purpose or the other.
However, these communities have been risking their lives to cross the bridge which has only wood planks as its surface. Crossing the bridge is dangerous as pedestrians can fall on account of dizziness or after stepping on a rotten part of the wood’s surface.
A businessman, Rabiu Umaru from Garin Maikumo in Yobe State, on his way to Bajoga town told Arewa Voice that it has been very difficult for his people to cross the bridge, which is the only path that link their village with Bajoga.
Idiris Bulama, who was found pushing his motorcycle on the surface of a thin metal on the rail track, told Arewa Voice that it takes more than an hour to cross the bridge, stressing that both the Gombe State and Yobe State governments should fix the bridge because of its strategic nature.
To help people cross this dangerous route that links some parts of Yobe and Gombe, some men in Ashaka have been working to ensure the safety of those plying it since the bridge collapsed about four decades ago.
A middle-aged man, Sani Haruna, who makes a living assisting people to cross the bridge told Arewa Voice: “People have no option than to follow this bridge if they won’t try to cross the river because there are hippopotamuses that use to swim from Dadinkowa to this axis. Pedestrians can’t risk their lives. Recently a man fell under the bridge and has run mad now, a woman also fell down, because the wood’s surface on the bridge has rotten.”
Haruna added that businessmen who follow the route from neighbouring villages of Yobe State use to travel to Kano State to buy goods, but suffer most while trying to cross the bridge than they do from Gombe to Kano. “This problem has forced many people to suspend their business trips to Kano. But if this bridge is fixed, a lot of people will continue with their businesses.”
Haruna said he has been working at the bridge for about 38 years, helping people to cross, charging N100 to push a motorcycle or to escort an individual to cross. He added, however, that workers there collect between N350 and N400 to help a motorcycle loaded with goods to cross the other side, noting that the workers make an average daily income of N5000 to N10, 000.
Sambo Jauro, who is the Galadima of Ashaka, said the rail bridge is crucial to the people of Ashaka and the neighbouring Kulani Local Government Area in Yobe State, calling on the authorities concerned to rebuild the bridge.