Can sanity ever return to Lagos roads? The state government, experts and transportation stakeholders say it is possible if motorists comply with traffic regulations, writes ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE
These are ‘mad’ times for motorists and commuters in Lagos State. For many residents, hell has been let loose in the state, no thanks to traffic gridlocks across the metropolis.
According to the Bureau of Statistics, the state lost over two billion man-hour to traffic in 2016. This figure, motorists believe, will be doubled by the time this year’s data is computed.
Although residents and visitors to the state have been coping with traffic snars since, the current traffic pattern has increased their pains, anguish, tears and sadness.
“Many, these days, dread to be on the roads in Lagos,” a top government worker, who craved anonymity, admitted to The Nation.
Transportation Studies teacher Prof. Samuel Odewunmi blamed the traffic mayhem on “government’s planlessness.”
Odewunmi, who is Dean, School of Transportation Studies, Lagos State University (LASU), said the state got into traffic crisis because it embarked upon massive reconstruction of virtually all its arterial corridors at the same time, against the grain of urban transport planning.
He said: “The massive reconstruction of all the major highways into the state simultaneously violates the principles of urban transportation planning. If you have three or four major arterial roads to your state, you cannot work on two at the same time. Doing that will lock down the city. What is recommended is that you embark on them one after the other.”
He said the almost permanent lock down of Apapa-Oshodi, Marina-Mile 2 -Badagry Expressways, which is the state’s busiest corridor, the construction of the Agege flyover bridge, and the Abule-Egba to Oshodi BRT median corridor, on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, contributed to the gridlocks, made worse by the vehicular density in the state.
Odewunmi, a member of the state’s Transportation Policy drafting team, said the first step was for the government to admit that it has a traffic emergency on its hands. He also urged the government to adopt other measures, among which are: work on the collated reports of perennial traffic dark spots by LASTMA; profile each of them to know the causes of traffic and provide solutions to such; and fix bad roads, whether highways, major or minor roads, as they are major impediments to free traffic flow.
Admitting the government’s good intentions, Odewunmi said because most of the contractors have scant knowledge of roads specifics, most roads they constructed or rehabilitated hardly last two rainfalls.
Observing that traffic congestions are localised, Odewunmi called on the state to involve the 20 local governments and 37 local council development areas in road maintenance and developing traffic solutions in their domain, rather than having them as onlookers.
According to him, council chairmen could be mandated to hold regular meetings with transport union leaders on how to achieve constant free flow of traffic in their respective domain.
“Traffic management is local and governments must be involved and not just be mere onlookers. It is also important to bring road transport unions on board. They should not just be collecting revenues that are not being shared by the government,” he stated, adding that, most importantly, the government must continue to place high premium on enforcement.
Corroborating Odewunmi, Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC) Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi said any transportation management policy without enforcement was a picnic. He argued that to drive sanity back to the roads, the government must be stern on enforcement.
Transportation Commissioner Ladi Lawanson said the government would continue to pursue aggressive awareness campaign on compliance with the state’s traffic laws. He, however, assured that the government would, henceforth, enforce to the letter the Traffic Law 2018, adding that the state’s traffic management agency (LASTMA) has been primed to ensure sanity on the road and among motorists and other road users.
“Among other things, we are extending the working hours of all our traffic officers, as the governor has approved that they can now run three shifts, especially on perennial traffic prone corridors. The governor has also directed security cover for them against assaults and molestations in the course of their duties, while the Ministry of Justice has been directed to set up more mobile courts to try traffic offenders,” he said.
Lawanson further disclosed that the government had approved the establishment of special traffic intervention force, which would operate on motorbikes, to enable them get to traffic prone areas on time. He also revealed plans for traffic officers to be armed with body cameras, to further reduce conflicts with motorists in the event of being apprehended for traffic violation.
He said: “The bodycams, which would be on the traffic officers, would be deployed to further reduce human interaction and use technology to further drive sanity and enforcement of traffic on the roads. The body cams, which work like the CCTVs, would capture the details of the offending motorists and such would be ticketed and, in case of default, such a culprit could be prosecuted.”
Lawanson also said the intermodal transportation plan would begin on a sure footing next year, as the government would take delivery of two new watercraft, making its ferry acquisitions it would use to announce its entrance into water transportation four.
He said with the take off of the new bus scheme, and the channelisation of the waterways for increased patronage, there would be a reduction in road traffic.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan sued for Lagosians’ patience as the government battles with the intractable traffic situation.
Bamigbetan, who identified impatience and motorists’ attitude as the bane of the traffic bottlenecks, said if drivers were patient and obeyed traffic regulations, sanity would be restored on the roads.
Bamigbetan said besides bodycams, the automated number plate capturing equipment (ANPR) would also be mounted on roads, especially areas prone to traffic, so cameras would pick the number plate of the offender, process the picture on the database and deliver a ticket to the culprit’s address obtained from the database.
Bamigbetan said the government was determined to rid the state of gridlocks. he added that no stone would be left unturned in the task of making travel seamless in the state.
A former Transportation Commissioner, who craved for anonymity, while applauding the application of technology to enforcement, said LASTMA should do more as it has the wherewithal to resolve traffic snarls.
The ex-transportation chief said there were traffic snarla everywhere in the state because of the absence of a transportation management plan by the agency established to ensure free flow of traffic.
“Everywhere you go what you see now is crippling traffic. It now takes about three to four hours to move between Ikeja and Oshodi, and you may end up not been able to get to honour any event which you are invited if you did not leave home early. When you finally get ahead of the traffic, you will see nothing but the abdication of responsibility by LASTMA.
He said what needed to be done to tame the nightmarish traffic was to give purposeful leadership and direction to the agency as it remained the only one that could help resolve the crippling traffic.
“The traffic bottlenecks in Lagos require a more focused and aggressive solution beyond the cosmetics being applied by the government,” he said.
According to him, traffic in Lagos is simple and easy to manage and as such does not require complex applications.
He said: “In the past 16 years, we have never had transportation this bad. Except for traffic engineering solutions, which require more cash inflow to tackle, traffic control should not be beyond LASTMA.
“The problem is that there’s lack of a transport plan. The Police should be involved in not more than the provision of security, but not for LASTMA to surrender traffic flow to them. Same for the FRSC, they can only collaborate. The only agency that is saddled with traffic management in Lagos is LASTMA. That mandate is very clear. Right now LASTMA has over 6,000 officers.
“Let the leaders talk to people, who understand the problem, and let them develop a robust intervention plan that can address the challenge that traffic is currently posing to Lagosians.”
He also carpeted the use of mobile courts, saying those who contravene the law must either be ready to pay the fine or be prosecuted. “There should not be anything like mobile courts. Let anyone who does not want to pay face the music. Enforcement must be hard and firm,” he argued.
As the roads get busier due to the year-end activities, Lagosians could only hope they will begin to enjoy some respite on roads, as only this can save them from the ‘hell’ they seemed to have been sentenced.