BY Richard Nzubechukwu and Ifeanyi Okolie
Traffic jams and the frustration they engender are not new to anyone in Lagos. But the situation was quite terrible for motorists, commuters and other road users on the Mile Two-cum-Berger end of the Oshodi – Apapa expressway on Tuesday.
The road which leads to the nation’s major sea ports plays host on a daily basis to all kinds of heavy-duty vehicles heading for or leaving the ports with their load of cargoes.
But that Tuesday was certainly a day most of those unfortunate to pass through the route will not forget in a hurry. The traffic jam was the worst in recent time with motorists and commuters trapped there for several hours. But while passengers of similarly affected commercial buses had the choice of disembarking to continue their journey either on foot or patronising commercial motorcycles popularly known as Okada, the case was different for most motorists as they could not abandon their vehicles in the traffic.
But it certainly was no luxury for those who trekked as they were united in anger with those who could not against the worsening traffic situation in the area.
The trekkers gave vent to their frustration and anger as they loudly rained curses on those perceived to have caused or exacerbated the problem. In this wise, tanker and trailer drivers were popularly adjudged the main culprits and the aggrieved commuters and drivers of smaller vehicles were vehement in demanding that they be banned from plying the road, especially during the day.
Those who settled for the Okada option were no less aggrieved as they complained bitterly about the high fares they were charged which was a 100 per cent increase on the usual fares.
Indeed most commuters who spoke with Vanguard Metro blamed the traffic jam on the illegal parking of trucks and tankers waiting to load at the nearby kerosene depot. “I don’t understand how these tanker drivers will just park their vehicles along the express. It is not acceptable; see what they have caused. I have spent nearly one hour from Jakande Bus-stop to Berger Yard. It’s really bad,” a passenger lamented.
Other tired and confused passengers turned the heat on officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, whom they blamed for allowing the tankers park or queue on the expressway. “It is the tankers that are the cause of this hold-up. When they were not here it was not like this. I have been in this bus from Oshodi and I am yet to get to my destination. I have spent almost half my day on this road,” another passenger said.
But one of the tanker drivers being accused, Mr Ahmed, sharply disagreed, arguing that the parking of tankers along the road was not the cause of the jam. He said that they had reached an agreement with LASTMA to park on the road side and they have been observing it.
He rather preferred to blame the poor state of the road and the impatience of road users for the problem. “Nigerians like to blame tankers for everything, Na wa o,” he exclaimed in wonder.
However, LASTMA operatives who were sighted on the Mile Two bridge directing traffic bound for Oshodi showed almost no interest in the traffic situation around Berger.
When approached, they declared they were helpless to do anything save the situation. One of them, Mr. Olaitan, who spoke to Vanguard Metro said: “The traffic has been this way since morning. The tankers have parked their vehicles well on one side of the road as we instructed. So we expect that other motorists should exercise some level of patience in their driving moving”.