While commuters in Lagos State are breathing a sigh of relief as traffic congestion has eased in recent weeks on the back of petrol price hike, business activity has slowed down in the state, BusinessDay’s findings have shown.
From the determined stride of pedestrians on their morning commutes to the symphony of car horns and the cries of danfo drivers to ‘move out of the way’, there is a feeling of liberty in Nigeria’s commercial capital.
On Wednesday, Jason Njoku, a Nigerian businessman, took to Twitter to lament the less traffic in Lagos following the removal of petrol subsidy and its implication on businesses.
In a series of tweets shared on his handle, the Iroko TV boss said he arrived in Lagos on Tuesday and was shocked by “the lack of traffic” in the state.
He said he could only imagine the economic devastation occurring on an individual basis. “Where did all the cars go? How does that normalise? What is the new normal?” he asked.
He added that the lack of traffic showed that consumption had definitely collapsed.
The increase in petrol prices following the recent removal of subsidies, coupled with rising inflation in the country, has pushed up transportation costs and forced some motorists to scale down the usage of their cars.
“Now, in a place like Lagos, which is also the commercial centre of the country, traffic is a strong indicator that people are moving, and at the same time, there is an exchange of goods and services which boost economic activities,” Sesan Adeyeye, portfolio manager at Asset & Resource Management Holding Company, said.
The lack of traffic congestion “is like a dream come true,” said Sarah Ogunleye, a businesswoman who lives in Ikoyi and works in Lekki. “I used to spend hours in traffic every day, but now I can get to work in 30 minutes.”
For years, Lagosians have endured the exasperating daily struggle of navigating through a sea of vehicles that often turned simple trips into exhausting odysseys.
“I still can’t believe that Lagos roads can be this free every time I drive to work,” said Adesuwa Olatunji, a young professional who commutes across the city daily. “Although there has been an increase in transport and fuel price, which I think has contributed to the free road.”
According to a poll conducted by BusinessDay on LinkedIn, 80 percent of 260 responses noted that the roads are free now, while the other 20 percent said that there is still traffic on Lagos roads.
Samuel Odewumi, a professor and ex-dean of Lagos State University School of Transport and Logistics, said the removal of fuel subsidies has had more impacts on social movements than on business or occupational movements.
“Definitely, fuel removal has impacted some people’s movements and it will impact more on the movement of socials than for business or for occupational reasons because the movement for business is the movement for survival, and it’s largely inelastic,” Odewumi said.
A 2018 report showed that Lagos residents spend an average of 30 hours a week in traffic, one of the highest figures in the world. The city – Africa’s seventh-largest economic hub despite being Nigeria’s smallest state by area – is home to an estimated 24 million people.
According to a report by the Danne Institute for Research, the 6.39 million people who work in Lagos spend 2.21 hours per day in traffic, which costs them the equivalent of N1,1180 per hour of salaries or N17 million per day.