By Cyriacus Nnaji
It is no longer news that Lagos State houses close to 20million people; it is also no news at all, that Lagos is not just the commercial hub of Nigeria; it is one of Africa’s largest economies with close to N1.3trillion in annual budget, people from various states in Nigeria and across the globe migrate to Lagos for greener pasture, hence bring undue overload upon the city.
The entire nation appears to have their outlet through Lagos, with two functional seaports: Tin Can Port and Apapa Port, and an international and local airports Lagos indeed has its hands full of various kinds of challenges.
Most conspicuous of these challenges is the near intractable gridlock being witnessed in the commercial city. The reconstruction of Apapa/Oshodi Expressway, Gbagada/ Oworoshoki axis, Lagosians are now exposed to crippling traffic bottleneck that never before witnessed in the commercial city.
Coming from Ibadan axis, at Redeem Camp, it is another sad commentary in the annals of traffic management in the nation.
The Lagos State government under the leadership of Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu is working assiduously to ensure that the Badagry Expressway is made passable, before his intervention, the road was described as an express road to hell by Bishop Anene Nwachukwu of RHEMA Deliverance Mission International.
The issue of container bearing trailers has become a cancer eating deep into the medullar Oblongata of the state called Lagos. From Oshodi to Apapa, Ijora to Apapa, Mile 2 to Apapa, and adjoining streets have been overtaken by container-laden trailers, causing obstructions to rightful users of the roads. Most times it makes the state a bedlam. Indeed the excuse that the ports are being reconstructed could no longer suffice considering the fact that it has taken a long time. Besides, the government both Lagos State and Federal Government should have synergized to find workable mechanism for enhancing unobstructed traffic in Lagos.
It is on record that most times gridlocks are caused by reckless driving, picking of passengers indiscriminately, fallen trucks and most annoyingly the activities of traders. Of course, traders must give government chance to work on the roads. According to Former governor of Lagos and now minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola at a function at Lagos State University asked the public to choose between road and trading on the road.
With no functional or absent of traffic lights at major points, Lagos is in deep traffic shit, where you see a traffic light they are disregarded with impunity and where there are traffic agents, they are just there for their selfish pockets.
On assuming office, Governor Sanwo-Olu encouraged residents to send SMS messages to a designated code alerting the state government of any pothole on Lagos roads. Why then the bad roads? Maybe the people of Lagos have no money to buy airtime for text messages or their SMS are diverted to wrong targets.
Many have also attributed the Lagos gridlock to a certain spirit that comes out from time to time and each time it comes out the entire Lagos must be engulfed by holdup.
The nature of inner roads in Ejigbo, Isolo, Ojo Local government areas, Ajeromi Ifelodun, etc is enough to ask if there were ever a government in the state.
Where there is any slightest sign of government presence, it appears there is hardly any concrete plan for traffic management, because both sides of the roads are taken at the same time for repairs, leaving commuters to suffer endless traffic jam.
This traffic anomaly has proportionally substituted out traditional means of transportation for another. Okada transport business has become a sine qua non in Lagos if one must get to his destination on time, but there also lies the easiest route to death. Minors, untutored, the hungry who want to make ends meet now resort to riding okada with the dire consequences of driving many to their early grave or maim them with perpetual physical injuries.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu recently identified the breakdown of faulty vehicles as one of the major causes of gridlock in Lagos. Speaking at the inauguration of an ultra- modern office accommodation for the Lagos Vehicle Inspection Officers, Sanwo-Olu said in order to address the issue of gridlock in the state, which according to him, is often as a result of vehicles’ breakdown, traffic officials have been empowered to ensure that only roadworthy vehicles ply the roads for the safety of lives and property of residents.
On the other hand, the Lagos State House of Assembly not too long ago, passed a resolution urging Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to embark on scheduled maintenance of roads to ease the present gridlock in the state.
The House also resolved that the state Public Works Corporation should resort to scheduled maintenance of roads on working days and weekends instead of embarking on road maintenance at peak periods. The House resolution followed a motion by Mr. Temitope Adewale (Ifako-Ijaiye I Constituency) during plenary session.
Adewale complained bitterly over the current gridlock due to the ongoing road maintenance in the state. He also advised Lagos State Traffic Management Authority to identify traffic flash points with a view to ensuring that officials of the authority were posted to the locations to regulate traffic.
On March 4, 2015, residents of the Ajah area of Lagos gathered in groups in response to a panic cry made by relatives of a woman in labour trapped in the Ajah roundabout gridlock.
There was no ambulance in sight. With the help of other motorists, the vehicle conveying the labouring mother, Mrs. Deborah Alabi, to the hospital forced its way out of the jam by driving against traffic.
She gave birth in the car before getting to the hospital. “It was a bad day to be on the road. Her husband was already crying. He was agitated and scared because his wife was getting weak and it was like she was going to die. We quickly suggested to the driver to drive against traffic in order to get to the hospital on time. Resting her back on the window in agony, she gave birth on the back seat of the car.
Mrs. Alabi’s near-death experience plays out regularly in Lagos, where traffic logjam has become an enigma. Perhaps one of the most daunting challenges confronting Lagos, the economic nerve centre of Nigeria, is the traffic snarl on major highways of the city.
Gbenga Omotoso, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, in a statement recently said the gridlock was as a result of massive road repairs being carried out by the government, saying the situation was temporary.
“The Lagos State Government has noted the discomfort commuters and motorists have been experiencing since the beginning of the massive road repairs under ‘Operation 116’ across the State.
In as much as the state is doing her best the verdict by the public is that their best is not good enough, the government appear to enjoy rhetoric, do the entire roads on their maps and look the other way when their agencies and contractors renege on the specifications, terms and directives of the government.