Driving in Lagos seems to have become a nightmare. Intractable traffic gridlocks leading to huge man-hour loss have become a daily occurrence amid the government’s plan to complete the projects expected to bring the public relief. ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE writes.
A businesswoman, Gladys Onoriowode, shocked other commuters last Friday. As her Agege-Oshodi BRT bus necked into a traffic jam, she began a soulful lamentation, praying to God not to have a repeat of her nightmare the past week.
According to her, she got to Oshodi at 5pm, and boarded a mini bus (danfo) heading to Agege for N500, having waited in vain for a BRT bus till 7pm. She had to disembark at Ile Zik bus stop at 11pm, when there was no hope of her bus moving forward again. She then resorted to trekking the rest of the eight-kilometre journey to Agege, from where she would still take another bus to Matogun, an Ogun State suburb where she lives, arriving home at 2am.
“My husband and children were fast asleep when I got home, and I suffered body ache the whole of the next day,” Mrs Onoriowode recalled.
Joseph Kolawole, who lives in the rundown part of Agege, a Lagos suburb, had an equally harrowing experience. He had to trek the entire stretch of Oshodi to Agege thrice in the last one week. He said he couldn’t count how many times he did that within the month. Not for lack of transport fare, but due to the traffic gridlock on that axis. Even as he was narrating his experience last Thursday, he wasn’t sure if he would get any vehicle to home, as there was not a single one in sight as at 10pm at Oshodi where he stood.
Another passenger, Emma Obisirike said he had to move out of Apapa at the height of the traffic crisis two years ago. He is still unhappy, because he finds it hard getting to his shop at Mazamaza everyday. Returning to Alagbado, a border town with Ogun State, where he has taken solace, has been another daily nightmare.
A university don at the Lagos State University (LASU), who prefers not to be named, said he had to exempt some of his post graduate students from coming to classes, as a result of the terrible time they usually had getting to class. “I have to put together a handout, which I make available to them. For feedback, they reach me either through E-mails or Whatassp,” the lecturer said. The lecturer said they (himself and the students) resorted to this approach to make life easy for the students.
Busy nature of the roads
With an estimated 23 million people, 12 million of which commute daily on the 9,100 roads and expressways (2009 World Bank estimate), Lagos is the nation’s busiest state capital.
With about three million private and four million commercial vehicles, Lagos roads record no fewer than seven million vehicular trips daily. This is higher during peak periods, and much more during festive seasons due to the surge in travellers coming from other parts of the country.
Logistics experts said Lagos State is losing an average of $1 billion yearly to traffic congestion. Gbenga Olorunpomi, in a ROM Transportation Engineering research study in 2010, said the state was losing three billion man-hours to traffic congestion yearly, adding that if that time was reduced by 20 per cent, it would save the state at least, $1billion yearly.
The attendant cost of the loss such as diminished productivity, wasted energy, environmental degradation and diminished standard of living, imperil the quality of life, ebb away the state’s industrial competitiveness, make it (the state) one with a high cost of living index, all of which have continued to impacted on business and tourism.
Year after year, Lagos is witnessing a rising pressure on transportation, leading to debilitating congestion. Indeed, traffic congestion is widely viewed as a growing problem of mega cities such as Lagos, because the vehicular traffic volume in many areas continues to increase faster than the transportation system capacity.
The result is a traffic lock down, which slows down the economy, leading to capital flight as many investors and businessmen are relocating in droves to other friendly climes.
Beyond road infrastructure expansion, experts opined that the major bane of slowdowns on the roads is lane indiscipline. Drivers’ behaviour, many argued, accounts for over 95 per cent of causes of traffic gridlocks on the roads across the state.
“Congestion is a fact of life in a mega city like Lagos. The issue is not so much about the congestion, but how we manage to ease the impact of congestion. We must learn to use the roads better, respect the highway codes better, educate ourselves better and be more mindful of the people behind us,” a logistics expert, Patrick Adenusi, said.
Many road users, especially commercial bus drivers, according to Adenusi, founder of Safety Without Borders (SWB), are impatient and hardly obey traffic regulation.
In a working paper titled: “The socio-economic cost of traffic congestion in Lagos”, presented by the Economic and Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget in July 2013, vehicle ownership was identified as another major cause of road congestion in Lagos.
Data from the Lagos Bureau of Statistics (LBS, 2012) showed yearly increase in vehicles registered in Lagos State from 2009 to 2011 and about three-quarter of newly registered or renewed vehicles, were privately owned. This has grown even more exponentially since then.
Lagos has continued to experience traffic congestion because many car owners find it more convenient to travel to work by their cars rather than being cramped inside public transport.
The problems besetting Lagos roads are multi-faceted. While many have said the narrow width of the roads has been inadequate for the volume of vehicles plying them, others insisted that the over concentration of vehicles on a single mode was the greatest headache of the state.
Dean, School of Transportation Studies, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewunmi said though the state could do with wider road network, attempting to rehabilitate all at the same time, as being done, has contributed to the traffic lock down witnessed across the state.
Odewunmi, who, incidentally is a think-tank member midwifing the birth of transportation policy in the state, said if nothing is done urgently, Lagos would be unlivable by 2025.
According to him, the less-than-one per cent contribution of water transportation to the state’s transportation mix is unacceptable for a state globally reputed for its aquatic splendor.
He reasoned that though the state targets about two per cent of passenger traffic daily (which is about one million riders daily), when all its policies fully come on stream, the figure is still insignificant, pointing out that it should target a minimum of five per cent before 2019.
“Water transportation where available, beats other modes of transportation (rail and highway), on carrying capacity, lifespan of rolling stocks, implementation cost, social and environmental cost,” he said.
In a paper: “Accelerating Integrated Transport System: Rail, Roads and Waterways”, delivered at a public forum, Odewunmi said an efficient waterways would facilitate the decongestion of the roads, especially along the state’s coastal areas, and complement government’s rail line effort along Mile 2, where more than six new jetties could be created.
He equally challenged the government to accelerate the completion of road projects, adding that a situation where government is spending eternity to deliver on projects it earlier expressed a commitment to deliver within 10 to 12 months, would only be adding to the people’s misery.
Odewunmi, who described transportation as the physical movement of goods and, or people from one location or point to the other, said “because there is no alternative to the physical movements of people or goods, government must continue to work and rework its systems and expand the basket to ensure that more alternatives are provided to make travels more enjoyable, pleasurable, pleasing and safe the people”.
The government hinted that a transportation policy, for which a committee was put in place in September, is almost ready. The committee’s report would soon be presented to the state exco for approval.
It also said a number of initiatives would be released next month to arrest the continuous slide. It said an ‘Operation Violet’ may be ready to drive enforcement of its transportation law, which came into effect in 2012. This is part of a number of initiatives resolved to bring reprieve at a strategy session chaired by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode last Thursday.
The session, according to the Commissioner for Transportation, Ladi Lawanson, was attended by LASTMA’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Chris Olakpe; its General Manager, Mr. Olawale Musa; Commissioner of Police, Mr. Imohimi Edgal and Lagos State Task Force on Environmental Offences Chairman, Mr. Yinka Egbeyemi, among others.
He said: “The state government has a solution in sight. All we are waiting for is approval to activate the solution. It has resolved to immediately implement the solutions to ensure that Lagos residents can commute across the state with ease.”
Lawanson said the state government had fashioned out workable solutions to ensure free flow of traffic across the state, especially as the yuletide season approaches.
He said: “What we have done is that we have got feedback from men and women, who have been on the frontline, mainly traffic officials and then the Commissioner of Police was with us as well to give us the perspective of security.
“So, most of the issues have been thrown up. We have come up with what we think are solutions to make for better flow of traffic, especially as we enter the ember months and the holiday season.”
Olakpe, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), said the trailer park at Orile would be delivered very soon. He expressed optimism that it would go a long way to address the issue of trailers parking on roads and bridges.
He disclosed that LASTMA has recruited 1,000 new officers to be deployed to the road before the end of the year. The agency, he said, has resolved to extend its operations from 5am to 12 midnight daily, while the state government continues to patch potholes. He said LASTMA officials will be on ground to ensure free flow of traffic across the state.
On rehabilitation of deplorable roads, Olakpe said the meeting resolved to handle it in two ways: day time and night time, promising that there would be palliative measures immediately.