Welcome to Lagos traffic where the roads are busy and millions of commuters choke with frustration as they hustle through Nigeria’s commercial capital, Africa’s fifth largest economy.
One Chief Edozie recently tweeted about Lagos residents’ ugly traffic experience, saying, “If you leave your house everyday to go to work in Lagos, you’re already playing a game that is set up to kill you.” Edozie’s viral tweet had attracted several comments, as residents took turns to recall some of their sad experiences in Lagos traffic.
Like most fast-developing cities, road traffic has come to be the norm in Lagos, disrupting the flow of movement and business. Although many Nigerians find the city and the opportunities it offers very exciting, living in Lagos takes a heavy toll on residents.
Yet, many Lagosians consider the nauseating traffic part of the normal “Lagos hustle.” This has been normalised to the extent that many have suggested that “The Lagos Traffic” be added to the list of tourist attraction sites. To illustrate, sayings like “this is Lagos”, shine your eyes” [be vigilant] sometimes boldly written on billboards and said over and over across the city, leave no doubts as to why it is commonly said that “nobody is normal in Lagos.”
Lagos Traffic is caused by a number of reasons. Being the smallest Lagos in Nigeria, covering 3,577 square kilometres, it is roughly half the size of Abuja. One would think that being the smallest state would automatically mean it would have the smallest population, but the reverse is the case, as it has the greatest urban population in Nigeria, with 24.5 million people. You can blame our government, city planners and the corporate world who have, even after the federal capital territory toga was removed from it, still suffocates the small city with a lot of economic activities by failing to activate the economies of other city centres. For some socio-political reasons, the two effectively functional seaports – Tincan and Apapa – are Lagos-based. The Onne Seaport in Rivers, and others in Calabar and Onitsha are either neglected or made to work suboptimally.
It is basically the same for airports. Granted that basically all six geopolitical zones and Abuja have international airports, only the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos is commercially viable. Lagos is the Nigeria’s international gateway.
Little wonder everyone gathers to nest in Lagos, hence the troubling Lagos traffic? Isn’t it simple to see why traffic in Lagos has reached extraordinary proportions, with residents spending nearly three of every 10 years stuck in traffic, making it one of the worst cities for driving?
Some other causes of Lagos traffic
One of the most interesting characters, in a typical Lagos traffic are the infamous “Danfo drivers”, identified with their signature yellow-and-black-striped-lines buses with uncomfortable wooden seats. These drivers have a history of breaking traffic rules. They recklessly drive against traffic, and pick up passengers at non-designated areas.
Just like any other business, there is always a wingman, and in this case, it is ‘The Bus Conductors’. It is almost impossible not to meet a regular bus conductor, who scream phrases like “enter with your change” and their stereotypical agbero-like mannerisms and angry/sharp-mouthed passengers complement the Danfo cultural experience. Fights often erupt between motorists and conductors or drivers and passengers every single day, usually as a result of impatience and scramble for space in the congested Lagos roads.
It is no news that Nigerian roads, not only Lagos’, are in bad shape. Lagos’ is just too pronounced because it has more pressure and attention. It is next to impossible to find a road completely free of potholes, sadly even on highways. A major example is the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, an express way, that serves as link to some neighbouring countries.
The Expressway like many other roads in Lagos has proven to be a death trap as recent reports reveal tragic accidents due to the substandard nature of many roads. Observers allege corruption as the hidden reason behind this. World Bank has a benchmark of N238 million cost for constructing a kilometre of road but, in Nigeria a kilometre of a road is constructed for about N1 billion.
Lagosians, have complained daily about the state of roads, expecially in the inner cities. All they get most times is false sympathy and empty promises. Potholes are believed to be one of the major causes of Lagos traffic congestion because they require drivers to slow down, resulting in ‘stop and go’ driving.
Antidote to heavy traffic
Nigerians on social media have advocated improvement of road network. For instance, they advised that what former Lagos Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode did at Iyana Oworo could be replicated at the Obalende area and some other suitable places.
Where possible, government can build a dual carriage way like what we have from Costain to Apapa and replicate same from the Victoria Island to Ajah.
There is also the need to expand road networks in areas in dire need of it to cater for the growing population. Conventional road network can no longer help in managing Lagos traffic, hence, the need for innovation and creativity in the way road networks are designed and constructed in certain places. When government begins to build roads with a new sense of technological innovation, the traffic situation will definitely improve.
Amani Chinedu, a commuter, said: “Traffic is already easing in Lagos State. But I think the government needs to tackle the root cause of the problem. The core cause of traffic jam, in my own assessment, is the agberos who delay commercial drivers along the road, demanding money from them.
According to Chinedu: “The government needs to start arresting them and other violators of the traffic law. The government should also create more bus stops. If the roads are in good condition, traffic will naturally reduce.”
Apart from improving road networks, government can also explore the option of boosting other alternative means of transportation like rail and ferries to ease traffic on the roads as movements must not necessarily have to be restricted to roads. There should be an upgrade in the means of water transport to ensure a significant level of safety to attract better patronage.