Traffic worsens in Lagos despite curfew
As restrictions eased in Lagos this week, the commercial nerve centre has been a bedlam of traffic gridlock across major routes with no sign of physical distancing anywhere.
Hundreds of motorists, for instance, passed the night at the Kara/Berger end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Monday and Tuesday, as they were stranded following the enforcement of the curfew to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
While some of the motorists lamented spending hours for journeys that should have lasted minutes, others decried passing the night in their vehicles after being stuck in the gridlock that followed the closure of the Berger boundary between Lagos and Ogun states.
Indeed, the logjam perpetually leaves road users stranded. Many struggled to hop on any available vehicle, some looked on dejectedly in a snail-moving traffic while others disembarked from buses after paying the fare to trek long distance.
Traffic jam and curfew restriction
With the disadvantages of exceeding the curfew time stipulated by the government, Lagosians find this traffic gridlock as a challenge to tackling the pandemic.
A motorist, Osas Ehimare, said: “I wonder if government considers the overflow of traffic gridlock in the state before enforcing curfew. I have been stocked in traffic for over four hours after leaving the office by 4pm just to get to my becomes a challenge.
“How do I explain to enforcement agencies that I was trapped in traffic peradventure am being apprehended for violating the curfew? I think government needs to re-strategize on the curfew timelines,” he said.
Besides, the gridlocks have also spikes the fare prices of all routes in the metropolis.
Experts worry that if proper measures are not put in place, Lagos may experience more positive cases before the two weeks break elapses. They said getting the economy back on track starts with sanitised transportation
Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, had last Sunday, reeled out measures to include restriction of operations of all commercial buses and commuters within Lagos from 6a.m and 7p.m daily, asserting that it is mandatory for all commuters to wear nose covers, wash their hands with soap under running water and, thereafter, use alcohol-based sanitisers before and after each trip.
Oladeinde affirmed that the use of motorcycles, popularly called Okada, for commercial activities would not support the physical distancing rule as directed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), pointing out, therefore, that Okada operations are disallowed in any part of Lagos State at this period.
He also warned all commercial passenger vehicles not to exceed 60 per cent of their capacity at this crucial time, while physical distancing rule must be obeyed both at the parks and in the buses, maintaining that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Lagos Bus Services Ltd (LBSL) must not convey more than 21 passengers, must not permit standing in their buses and should keep the air-conditioning systems switched off always.
While warning public transport operators against any activity capable of undermining government efforts at eradicating the Covid-19 pandemic, Oladeinde disclosed that all transport operators and companies must compulsorily and regularly disinfect their vehicles, parks and garages while they are expected to collaborate with the State Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources on the standard of disinfectants approved by the state government for use.
Checks by The Guardian shows that majority of the vehicles in various motor parks in Lagos have not been disinfected.
Although, drivers and conductors have already indicated interest by complying with the precautionary measures of wearing face masks and sanitising their hands respectively, observation shows that none of the parks visited has been disinfected for operations.
Worried about the measures put in place by government on commercial vehicles operation in Lagos, experts say there is need for comprehensive planning, development of a regulatory framework to maintain the measures.
They said policy guidelines, effective monitoring/control procedures as well as continuous feedback mechanism on the implementation strategies is essential.
According to them, the road traffic environment in the state is still usually characterised by “overcrowded” and “overloaded” vehicles and needs proper mechanism to curtail in ensuring the measures is adhered to.
Specifically, they said government should ensure proper sensitisation of commercial drivers, commuters and citizens at large to ensure precautionary measures are achieved.
Speaking to The Guardian, Professor of Transportation and Logistics Planning, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Iyiola Oni, said transportation, in particular, urban public transport is one of the greatest means of the proliferation and spread of COVID 19. With the status of Lagos as a mega city, and the characteristic high population density, there is bound to be consequent pressure on transport demand.
Oni said the required mechanisms must be put in place to prevent further spread of the virus as curtailment may be onerous. The details should include, but may not be limited to: effective enforcement of the prescribed safety procedures to ensure clean vehicles and driver as well as appropriate physical distancing on the buses and at bus stops.
This, according to him, will ensure the attainment of good health and reduced community transmission.
“The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), the boat operators and other public transport operators should educate and enlighten their members against over speeding, fare hiking and keeping to the stipulated government regulations while the task force and enforcement operatives should be strengthened. Also, drivers should bear in mind that the safety and security of passengers is key,” he added.
Expectation from government, citizens
Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Professor Samuel Odewumi, said the order to ensure physical distancing among commercial drivers and other measures in the state is a tough order, tougher to observe and roughest to enforce.
Odewumi said government was put between the devil and the deep blue sea. “I don’t envy those in government. They just have to try all sorts, whether it will work or not. It’s better than not trying at all. They cannot just raise up their hands and surrender.”
“Our natural inclinations to indiscipline and disobedience to rules and regulations is our Achilles heel. It’s almost hopeless. Where do we import the police that will enforce the regulations? Do you expect our Danfo drivers that we all know to observe this? But my advice to government is that they should invite all the media houses and jointly develop the WAR strategies.
“Information blitzkrieg is the first line of attack. Professionally designed war plan. This will give us a fighting chance because that is the only way to make our people buy into the war. If we allow the present misinformation and lackadaisical attitudes to persist Coro the reaper will have a full harvest.”
The university don said the tragedy is that this is a war, Lagos cannot win alone. It must be a nationally coordinated approach. The worst case scenario is that we are all likely to get it and there will be herd immunity whereby the weak will die and the strong will survive and life goes on thereafter. “This may take down one to five per cent of our population except vaccine or effective treatment drugs arrive on time,” he said.
A professor of Transport Systems Planning and Management, Kayode Oyesiku, said the order by the Governor is simply rhetoric. It is simply impossible. The 90 per cent dominancy of informal sector controlled public transport whose objective of provision of transport service is money.
More importantly, he said the existing modes such as Keke Marwa, Okada and Danfo are never designed for luxury or convenience or comfort of public transport ridership.
“Since their inception they are for crowding mobility. They indeed not sustainable and this is the time we need sustainable transport systems. Except there are hundreds of BRT buses and functional train transit systems the directive is dead on arrival,” he added.
In his remarks, Professor Callistus Ibe of the Department of Transport Management Technology, Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), said the measures did not put into place transportation situation. Transport of this nature is technically fixed.
According to him, it is going to be a herculean task, the security, enforcement agencies are going to encounter some difficulties. People need to be enlightened and reoriented with the importance of life saving.
Ibe said the implication of the measures will spike transportation fares within the metropolis.
“The attitude of our people is that they like to crowd people and the COVID-19 measures is against that. The attitude needs to change, our orientation and the way we demand for transport needs to change. In other climes, where their demand for transport is demand as waited, one person can carry and go but in our own, it is demand driven, the more people you get the more you make better use of them,” he added.
A commercial bus driver, Soliu Ahmed, said drivers are aware of the implication of the measures by government. Nobody wants to die.
Ahmed said the only challenge aside from crowd management is the dues usually collected from drivers while operating.
He said members of NURTW needs to cooperate on reduction of dues to make ends meet.