Over the years, Lagos State has earned the medal for one of the worst kind of traffic situations in Nigeria. But very recently Governor Akinwunmi is changing the narrative, Akinsoyinu Opemipo and Iriagbonse Osa writes…
For Adenijo David, an Information Technology specialist leaving in Yaba, Lagos, the gentle evening wind bends the trees lining the junction to his office. It is five O' Clock on a Wednesday evening at Awolowo road, Ikoyi. Computers in every room shutdown. Banters spiraled from the base of the staircase. That is where Yinka seats. Yinka is the office jester with his serious looking demure and returnee fashion statements of cardigans and teacups. He finds a way to polish pollen of yab on every breastplate. Don't mind his glasses and turned up nostrils, he enjoys been the cynosure of attention at all times.
Quietly, he stands up in his characteristic manner, Bag in hand, phone plugged to the ear. A caricature of a serious Business Executive. He nods his head towards the door with a whistling tune. A pastor with credo for lap dancing and his array of followers join the queue, as a free ride to the mainland comes in the offering. In the meantime, the other two cars are ready to go. By ten minutes past 5’o clock, the compound is deserted except for the boss' vehicle and his visiting friend.
After two and half hours, they eventually land on the almighty 3rd mainland bridge. A long snake criss-crossing over the Lagos waters, from the Island to the mainland. Time ripens in one of their friend's car to catch up on all the gist they have missed while at work. What the present day government is doing to ease the pain of the economic hardship, and their garrulous laughter followed. The crux of the matter is always trivialised or shadowed by the unnecessity of religion, culture and tradition. Good examples of these were the Bill of Gender and Equal opportunity thrown out the window of the Senate house by those self serving Demi-gods corruption made, and the crises in Osun state that is trivialised by the Hijab wearing state school girls and their counterpart in full choir robes. That's another hour thereabout spent listening to the heartbeat of Lagos. Then it's music till the station is changed to sharing life issues at 7pm. Their car is just overlooking University of Lagos. In that snail-like pace, they alongside other equally stressed workers driving home through the dreaded bridge alongside other equally stressed workers, wangle their way on through to Iyana-Oworo for another 45mins-1hour. As they approach, there are seas of cars, buses and hundreds of headlamps flashing blindly and blaring their horns like rabid dogs. The cacophony is very disturbing and in fact played a huge role in the serpentine queue on the bridge.
Seeing, feeling and responding in a timely manner to the pains and the plight of its citizens who groan in long hours of traffic, Lagosians got the listening ears of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode within the first month of his administration when he visited the Iyana Oworo Bus Stop to access the situation.
Going down memory lane, about a year ago, when Governor Ambode came into office, he accompanied by key members of his government discussed possible solutions to the persistent traffic, and decided that a segregated Bus Park would go a long way to alleviate the problem. With possible solutions set on the table, work commenced immediately on the Park and has reached advanced stage. Motorists plying the route are already testifying to the free flow of traffic since the construction of the Park.
Last week Sunday the reporters way from Church, although he was not expecting any gridlock whatsoever. So, he wasn't perturbed when he got to Iyana Oworo Seven minutes later. What caught his sight was an extension by the neck of the road before it branched into other roads. A newly constructed drive-in for motorist to drop their alighting passengers. Already, this little extension has mopped the road of the many buses lying about for few minutes motorists stop to drop and pick passengers. The six lanes drive-in gave the road a new look with the construction on the other side of the road serving as a worthy complement.
For a commercial bus driver plying the 3rd mainland axis, Joseph Ojobo spoke his mind in these words, ‘‘This park is a good change that has come, because it will reduce a lot traffic. For the past two weeks now, the bridge has been a bit free from traffic. Its only when one gets to Alapere that one sees the traffic again. If the government keeps up his pace, we will move forward’’
Opemipo Akinsoyinu , the Information Technology specialist and his gang of colleagues working in Ikoyi, would on found Monday evening, find amusing, the reporters discovery a huge sigh of relief. Through this timely intervention, the usual palpable frustration scowl that wears a conspicuous dress on faces of commuters would fast evade, owing to the newly bulit bus park constructed on both sides of the Iyana-Oworonshoki expressway. Although un-commisioned, bus drivers, taxi drivers and pedestrians will now enjoy the newly built Bus Park at Iyana Oworo by Lagos State Government
Private cars and public buses conveying commuters will no longer get stuck for long hours on third mainland traffic for the better part of their days crawling sluggishly, thus enjoying smooth driving without the usual grueling gridlock on the expressway. The Ambode led administration is really taking time to ensure that the unnecessary traffic jam on Lagos roads is minimised severely.
In the words of Ibidola Adeniyi, Chief Nursing Officer at Exxon Mobil “ Life has a better meaning,” the 59-year-old Medical Expert muttered to this reporter. “We would not be in traffic all day again. I can now set out in the morning for work, and return home in good time without returning home seriously knackered, or in fear of being robbed of my valuables at ungodly hours of the night in traffic”
According to a commuter, Samuel Tokunbo Oyedele, ‘‘ I am elated by the work done here at the new Iyana Oworo bus stop. I am very happy with the new government. If such things continue, we citizens will feel happy with the government. The traffic controlled by LASTMA will ease traffic.’’
Across the world, Lagos has long carved a niche for itself as a city of gruelling gridlocks. Wherever you look on the city’s roads, a long, thick line of assorted vehicles stuck in traffic constantly meets your gaze. A coastal city that sits on the brink of the Atlantic, Lagos has a relatively small land mass of 999.6km2, though the entire state is about 3, 577 square km. But it is estimated that about 21 million people live in Lagos. Even though the seat of power has since been relocated to Abuja, Lagos, the former capital of the world’s most populous black nation, remains West Africa’s economic nerve centre. Each day, thousands of people from all over Nigeria and the nearby countries arrive in Lagos in search of a better, more fulfilling life. The increasing population has not, however, been matched by increased infrastructure.
One major infrastructure that has continued to groan, residents assert, is the road network across the state. The major roads in Lagos, constructed several decades back to serve the population then, have remained the only ones in existence. Whenever there is a gridlock, the entire city grinds to a halt. Businesses suffer, and socio-economic activities collapse. Ultimately, every aspect of life is affected.
Research has shown that traffic congestion can make you more prone to violence, fracture social relationships and wreak diverse health havocs. It has also been proved that staying in gridlocks can lead to higher rates of obesity, diabetes and poor air quality. Staying long in traffic clearly exposes one to all kinds of pollutants, some of which are irritants to the lungs, some of which are not good for the cardiovascular system, some of which are carcinogenic. Emissions are worse when a vehicle is idling, making stop-and-go traffic more harmful to your lungs.
Drawing inferences from a report that as many as four million cars and 100,000 commercial vehicles in Lagos, it daily records an average of 227 vehicles per every kilometre of roads. One of the major fallouts of this scenario is the extremely physically frustrating and mentally traumatising gridlocks on the ever busy third mainland bridge.
Notable of the Third Mainland bridge at Night times where the city gets grounded by traffic gridlocks which drags from between 5 and 11pm, the robbers, armed with pistols, knives and cutlasses always have a field day smashing car windows and vandalising vehicles while they rob terrified motorists who naturally abandon their cars and scamper for safety.
The narrative of a former carved niche and cliché ‘‘a city of gridlocks’, is seemingly changing, as the Third Mainland Bridge which carries an overwhelming number of vehicles every day,.
one constructed by the then General Ibrahim Babangida’s military government in the early 1990s, would get some relief from the debilitating traffic chaos that persistently locks Lagos down every now and then, leaving the populace frustrated and in perpetual agony.
A yellow cab driver, Onabela Rufus Olugesegun said a bit in these words, ‘‘ Since they have built this park,although it has not been commissioned, it has eased traffic for BRT, taxi’s and commercial buses and private cars’’.
More crucially disturbing is findings from the research which postulates that Lagosians who drive on the 3rd mainland bridge axis, are liable to end up with stroke as a result of the long hours they spend in traffic. With the newly built drive-through, passengers will be more productive, get home not worn out, most importantly get home in good time to rest in preparation for the next day’s job. This gives hope for one’s lifespan is being increased, as opposed to being cut short due to traffic gridlocks.
With results of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s plan on the drawing coming to fruition through such laudable projects, third mainland bridge commuters are up for less deaths on th roads, ill health issues, reckless driving, traffic time on the roads, a departure from the norm of sheer lawlessness by drivers, LASTMA officials and other law enforcement agents and better driving experiences.
Now that the Lagos State Government has directed the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to consider alternative traffic management methods rather than physical apprehension and arrest, more so that there be a near 100 percent free flow of traffic they would have no need to neither bark nor bite now that they would be more saddled with the responsibilities of managing traffic, and focusing on achieving flawless flow of traffic.
In the words, of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, “I’m deeply concerned about the issues that Lagosians are sending back to me on issues range from security issues, gridlock and the environment itself. Just as we are looking at the immediate solutions to them, these are medium term solutions that Lagosians are seeing rolled out. We are deploring more men to ensure free flow of traffic.’’ He said
If there is anything that might give the government possible constant pain and regrets, it is the proper and effective maintenance of the newly built facilities by the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers(NURTW) and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) members, a bunch of whom constitute the untrained and reckless public bus drivers and conductors.
The question on the lips of inquisitive Lagosians range from whether these this drive-in, and subsequent ones after it stay the test of time, before the rod of decay bounces on them. These are motorists, garage touts whose modus operandi is built on a destructive culture, how does the state government intend to promote an efficient use of this facility and other facilities meant for road users in the state? Onlookers imagine what will become of the small garden and beautiful trees in a period of 3-6 months.