For the umpteenth time one Monday afternoon in Lagos, the commercial bus Kafilat Onitiju boarded from Okokomaiko to Mile 2 came to a halt. The excruciating heat in the crowded vehicle, the stench of dried sweat from passengers, and the dust raised by commercial motorcyclists as they meander their way around the dusty road turn a routine trip to a tortuous experience.
The less than 30-minute journey had already lasted over an hour.
“I have spent over an hour on one spot from Agric to Barracks,” Ms Onitiju, a university student, said.
“So the hours I spent altogether to Mile 2 is over three hours.”
As Christmas approaches, Lagosians have continued to grapple with traffic snarls across the city, including along routes not usually known for heavy traffic.
Blaming the buses
A 2016 report by Planet Projects, a Lagos-based transport firm, showed that Lagosians lose at least three years out of every 10 years in the city to traffic.
The slow traffic is caused by the usual suspects – bad roads, commercial buses parking in the middle of the road to call for passengers, and impatient drivers breaking traffic laws during rush hours among others.
Mrs Onitiju blamed the slow traffic she was facing on the potholes-ridden road and “wrong parking of buses that want to load passengers on the road starting from Barracks to Under Bridge (at Trade Fair).
“These potholes have caused so many delays and accident because many cars, buses, and trailers fall on each other due to impatience of the drivers. The best means of transportation here is bike (commercial motorcycle), if you do not want to sleep in traffic.”
The Lagos-Badagry expressway is one among the numerous major roads across the metropolis where commuters groan daily on their way to and from work. The ongoing road and rail construction on the road, which began almost 10 years ago, had added an extra layer of difficulty for the road users.
Bakare Omolade, a 200 level undergraduate at the Lagos State University (LASU), said the road has been a disappointment.
“I wonder how Nigerians would be suffering this much and the government is not working. I pay N400 to take bike from Mile 2, feeling body pains, and headache when I get to the hostel.
“I would like the government to find a solution to this road where they have LASU. I believe it ’s a big slap on the state government face.”
To overcome the heavy traffic – or ‘go-slow’ in Lagos parlance – some commuters have resorted to several measures including abandoning their cars for commercial motorcyclists or working from home.
Nurudeen Areago, a contractor, said he wastes valuable man-hours commuting between his home at Okokomaiko to Mile 2.
“The road is bad, there is no garage available to drop passengers, buses drop passengers everywhere on the road,” said Mr Areago, who plies the road at least thrice a week.
“Ever since the road has become bad, I don’t take my car out, nor take commercial buses instead I take bike. With bike I get to Mile 2 within 20 minutes.”
Across the city at Iyana-Ipaja, the story is not very different.
Divine Lucky, who plies the Iyana Ipaja-Oshodi-Ikeja axis, blamed the traffic on narrow roads, which had been made narrower by long stretches of parked tankers and trailers.
“We usually have seven to eight daily trips but now it’s shortened to four or five,” Mr Lucky said.
Government efforts ‘not good enough’
In October, the Lagos State government said with the end of the rainy season, it had begun concerted efforts to “aggressively” fix potholes on many roads across the state.
Ade Akinsanya, the commissioner for works and infrastructure, assured the public that all road corridors across the state would be touched in the ongoing “massive road rehabilitation.”
“At the moment, areas already covered include Lekki expressway by Abijo and Abraham Adesanya roundabout carried out by Hi-tech Construction; Ojota, Ketu and Mile 12 sections of the Ikorodu road have been attended to, while work is also ongoing on Ijede-Ewu-Elepe road in Ikorodu, amongst others.
“More importantly, the various failed portions on the Lagos Badagry expressway are also being attended to presently. These include the Iyana Isashi junction, Iyana Era, Agbara and Ijanikin.”
But such “concerted” government efforts, if anything, had helped worsen the traffic situation as motorists complain that the simultaneous road construction going on all over the city usually grinds vehicular movement to a halt.
“There are no good roads, (they) are constructing the roads all at once from Iyana Ipaja to Yaba,” said Niyi Adekoya, a bus driver who plies the Iyana-Ipaja to Ojuelegba axis.
“We spend three hours on the way, daily. I carry passengers to about four trips, but not anymore. I spent just one trip due to traffic thereby causing a hike in payment of fare of passengers.”
Shola Akinwande, a commuter, suggested that the road constructions be done in the middle of the night so as to ease traffic during the day.
“Like on Saturday, I arrived home at 2 am due to the heavy traffic”, he added.
Kayode Orosun, a member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers at the Iyana-Ipaja garage, said drivers have had to depend on drugs daily to reduce body pains.
“We spend more hours on the roads, government should construct more roads so has to end insecurity of drivers,” Mr Orosun said.
Omoyemi Moshood, a driver who plies the Ikotun to Oshodi route, said the government had failed to keep their promises of providing good roads in Oshodi, Suwebatu, and Bolade.
“Government should intervene we spend weekly close to N40,000 to repair engine damaged in the vehicle due to bad roads.”
Lanre Suraj, a civil society activist, said bad roads are mostly responsible for Lagos being regarded as “traffic city.”
“Many of the roads that you feel are relatively motorable have their origin and initial conception and costruction traced to the regime of Lateef Jakande,” said Mr Suraj, who runs the Lagos-based Human and Environmental Development Agenda.
Mr. Suraj said that the Lagos State government do not have the wherewithal to manage a mega city. It was not like this in the regime of Lateef Jakande. This is disgraceful.
“People will spend productive hours, on the road that could have been used for productivity in their organization or company or even for their rest.”
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