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Again, motorists, essential workers pass night on roads

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Traffic snarl in Lagos… PHOTO:AYODELE ADENIRAN

For the second time in two weeks, Lagos commuters last Monday and Tuesday had the misfortune of passing the night on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as men of the Nigerian Police enforced curfew.

The blanket enforcement, no thanks to overzealous policemen, caught many motorists in the lockdown. Among them are essential service providers like journalists, health workers, and foodstuff transporters whose arguments and pleas only fell on police’s deaf ears.

The Guardian learnt that the police mounted a roadblock at the Kara-Berger-end of the ever-busy expressway to enforce the Lagos State 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew order and restrictions of inter-state movements.

The attendant traffic snarl snaked inwards Ketu and Ojota end as at 10:30 p.m., forcing many residents, just a few yards away from their homes, to pass the night in their vehicles.

One of the stranded commuters, Ibiyemi Komolafe, said it started as slight traffic at the Alausa-end of the expressway and later became a stand still at about 11 p.m.

Komolafe said she was aware of the curfew, “but there are days when it is just impossible to predict travel-time in Lagos.”

“I had left the office in Lekki since 6 p.m. due to emergencies but it was mad traffic all the way. Thank goodness I managed to get to Ketu at around 10 p.m. and in about 20 minutes I should be at my home around Berger. It was not to be.

“The traffic began just after Alausa. When the clock struck the zero-zero hour, I had to come down to inquire what was going on. It was then I discovered that it was the checkpoint policemen. We had the assurance that they will soon allow us to move. Then the time soon became 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m. and on till it was 6 a.m. on the same spot! We didn’t start moving until it was 6:20 a.m.,” Komolafe said.

A journalist, Emmanuel, said he walked up to the joint-border policemen to explain himself as an essential worker. “But I was chased away on mentioning that I am a journalist. One of the officers said: ‘So what? That you are media mean say make you no obey simple order? You hear no movement? Get away.”

Emmanuel recalled how a lot of stranded motorists later accepted their fate. Some turned the misfortune into a mini-carnival, though still hoping that “reason” will prevail and the road will reopen.

“A nearby noodles and fried egg merchant soon sold out all she came with. She was heaven-sent to many. Getting something to eat and drink doused the tension. Later, a guy, who claims to be a musician from Ajegunle, took to the floor to entertain some sleep weary travellers. Others simply took solace in the comfort of their cars to catch some sleep, whatever it is worth. The police wouldn’t be bothered. They didn’t lift the barricades until 6:15 a.m.”

The Guardian observed that the perennial traffic gridlock in the State has returned with a vengeance since the lockdown was relaxed. This is not unconnected with either bad roads or ongoing construction work that could have been completed faster during the five weeks of lockdown.

On the Lagos-Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, for instance, the reconstruction exercise between Cele bus stop and Oworonshoki axis was abandoned during the stay-at-home and has resumed lately. However, the daily traffic snarl on the corridor is as hellish for motorists and residents as it could get. It readily compromises the good intension of physical distancing and curfew.


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