By Evelyn Usman, Bose Adelaja, Ikenna Asomba & Esther Onyegbula
Lagos – For two days running, vehicular movement in most parts of the state have been grounded, with commercial activities paralysed. No thanks to the chaotic gridlock which seemed to have overwhelmed government agencies saddled with the responsibility of controlling the free flow of traffic.
The situation came to a head yesterday, across major roads in Lagos, leaving motorists and other road users thoroughly stressed.
Consequently, commuters had to trek long distances before they could get alternative means of transportation to their respective places of work, while motorists went through one of the most harrowing experiences, as they were trapped for hours in traffic.
Commercial motorcyclists on the other hand, had a field day as their motorbikes served as the only means for commuters to wriggle out of the situation. But it came with charges trice more than the normal. For instance, from Cele bus-stop to Mile 2, along the Apapa-Oshodi express-way, each passenger paid between N800 and N1000, depending on one’s power of bargaining, with two passengers mounting a motorbike. Same amount was also collected from stranded passengers from Mile 2 to Apapa.
Road side hawkers also cashed-in on the situation making brisk sales without law enforcement officers blinking an eye.
The Bus Rapid Transit BRT operated by the state government were not not spared either, as desperate motorists took over the designated lanes for BRT buses.
Among major roads that were locked-down yesterday were the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Lagos-Ikorodu Expressway. Others such as the Oworonshoki-Ikoyi, Barrack-Ojuelegba, 3rd Mainland Bridge-Adekunle-Sabo Agnes, Adeniji-Oworonshoki, Adeola Odeku-linking-Ahmadu Bello Way, Awolowo-Falomo, Lekki Tollgate-Ajah, Herbert Macaulay, Ikoyi-Obalaende-Tafawa Balewa Square, Adeola Odeku-Akin Adesola-Awolowo, Magbon, Oke-Afo, Ajegunle-Wilmer-Coconut, Ago-Roundabout-Cele, Okota-Isolo among others, were not spared in the bumper-to-fender gridlock.
The traffic situation respected no one as some government officials who had Police and Military escorts, blared their sirens in vain, without any space for other motorists to give them way.
Commercial bus drivers on their part stopped at any point to pick passengers without recourse to other road users. Roadside traders around Volks-Iyana Iba in no small measure have also succeeded in barricading the roads with their wares displayed along the road, with policemen and officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) looking the other way.
Yesterday, the traffic along this route started from Mile2 stretching to Abule-Ado. Thereafter, another phase of the gridlock began from Barracks/Agric bus stop, stretching to Iyana Iba bus stop while the third phase began from Church bus stop ending at Iyana Sashi. The fourth phase of traffic experienced along the route started from first gate of Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED), Ijaniki stretching to Agbara bus stop. Between Mile 2 and Agbara, it took motorists over six hours, for a distance that ordinarily would have taken less that an hour.
The situation was attributed to the mad rush by residents, drivers of tankers and articulated vehicles to conclude their various business transactions ahead of the Thursday and Friday public holidays to mark the celebration of this year’s Id-El-Kabir.
But the indiscriminate parking of haulage vehicles which climaxed on Monday and yesterday started few days after the Lagos State government announced restriction of movement of trucks between 9pm and 6am. The announcement however led to protest by truck drivers who claimed driving in the night was unsafe to them.
Vanguard learned that following the chaotic traffic snarl along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway linking the Tincan Island and Apapa Ports, truck and trailer drivers heading to the Ports to lift cargoes, had invaded the Ajegunle axis to beat the gridlock. But this led to the crippling of vehicular and commercial activities along the three major roads (Otto Woff-Boundary, Alaba Suru-Ojo Road, Berger Suya-Kirikiri Roads), in and out of the ghetto community.
Motorists, particularly commercial bus drivers coming inward Apapa, who resorted to driving against traffic from Cele bus-stop, were however trapped on reaching Mile 2, thereby adding to the already sorry situation.
In the process of driving against traffic, a male pedestrian was reportedly knocked down by a commercial bus between 2nd Rainbow bus-stop and Alaba bus-stop. Driver of the commercial bus reportedly fled, abandoning the vehicle, on sighting a mob approaching.
Accusation, counter accusation
Accusing fingers have been pointed at the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) branch of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), and Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), for the cause of the snail pace along these routes. But both sides have exonerated themselves as the cause, accusing the other.
In a telephone conversation with PTD’s Public Relations Officer, Mr Tayo Aboyeji, he stated that his members had no hand in the gridlock, placing the blame on the door-step of AMATO. He explained that traffic situation heightened, following refusal of members of AMATO to move their trucks from the road.
However, in a sharp reaction, Lagos State Chairman of AMATO, Mr Remi Ogungbemi who spoke on a radio programme Monday, said the traffic situation was caused by the state government’s relaxation on restriction of trucks.
He said: “Since the Lagos State Government relaxed the restriction of trucks to start moving in the day, accessing the ports had been difficult due to trucks trapped by the law.
“Trucks in the port have to go out for incoming ones. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has to clear the ones in the ports, hence the backlogs that locked down Lagos. I hope it will get better within 48 hours as stakeholders are working tirelessly to ensure free flow of traffic and we are sorry for the inconveniences.”
Corroborating his claim, driver of one of the articulated vehicles, Akeem Olaosebikan, explained that “We have been on this queue since Saturday trying to get inside the port. I think the situation resulted to this because some trucks inside the port are unable to come out due to the restriction. Since the State Government has relaxed their order, I think some trucks will be finding their way out. That way, the gridlock will reduce.”
Another truck driver, Adekunle Teslim, urged government to rehabilitate alternative roads leading to the port in order to reduce congestion on the Apapa-Orile Road.
Teslim said: “There are other roads leading to Wharf but due to the bad state of the roads, most trucks drivers concentrate on the Apapa-Orile axis. If government can repair Mile 2-Tin Can Road, I think it will be better because it will reduce traffic on the Apapa route.”
But the Lagos State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Hyginus Omeje, stated that the gridlock was a deliberate action by truck and trailer owners.
Omeje said: “The whole trucks and trailers that were supposed to go into the ports are lined up on the road in Apapa and other roads in the state. We have positioned our men in strategic places so that they do not take over the whole part of the road. They are lined up on one part of the road.”
A senior officer of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, who pleaded anonymity, also expressed LASTMA’s disappointment over the gridlock, saying “We have held several meetings with truck owners at ensuring that their operations does not affect other road users but they would not comply. Our men have been positioned at strategic places to work with other traffic agents to put the situation under control before the end of the day.”
Speaking to Vanguard, Chairman of National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, Oregie Unit, Alhaji Sulaiman Lawal, said: “These trailer and truck drivers besieged the major roads into Ajegunle on Monday, which forced most of the drivers here to stop work. But today (Tuesday), we took the bold decision to stop them at Otto Woff, so that they will not cripple our own business here.”
We are overwhelmed – LASTMA
Meanwhile, at the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, officials of LASTMA, who spoke to Vanguard, expressed shock at the return of the hitch in traffic flow the busy expressway.
Asked why the traffic gridlock became chaotic, one of the LASTMA officials who pleaded not to be mentioned as he was not authorised to speak to the press said: “My brother, we are shocked by the current traffic gridlock that has almost grounded activities in the state today (Tuesday). I must confess that we are overwhelmed by the situation on this road (Oshodi-Apapa Expressway) today. But, as an agency of government responsible for managing traffic in the state, we shall do our best to ensure we bring the situation under control for the ease of Lagosians.”
Police not spared
However, some policemen deployed to the Berger-Yard axis of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, were yesterday, also overwhelmed by the chaotic gridlock, as some of them were seen sitting helplessly at the base of an electric pole beside one of the new generation banks along the road.
A journalist, Azubuike Akubueze, who resides at Omole Phase 1, but works within the Kirikiri axis of the state, expressed dismay over the chaotic turn the traffic along the Oshodi-Apapa Express-way, took yesterday, lamenting that he had developed a swollen leg, as a result of trekking long distances in order to get to his place of work.