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Lagos: Festive season of traffic nightmares

Motorists, others groan, appeal for govt intervention
Blame reckless driving, disobedience to traffic regulation — LASTMA

By Mike Ebonugwo

AS Nigerians intensify preparations for the Christmas and the New Year celebrations, the dreaded traffic nightmare is back on Lagos roads. Once again, it is lamentation time for motorists and other road users who are already writhing in pain and counting their losses as activities associated with the festive season gather momentum.

Indeed the complaints are becoming more strident, even as government appears to have lost its voice, with officials seemingly more preoccupied with election campaigns than attend to the distracting problem of traffic jams within the metropolis.

But disturbed by the worsening situation, the Lagos State House of Assembly on Tuesday urged Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to immediately order an appropriate response from the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA and other relevant agencies in the state.

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Describing the traffic situation as worrisome, the Speaker of the House, Mr Mudashiru Obasa,said: “We…call on Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode to order the leaders of LASTMA to ensure free flow of traffic in the state. LASTMA officials should stop folding (their) arms while motorists and okada riders do whatever they like on the roads. Any official that fails to perform his or her duty should be sanctioned. We need to take adequate steps on this”.

Apart from Mile Two/Apapa which has become an axis of permanent traffic gridlock caused by indiscriminate parking of trucks and other articulated vehicles, visits to other parts of Lagos revealed that the traffic problem has become widespread indeed.

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And as usual, the contributing factors were identified as: bad roads, slow pace of road and pedestrian bridge construction, poor response by officials of LASTMA, indiscriminate dumping of refuse, excesses of commercial motorists, touting; frequent extortion by authorised and non-authorised personnel, encroachment on the road by traders, hawkers and beggars, among others.

STRANDED: Motorists stranded in traffic caused by departing members of a popular church along Cele-Ijesha axis of Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, yesterday. Photo: Akintola, Photo Editor. (Photo taken in 2011)

Road users’ tales of frustration

While the nightmare continues, embattled road users have been telling whoever cares to listen the tales of the hardship they experience everyday on the roads. Most of them said they are tired of listening to what they regard as “hollow theories” by government officials of what may or may not have caused the traffic nightmare.

Many commuters, who daily find themselves either stranded at bus-stops due to non-availability of commercial vehicles or sweating profusely inside commercial buses trapped in traffic jam, continue to see their plight as an evidence of the failure of governance at all levels.
In fact, during a visit to different bus terminals in the state, many stranded and frustrated commuters swore that they would not vote in the general elections next year as a protest of the inability of government to rise to the occasion in addressing this and other problems affecting the masses.

Particularly more enraged by the development are passengers in buses which are more often than not trapped in traffic gridlock. That was the case recently when some of them expressed strong sentiments against relevant authorities whose actions and inaction are adjudged to have brought about this suffering on generality of Nigerians.

“What is the point in going to inconvenience myself voting for people who will never do anything to make life better for me when they get into office?” began one aggrieved passenger in a commercial bus trapped in a traffic jam on its way to Oshodi from Ikotun.

“See the way all of us are sweating in this bus like condemned prisoners all because none of those we voted for in 2015 think it’s important to do anything about the poor state of the road and the traffic jam that has refused to go away,” he submitted angrily. It was a sentiment that was shared by most of his fellow passengers who equally gave vent to their disenchantment with the situation.

That has been the story from Ikorodu to Mile 12, Estate to Iyana-Oworo, Third Mainland Bridge, Badagry to Mile 2, Sango/Tollgate to Ijaye, Abule-Egba to Agege axis, Iyana-Ipaja to Oshodi, Apapa, Oyingbo to Idumota, Obalende, CMS to Lekki/Ajah, Sangotedo to Ibeju-Lekki, Ikorodu Road, Isolo, Ikotun, Ejigbo, Igando, Ipaja-Ayobo, Akowonjo; Lagos/Ibadan Expressway and Lagos/Abeokuta Expressway, Ojodu-Berger, Ogba-Ijaye and Ikeja to mention but a few.

During Vanguard’s visits, some motorists attributed the daily traffic gridlock on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway to an ongoing road rehabilitation which started a few years back. This is being done to change the road dimension to accommodate the Lagos Rapid Transit BRT corridor which was conceived in response to the Lagos Mega City plan. But while the repairs and re-construction go on, it has been hell for motorists and other road users.

In the case of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, reconstruction of the road has reduced the size of the road with demarcation apparatus such that road users sadly spend hours due to the resultant gridlock. The case of Badagry to Mile 2 has become a running story as the ever-present gridlock has over the years been worsened by several bumps, potholes, gullies and craters on the road. It is a situation that hapless road users have long resigned themselves to as they await completion of the 10-lane dualisation of the road.

Baring their minds on the predicament they face everyday, some of those interviewed said they sometimes pass the night on the road and continue their journey the following morning, again depending on the traffic. One of them, Alhaji Qudus Omotasolo, who lamented his daily experience, said he leaves home as early as 3.00 a.m to meet up with his daily activities.

Apart from the trauma of prolonged traffic chaos, those who regularly ply the road know that Badagry Round-about, Iyana-Iba, Okoko, Cele Nica, Barracks, Trade fair, Alaba-rago, Oluti, Fin Niger, Agboju, Maza-Maza and Alakija are places to be wary of due to frequent incidences of robbery and other criminal activities which are perpetrated there with impunity.

On the Agege axis, the gridlock is blamed on the road rehabilitation which also exposes commuters to incessant robberies while vehicles are trapped in the traffic jam. A commuter, Madam Ajibade Rosemary, claimed she recently lost valuable items to “go-slow robbers” in the area.
Indeed, many other road users also lamented that the worsening traffic situation across the state continues to make it possible for hoodlums and street urchins to rob motorists with impunity. They are also of the opinion or suspicion that the hoodlums are majorly responsible for the persistent traffic chaos by creating pot holes and inserting damaging objects on the roads to slow down the flow of traffic and in the process rob innocent victims of their valuables.

Apart from the recurring gridlock, the poor state of many roads in Lagos has left many motorists lamenting over the wear and tear on their vehicles, especially tyres, shock absorbers, steering racks, exhaust pipes and rising temperature on their vehicles.
A few weeks ago, vulcanisers in the state contemplated an increase in charges of repairing tyres from N100 to N200 which motorists kicked against, saying it was unacceptable considering the hard times.
With no solution in sight and already at their wits end on how to survive or manage the traffic trauma they experience every day, many road users are pleading with the incoming government to heed their cries by introducing measures capable of solving the perennial gridlock once and for all.

LASTMA officials

LASTMA reacts…
But in spite of the complaints from road users in different parts of the state, the Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, Mr Chris Olakpe, recently reaffirmed the Authority’s capability in managing the traffic situation in Lagos, arguing that it has not defied solution as claimed.
In an earlier exclusive interview with Vanguard, Olawale Musa, General Manager LASTMA, said the major cause of traffic gridlock, in most cases, is non-compliance to traffic rules as people go about their daily activities.
He said: “The problem associated with gridlock is attitude, in the sense that motorists don’t observe traffic rules and road signs. It’s time we obeyed the laws, conduct ourselves on the road and learn to cooperate with the officials.

The way out is to continue to educate them, as this is one of our major tasks. If we can work together, we can have a better Lagos”.
He also attributed the gridlock to the fact that many workers run the same work schedule. According to him: “The major cause of gridlock is that many Lagosians run the same work schedule by leaving home in the morning and returning in the evening.
“People go towards same direction at the same time which can cause hindrances on the road. That is why the focus of this administration is to run a 24-hour economy where people can work round the clock.

Thank God that security is better now compared to before; this means people may not necessarily resume for work at 8.00 a.m. In essence, companies and offices should make arrangement with their workers on resumption time.
For instance, instead of people resuming by 8.00 am and closing by 5.00 pm, some can resume by 10.00 am and close by 7.00 pm, provided adequate security is put in place. That is where we are heading to in Lagos”.
Efforts from other support agencies offering traffic control services like the Police and the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, have equally failed to improve the situation.
This is because thair efforts notwithstanding, Apapa, Costain, Eko Bridge, Ijora Causeway, oyingbo, Ebute-Meta, Shomolu, Gbagada/Anthony, Iddo, Idumota, Ogudu, Iyana-Oworo, Ketu, Bariga, Falomo, Victoria Island, Bourdilion, Kingsway Road, Obalende, Ajah, Ibeju-Lekki and other parts of Lagos still remain under the strangulating grip of traffic jams.

Enter Traffic Ambassadors:
Too little, too late?

The futility of the interventions by the regular traffic control agencies had prompted some volunteer traffic control groups to offer their support in caging the traffic monster.
One of these volunteer bodies, Traffic Ambassadors, emerged under the auspices of a radio programme tagged “B’onaseri” on Radio Nigeria 92.9FM.
The Traffic Ambassadors have been commended in many quarters for mobilising their personal resources to support the cause of a traffic-flowing Lagos.
There are reports that through their efforts, road users at Ketu/Mile 12, Kola/Alakuko as well as Berger (Iyana-Oworo) are presently enjoying some measure of respite.
The Public Relations Officer of the group, Mr Taiwo Olabode, said their intervention also entails identifying potholes on the road and filling them, sensitising people on the use of pedestrian bridges and regulating traffic situations where necessary.
“We cannot leave every everything to the government. The Traffic Ambassadors was formed some years back and we thank God that our efforts are yielding results,” he said.
Group Coordinator and Anchor, Adeoluwa Okunade popularly called ‘Mr Pilot’, said the Ambassadors is a non-profitable organisation and that members are drawn from all facets of life and create time out of their tight schedules to visit some of the gridlock-prone areas to control traffic. But he also lamented that “in the course of rendering the support service, some of our members have been brutalised by some individuals who love to break traffic laws and regulations”.

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