*Govt calls for understanding
By Olasunkanmi Akoni and Bose Adelaja
AFTER what will appear as a temporary respite, traffic gridlock has once again reappeared on most Lagos roads, leaving residents, especially commuters, in untold agony as they travel from one part of the state to the other.
What many find most distressing is the alarming indication that there is no immediate solution in sight. The state-wide gridlock has been attributed to different factors, with the poor state of some roads across the metropolis top on the list.
To make matters worse, most of the roads have become significantly unmotorable following recent downpours in the state.
On account of this, motorists have gone back to telling sad stories of their nightmarish experiences in standstill traffics which have continued to expose them to frequent attacks by hoodlums and robbers.
Also being blamed for the return of the traffic gridlock nightmare are the various ongoing road reconstruction projects and activities of commercial bus drivers.
Areas most affected by the daily gridlock include Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ikorodu Road, Ojodu, Ikeja environs, Agege, Ogudu, Oshodi, Funsho Williams Avenue, Iyana Oworosonki-Gbagada Expressway, Mobolaji-Bank Anthony Way, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Ozunba-Mbadiwe Way, Lekki-Epe Expressway, Ajah, Ikoyi, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Isolo/Ikotun/Egbe Road, Eko Bridge, among others.
Apapa roads, however, remain the worst hit. In fact, the area has in recent years attained the notoriety of being an axis of traffic chaos, whether you are accessing Apapa through Oshodi-Tin Can end or through Wharf Road.
Completion of road rehabilitation
But this was recently puntuated by the cheery news of some measure sanity now existing around the Mile 2 area following the completion of road rehabilitation under the bridge there.
The situation around Apapa the during rainy season is usually frustrating as vehicles break down frequently, heavy-duty trucks often overturning or getting stuck in muddy potholes. In most cases, motorists have no choice but to disembark at particularly failed sections of the roads to push rickety and articulated vehicles, thereby causing gridlock on the roads.
The situation report in Apapa is that the Federal Government has already completed the reconstruction of Wharf Road, Apapa. Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had also assured that the next road to be given consideration for reconstruction within Apapa would be Tin Can/Coconut section of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, which had since started.
Fashola added that discussions had already begun on the issue at the Federal Executive Council level. He said: “I just want to appeal to residents of Apapa, to people whose livelihood depends on Apapa, that Apapa is one of the priority roads under our priority of works to solve roads that lead to critical ports.
“We also have Calabar on our radar. But one after the other, there would be an enduring solution.
“Years, you will see that the provisions for the budget funding of Apapa and the Tin Can Island and Mile-2 to Oworonsoki Roads, all of which evacuate the Port have not been sufficient really to deal with the cost.
“The cost that we are getting from the contractor is in the region of about N100 billion and above and the annual budgetary appropriation that is approved for us is about N7 billion.
“And then there are debts that we met. I, therefore, appeal to residents and other users of the road to exercise a little more patience.”
Whenever it rains in Lagos, residents are thrown into panic, despair and anguish as the already deplorable roads become almost impassable due to flooding and road projects.
From Lagos Island to the Mainland, the expressways to high streets and the inner streets, it is lamentations galore by residents on account of the poor state of the roads long-neglected and abandoned by both state and local governments.
Just as motorists and commuters plying Apapa/Oshodi Expressway are lamenting over the agony they go through as a result of the deplorable road and the attendant gridlock they face daily, it is the same bitter experience for motorists and commuters on the Agege Motor Road.
For instance, the Mushin-Idi-Oro axis to Ojuelegba end is so bad that even trailer and tanker drivers now avoid the ever-busy highway.
Particularly notable are the potholes on the road have become an ever-present danger or death-trap to those who dare to drive through the road. So, it is little surprising that there are usually many broken down vehicles on that road.
Daring drivers of smaller vehicles plying the road often have to contend with attacks by robbers who take advantage of gridlock to strike with impunity.
Consequently on account of the worsening gridlock in the state, a journey of few minutes takes hours to accomplish. It is now a common sight to see overturned trailers, tankers and containers and broken down vehicles on a daily basis, especially when it rains.
This is even as the Road Safety and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, officials are not helping matters: They are often acused of failing to do their work, resorting instead to extorting harassed motorists and worsening the traffic situation in the process.
Residents lament: Mr. Sanyaolu Abidemi who resides in Alakuko area and works at Marine Beach, Apapa, said he usually leaves home as early as 4.30am but arrives his place of work at about 8.am just to avoid traffic.
According to him, there are no dedicated parks along the Tollgate down to Alakuko, a situation which has led to commercial drivers stopping and picking passengers indiscriminately.
His words: “There are no official bus-stops from Sango/Tollgate to Alakuko. Commercial drivers just stop and pick passengers anywhere they see commuters. Apart from this, there are portholes and failed portions of the road which make vehicles maneouver to find their way out and this causes gridlock along the axis.”
A businesswoman, Madam Aishat Sule, who lives at Meiran/Ijaiye and operates a shop at the local airport said she spends about three hours daily to connect both ends in her Toyota Camry car.
“Ordinarily, the journey that is supposed to be about 25 minutes has gradually stretched to two hours due to persistent gridlock caused by the ongoing road reconstruction,” she said.
Another major factor is activities of street urchins popularly called ‘Area Boys’ who swoop on commercial drivers to collect levies.
“All these put together have been causing delay on the road,” Sule said.
A commuter, Mr. Ibukun Thomas said: “Commercial vehicles plying the Airport route from National Park stop indiscriminately to pick passengers along the way.
“By so doing, they cause a gridlock which usually stretches from National into the expressway, thereby affecting free flow of traffic at Ikeja-Along up to Mangoro and Cement bus-stops to link the existing gridlock inward Akowonjo Road especially at peak hours.”
According to many road users and commuters, the effects of the ongoing road rehabilitation at Ebute/Ipakodo Road has affected the traffic situation in Ikorodu axis causing a back flow from roundabout down to Haruna and Agric such that motorists spend hours connecting Mile 12.
At Owode-Elede, Vanguard observed a crater-like pothole causing serious gridlock which also results in accidents and robbery in the area.
Activities of Area Boys
A car owner, James Okoli, said he was travelling from Ikorodu roundabout to the Island on Wednesday when two young men dashed across his vehicle and pointed a gun at him.
“They ordered me to cooperate and ended up removing my personal effects. Time was about 6a.m. at Haruna,” he informed.
Places like Ojuwoye and Idi-Oro, Ogunmokun and Daleko in Mushin, Eko Bridge, Ijora Bridge Phase 3, Boundary/Ajegunle, Iddo, Tom Jones, Eyin-Eyo, and Mosalasi on Lagos Island areas are not left out.
Gridlock persists in those areas due to human factors, including indiscriminate parking of vehicles, indiscriminate dumping of refuse, failed portions of the road, clogged up drains, activities of “Area Boys” and road side trading, to mention but a few.
From Adeniji down to Tom Jones area, Vanguard observed that the major road has failed, with drains overflown such that vehicles have to maneouver through some failed inner roads to access the major road.
Some road users said this usually leads to loss of man hours daily. Also, road users complained that the gridlock has made them susceptible to traffic robbers and other dangers on the road.
Lagos govt reacts
Reacting to series of complaints, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, called for understanding of the public.
He said: “We regret every inconveniences caused by this development. Our target is to work before the rain comes.
“People are complaining of not doing anything before now and now we are doing something. We have rehabilitated over 400 roads, such as Pen Cinema Flyover, Agege, Agbado Oke-Odo, 31 network of roads in Alimosho, Ikoyi too, Omi-Tuntun, Victoria Island, Ikorodu among others.
“Road building in Nigeria is seasonal, we have little things to do because the weather is unpredictable. We are trying to do as many as possible at the same time.
“When Governor Bababjide Sanwo-Olu read the state of the state address, he urged residents to continue to bear with the state and that’s what’s going on.
“We are all part of it, we are aware of what they are going through. No pain without gain. By the time these projects are completed, everywhere will be free.
“We urge residents to continue to show understanding. Every work has its schedule. Many of these projects will be completed in the next six months and the first quarter of next year.
“The gridlock will soon disappear and give way to seamless traffic in Lagos and we will all be the beneficiaries.”