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(OPINION) Tackling Lagos’ traffic gridlock by Tayo Ogunbiyi

Lagos is famous and unique in many ways. It is the sixth largest city in the world and is projected to become the third biggest urban conurbation by 2015. Lagos is the leading non oil sector contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic product (GDP). With three lighter terminals and two ports, Lagos generates 50% of Nigeria’s port revenue and the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, is the major hub for aviation within West Africa, and between the region and Europe.
Lagos State is, indeed, blessed by its position as Nigeria’s financial, commercial and industrial nerve centre with over 2,000 manufacturing industries and over 200 financial institutions. The State alone harbours about 60 per cent of the Federation’s total industrial investments and foreign trade while also attracting 65 per cent of Nigeria’s commercial activities. It accounts for more than 40 per cent of all labour emoluments paid in the country. Unarguably, Lagos today occupies an important place in the socio-economic equation of Nigeria and indeed the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Like it is with most cosmopolitan cities across the world, it is, perhaps, not strange that Lagos experiences continuous queues of vehicles which block an entire network of intersecting streets, bringing traffic in all directions to a complete standstill. Popularly referred to in local parlance as ‘go slow’, traffic gridlock has become one of the sour identities of Lagos which succeeding governments in the State have been trying to do away with. In an attempt to tackle the traffic problem, the State government, in the last sixteen years, has rehabilitated and reconstructed major roads such as LASU-Iba road, Lawanson-Itire road, Oregun road, Okota-Itire road, Nurudeen Olowopopo road, among others.
This is particularly instructive since it is believed that the poor state of our roads is partly responsible for the daily chaos being experienced on most roads in the State. Also, many agencies such as LASTMA, LASDRI, LAMATA, etc were created mainly to deal with the traffic situation. The BRT initiative is also an integral part of the arrangement to ease traffic congestion in the State. Indeed, the Lagos Traffic Radio was mainly conceived as part of the Lagos State government’s plan to resolve traffic challenges in the State. The idea behind the Traffic Radio is to enable motorists and commuters have first hand information on transportation and traffic news, traffic alerts and diversions, while they drive or before leaving their homes.
In as much as all these plans and actions of the State Government essentially indicate genuine concerns to address the perennial traffic problem in the State, it is, however, important to stress that they have not been sufficient enough to entirely redress the situation. One of the reasons for this is human factor. In Lagos State, it is not uncommon to see vehicles illegally parked on either side of the road. Some even drive in such careless fashions that make nonsense of traffic laws while others drive on or across the road median. Other human activities that complicate the traffic hassles in the State include driving against traffic, making illegal U turn, using reverse drive to cover long distance in order to beat traffic jam and disobeying traffic lights and other traffic instructions.
Fired by a burning desire to radically improve the traffic situation in the State, the Ambode administration is already working tirelessly to evolve new strategies. A vital part of these strategies is the relocation of all congested bus stops in the State, particularly those with locations close to markets. It is the view of the State government that bus stops located near markets easily aggravate traffic situation. Indeed, most of the major locations notorious for depressing traffic jam in the metropolis such as Mile 12, Oshodi, Ketu, Mile 2, Agege, Iyana-Ipaja etc are areas with enormous market presence.

Another essential aspect of the State government’s new traffic resolution strategy is construction of pedestrian foot bridges. Traffic congestion is often particularly noticeable in places where many commuters try to cross from one side of the road to the other. In a recent on the spot assessment of the traffic gridlock in the State, the State Governor, Mr. Akin Ambode and his team basically observed that the gridlock at places such as Iyana –Ipaja, Ojo, Ojodu-Berger, Abule Egba, etc is essentially a product of lack of foot bridges. It is, hence, expected that with the provision of pedestrian bridges, the volume of traffic congestion in such axis would wane remarkably.
As a way forward, the State government has approved the construction of pedestrian bridges across key locations in the State. Additionally, the State government had approved funds for the Lagos State Public Corporation to rehabilitate damaged roads in the State. It is the conviction of the State government that when the roads are in good condition and motorable, it would reduce the occurrence of traffic gridlock in the State.
It should, however, be emphasised that, ultimately, an integrated approach to public transportation, that entails the simultaneous use of road, rail and water, is key to effectively addressing traffic gridlock in the State. With over 5 million cars and 200,000 commercial vehicles on the roads, Lagos daily records an average of 327 vehicles per every kilometer of roads. This scenario makes it imperative for the State government to vigorously pursue alternative mode of transportation such as rail and water for mass transit.
The need to exploit alternative means of transportation mode cannot be over-emphasized given the complex nature of the sector in the state. One of such other alternatives being exploited by the government with passion is water transportation through which government has already identified seven corridors for development and mass transportation. Today, from one operation route in 2007, Lagos is running water transport on 12 routes (Ikorodu-Marina/CMS; Marina – Mile 2; Ikorodu – Addax/Falomo; Ikorodu-Ebute Ero; Marina-Ijegun Egba-Ebute-Ojo; Mile 2 – Marina/CMS-Mekwen-Falomo; Badore – Ijede; Badore – Five Cowries; Marina – Oworonshonki; Ebute Ojo – Ijegun Egba; Oworonshonki – Five Cowries and Baiyeku – Langbasa) while passenger traffic has grown to over one million passengers per month and it is increasing. This has also created additional new jobs with economic multiplier effects on families and society in addition to reducing traffic jam associated with major roads in Lagos.
By the time the Lagos light rail project becomes effective and expanded, coupled with renewed efforts to improve water transportation in addition to on-going plans to reduce traffic congestion, it is expected that Lagosians would begin to have a pleasant motoring experience. But then, all of us must join hands together with the government to make this dream a reality. We must not damage the roads. We must comply with all traffic rules. LASTMA officials are our brothers. We must respect them. They have chosen to work in the sun and in the rain to guarantee our free movement. We must not ridicule them. LASTMA officials should in turn be civil in their dealings and conducts with members of the public.

Ogunbiyi writes from Alausa-Ikeja, Lagos.

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