Of the many social and environmental problems that Lagos face as a mega city, including housing, destitution, over-crowding and high stress level, none is as challenging as the traffic congestion which is everywhere in the city-state.
Lagos is Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre. Though the state is the smallest in terms of land mass which is estimated at 0.4 percent of the country’s estimated 923,000 square kilometres, it is about the richest in the country with a GDP size that is said to be larger than those of four West African countries combined.
The state has a huge problem with urbanization which is part of the burden placed on it by its prosperity. People from various parts of the country and even other African countries find their way to the city in search of economic opportunities.
The managers of the state may be doing their best to make life comfortable for the residents, but their best is never good enough so long as they are unable to deal with this monster called gridlock which has direct effect on people’s health and pockets; firms’ productivity and the state’s economy.
A situation where residents on their way to offices and sundry places spend 3-4hours on the road is not healthy and supportive of economic growth and development. It is injurious to health too.
We are glad to note efforts by the state to contain and control some of the challenges erupting from its large-size population which is struggling for space in its small land area. One of such efforts is the Traffic Law which was signed in August 2012 by the then governor, Babatunde Fashola.
It is noteworthy that the state had its highest number of laws during Fashola’s reign which was, however, expected from a governor who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Expectation was that the law would reduce the chaos and congestion on the roads as most times the congestion is caused by bad driving, disobedience to simple traffic rules and also bad roads. But it worries that 11 years after the law was signed, traffic situation in the city has rather worsened.
The traffic law, among other provisions, says that “Any person who drives a motor vehicle on a highway without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway, shall be guilty of an offence and be liable on conviction to a fine of fifty thousand naira (N50,000.00).”
For us, the law which has new versions as recorded in 2018 and 2020, was a good and well-intentioned approach to traffic management and control in a state where traffic situation has become a crisis. But there is a missing link which is the enforcement of the law.
It is interesting to know that, as a city, Lagos likes being addressed in superlative terms as ‘the largest economy in West Africa; one of the fastest growing cities in the world, a mega city; a smart city and even one of the 100 resilient cities in the world.’
That, in itself, is good because it has an unintended consequences of spurring the state to do great things. What is worrisome, however, is that this traffic problem which affects over 80 percent of its population doesn’t seem to receive the emergency attention it deserves.
For the residents of the state, this is a major issue rocking their boats on daily basis. We take particular note of what happens on Eko Bridge where those from the Mainland going to their shops or offices on the Island are faced with the difficult choice of either trekking long distances or spending long hours in traffic.
Traffic situation in the state has made it the most chaotic and stressful city in the world. And records show that the state’s traffic challenge dates back many decades. Precisely on July 16, 1983, Lateef Kayode Jakande, the first civilian governor of the state (1979-1983) flagged off the Lagos Metro Line project estimated to cost N689 million at that time. It was a major attempt at introducing an intra-city rail system in the state as a response to traffic crisis.
A few years earlier, the March 29, 1978 edition of Daily Times had hit the newsstand with a screaming headline, ‘Lagos Traffic Defies Solution’ with a rider—‘chaos despite new measure’, meaning that Lagos has known traffic crisis for more than 40 years today.
The congestion on Lagos roads today, especially in the hinterlands, says it all that Governor Jakande was not mistaken though it gladdens the heart today that his dream has not been dashed. There is an on-going Blue Line rail line project that is nearing completion.
According to projection, the first phase of Jakande’s project was to be completed in July 1986 which would have taken just three years unlike the current project that has taken 13 years. Jakande’s Metroline was to have 30 trains, each running 28.5 kilometers on raised concrete tracks.
It was projected that the 30 trains would carry 88,000 passengers per hour, which is 2,288, 000 passengers in 16 hours, about half of the population of Lagos, going by the World Health Organisation (WHO) calculations at that time.
The administration had planned to execute the metro line project in two phases, with the first starting from the Marina to Yaba. This phase was slated for completion in July 1986, while the second was slated for completion in March, 1987. All these went down as mere pipe dreams, unfortunately.
Be that as it may, while the state continues with its roads and rail infrastructure projects that will, hopefully, ease traffic congestion, we urge its authorities to ensure stricter enforcement of the extant traffic laws so that there will be some sanity on the roads.
It could be observed that this law has been left in the hands of extortionists masquerading as law enforcement agents. The law has been left open to bribery and corruption such that an average motorist in the state understands the language of these enforcement agents. He breaks the law, bribes the agents and moves on.
Apparently, the law enforcers are grossly inadequate which speaks to lack of sufficient resources to pay if more people are recruited to join the traffic control. But, in our candid opinion, there is so much more the state can do without necessarily breaking the bank. One such thing is disciplining the few law enforcers for increased productivity and also for them to place public interest above self.
With this, we hope, the congestion on the roads could be reduced considerably. We also believe that the time to take all the necessary actions is today.