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A week-long of traffic chaos, hell on Lagos highway

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Lagos traffic

Call it the mother of all traffic mess and you will not be wrong. But it tells you how much of premium the authorities place on lives and having a functional society. WOLE OYEBADE writes.

“Something must be wrong with us as black people,” the fairly old man murmured as he shoved his way through the pedestrian traffic. “Maybe it is in the air we breathe. Just look at that,” he gestured with disgust at the lock jam.

The scene in question was unusual traffic chaos that entrapped all users – vehicles, tricycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians – on a section of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. And for several hours, last Tuesday, it was a total lockdown in the daytime.

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What began as little excess or “reckless driving” at the Iyana-Isolo junction early afternoon has metamorphosed into a bonfire of chaos and confusion by 5 p.m.

At the Daleko market-end of the junction, vehicles formed multiple lanes as if to lock horns with oncoming traffic. To worsen the flow were stationary trucks that have found a permanent abode on the Isolo-Five Star and Toyota corridor of the ever-busy expressway.

Much worse was the main thruway. In their wisdom or the lack of it, commercial drivers and their tag along with private car owners bypassed the gridlock on the service lane and made inroads into the main highway to face on-coming vehicles.

By 4:30 p.m. the intruders had formed three lanes, leaving a narrow path to users with the right-of-way. It took one trailer to clog the artery and erstwhile snail-pace movements came to a halt. The consequence was more traffic buildup in opposite directions of Oshodi and Mile 2. As at the last check at 11 p.m., very little has changed.

According to eyewitnesses, the narrative has become almost a daily eyesore on the route with harrowing tales for motorists since High Tech Construction firm moved in to rehabilitate the axis.

Hitech, low tact
The Federal Government last year awarded the overdue rehabilitation of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway as part of the holistic solution to the seemingly intractable problem of congestion inwards Apapa port and its environs.

Recall that the road was constructed 1975 and 1978 as a superhighway to evacuate cargo out of Lagos seaports connect into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) and the Trans-West Africa Highway from Badagry.

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The perennial gridlock of trucks and trailers that escalated early 2018 has practically outsmarted all executive fiat, but with the hope that an improvement in road networks and rail tracks extension will do some magic.

Hitech Construction Company Limited, upon whom the lot fell, lately moved to site with rehabilitation exercise from the Cele-end inwards Iyana-Isolo. Though Lagosians initially lauded the renovation, the modality of execution, however, left the public without joy.

Quite typical of such works in this part if the world, the firm went to work forcing selective road closure and restrictions without first creating alternatives for motorists that depend on the major highway.

The company apparently took it for granted that there are inner roads to by-pass the expressway but forgot that virtually all the inner roads are in deplorable conditions and in fact, worse than enduring some hours through the restricted expressway.

That was the experience when six-lane traffic inflow was restricted to a two-way service lane at Ilasa-end in June. Now, work had shifted to Iyana-Isolo to Five-Star, but the alternative inwards Answani Market and Ajao-estate are just as terrible.

For instance, two T-junctions – one just after Emzor Pharmaceuticals/Answani and another at Aye bus stop on Mushin-Ikotun road – are currently hellish for commuters and motorists who aim to bypass construction on cordoned Five-Star to Iyana-Isolo passage.

Mr. Sodeinde is one of those stranded just before Answani junction recently. It took Sodeinde and family over six hours to travel less than a kilometer from 7-and-8 end of Airport road to Aye bus stop.

“It was traffic I have never seen before,” he told The Guardian. “Did you know that it took us more time to travel from Lagos airport to Isolo than from Paris to Lagos? What the hell is happening here?

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“I saw the signs right at the airport but didn’t pay attention. It was very clumsy to get out of the international airport. It has always been that shameful for years. No surprises. Once we got out, I thought in another 20 minutes we would be home and start summer holidays. I was wrong. From 6:30 p.m. we didn’t get home until 1 a.m. We were all stuck in the dark (Answani axis) for hours. To be honest with you, that night I regretted bringing my family home for this summer,” Sodeinde said.

An official of Isolo Local Government Area (LGA), Emmanuel Akinlotu, blamed the construction firm for “insensitivity and rash measures”. Akinlotu said the firm failed to inform anyone or put up notices before abrupt closure of the roads for repairs.

“Don’t get me wrong. Road repair is okay, but you just don’t shut down a very busy road like this without an alternative for the users. If the (inner) roads are these terrible and not motorable, you cannot call it an alternate route. What some of these guys (road contractors) do around here, they dare not try 10 percent of it in their countries. We have been in this terrible situation for over a month now and it is so pathetic,” Akinlotu said.
Reckless, lawless drivers

But to complement the bad roads are also pervasive reckless drivers that have become a law unto themselves. Statewide, it is almost a norm to drive against traffic with commercial bus drivers, tricycles and motorcyclists the worst culprits.

A recent fervor by the current Lagos State administration resuscitated the traffic law. For one-way offence, the vehicle is either impounded or the owner pays N200, 000 ransom. But the worst culprits are above the Lagos traffic law.

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On Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in the last two months, The Guardian observed that the narrow fly-over that flows traffic from Ladipo-end into International Airport road has been converted into a risky two-way path, with commercial buses freely facing oncoming traffic. Their descending into traffic bottleneck at the Toyota bus stop is a major source of log jam every evening.
LASTMA officials abscond

“I cannot help but wonder where the men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) are when danfo drivers constitute this nuisance,” Grace Chukwu said.

Chukwu was recently at the nick of skidding off the link-bridge when a commercial bus suddenly appeared in opposite direction and in top speed.

“I panicked and it almost cost me my life. It was just the act of man’s inhumanity to fellow man. This is not supposed to be a lawless society, but these commercial bus drivers are flagrantly disregarding the law without anyone calling them to order. No private owner can do that without LASTMA or Task Force arresting him or her. The government can do better to instill sanity,” Chukwu said.

Apparently clear to Chukwu and many residents is that LASTMA official is more often than not missing in action during the “crazy traffic hours.” Last Tuesday from Ilasa-end to Toyota, no LASTMA official was in sight, despite the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s new directive that the officers should now work two shifts and between 6 a.m. till 11 p.m. to ease traffic. Not on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.

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