The rising gridlock in Lagos arising from non-usage of the lay-bys at major bus stops and total disregard for the traffic laws, even in the presence of law enforcement agents, is generating serious debates among commuters and residents. MURITALA AYINLA reports
Road traffic congestion is a global phenomenon that bedevils many cities around the world. Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial centre is also faced with traffic problems. With the estimated over 1.6m vehicles which ply Lagos, nothing infuriates Lagos motorists more than endless hours of uncontrolled traffic gridlock. Of the 1.6 million vehicles, 226 cars ply on Lagos roads per km compared to the national average of 16 cars per km.
Hence, in the ‘State of Aquatic Splendour’, 75,000 commercial ‘danfo’ buses are said to currently cater for about 10,000 public-passenger trips per day while an average of 12,000 public transport trips are generated daily. Traffic congestion in this part of the world comes with negative impacts on the socio-economic well-being of the city and its residents with the unpredictability of travel times.
Today, travelling on most Lagos roads is a hellish experience, especially when driving through unfamiliar terrain. While some of the traffic bottlenecks, especially along the Lekki-Epe Expressway and Ajah axis in the metropolis are blamed on on-going road constructions, perennial traffic snarls in other parts of the state are majorly as a result of indiscipline on the part of motorists and failure of the law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance. Lagos vehicular traffic congestion knows no time and has no regard for anybody. As the rich laments over the persistent gridlock so also do the poor groan in the hold-up which usually lasts for several hours.
Nearly everyone has a bitter experience of gridlock which consumed their supposed productive man-hours. From the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway; Mile 2 to Iyana Iba; Oshodi to Iyana Ipaja and Agege; from Ketu to Ikorodu, the hapless commuters have come to accept that almost half of their days could be spent in some form of ‘hold-up’ or ‘go-slow’. So prevalent is the traffic congestion that motorists scramble for space and have little or no regard for ambulances and other emergency vehicles, like the fire brigade and police.
The situation has made driving against traffic a popular practice among Lagos motorists, especially danfo drivers while commercial motorcycles have become an inevitable means of transportation on major highways even when their operation is forbidden by laws. Introduction of lay-bys In what was described as bold effort to ease traffic congestion on the highways within the metropolis, the Lagos State Ministry for Transportation (MOT) in 2016, embarked on the construction of multiple lay-bys, diversions from main roads, to a more convenient space for commuters, either to load or offload passengers and goods across the state.
Prior to the introduction of the laybys, the traffic gridlock, especially during the peak hours was blamed on the process of dropping and picking passengers on the major bus stops by motorists, hence, the introduction of the lay-bys to enable motorists to park and pick or drop passengers without having to obstruct other road users. Few days after the construction of the lay-bys, the obvious positive results of the initiative were there for all to see, especially along the Third Mainland Bridge end of Iyana Oworonshoki, a major traffic trajectory within the city noted for gridlock.
Journey of several hours suddenly turned to minutes while Lagos commuters heaved a sigh of relief, even as the traffic traders disappeared on the corridor since there was no avenue to sell in the absence of traffic. For residents of Ketu, Owode Onirin, Mile 12 and Ikorodu, the introduction of the expansive lay-by in Ketu has certainly gone a long way in solving the traffic problem in that axis.
The lay-by which was described as a strategic solution to the gridlock was applauded across the length and breadth of the state. Today it is, however, shocking that in spite of the presence of lay-bys the gridlocks are resurfacing in some of the busy areas dotted across the state. The development, it was observed, is a result of failure of the motorists to make use of the lay-bys while dropping or picking up passengers. Incidentally, these lay-bys have either been converted to parks by interstate vehicles or dominated by the drivers’ unions and street traders, who occupied the space without consideration for the purpose for which millions of taxpayers’ money was expended in building the facilities. Hence, what takes place in the metropolis now is indiscriminate dropping and picking up of passengers on the main roads, why the drivers shun the lay-bys with law enforcement agencies totally ignoring them.
The development has compounded the gridlocks across the state, particularly in areas like Oworonshoki along the Third Mainland Bridge route; Berger along the ever-busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and many other places. Speaking on the rising gridlock, a concerned resident, Mr Kayode Olowoporoku, expressed displeasure over the brazen lawlessness going at various bus stops in the state. According to him, the police, the personnel of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), placed at various bus stops to ensure the vehicles use the lay-bys are only interested in the ‘benefits’ of being posted to such places. He said: “You can see that nobody is enforcing the law.
I wonder why the government fails to ensure the purpose for which the lay-bys were constructed is not allowed to take its course. Motorists drop and pick passengers at will on the expressway and you will see the police and LASTMA looking the other way as if they are not aware that this is happening.”
He called on governor Sanwo-Olu to rise to the occasion by ensuring the lay-bys are put to use. Also speaking, Alhaji Kola Ilori, a trader, blamed the RRS officers for the frequent gridlock at Berger, saying that it was unfortunate that despite the presence of the RRS’ Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) stationed besides the lay-by, motorists are allowed to take the laws into their hands by parking indiscriminately on the highways. “I’m yet to understand the role of RRS and LASTMA at Berger because nobody expects the rate of lawless-ness going on there. What is the essence of the lay-bys? What is the role of the LASTMA and RRS personnel around Berger? Why can’t they ensure the proper thing is done? It seems all they are after is collecting money from the motorists while they allow them to flout the law at will.”
But reacting on behalf of the RRS, the Head of Public Affairs Unit of the agency, Mr Taofik Adebayo denied that his agency shuns enforcement of the law, saying that many motorists who failed to make use of the lay-bys had been arrested and prosecuted.
Adebayo said: “The Operatives of the Lagos State Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and other relevant enforcement agencies of government are not only enforcing the Lagos State Transport Sector Reformed Law of 2018 at Berger Bus Stop along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway but across the entire state. The problem about Berger Stop is that motorists both private and commercial drivers, are not making use of designated bus stops provided by the government. “They are fond of quickly dropping and picking passengers by the expressway side thereby causing serious obstructions to other road users.
“However, many of them have been caught, arraigned and made to pay necessary fines to the government via Lagos Mobile Court.” The RRS spokesperson, however, advised motorists to be wary of most of the motorists using private vehicles carrying and dropping passengers at undesignated bus stops, adding that many of them rob their victims in most cases. “Members of the public should be wary of criminal minded motorists using private/commercial buses at undesignated bus stops to pick passengers and get them robbed of their valuables,” Adebayo said.