More questions than answers on ending Lagos gridlock
• 250,000 cars waste N60b on extra fuel yearly
There were more questions than answers yesterday at the Lagos Transportation and Traffic webinar organised by the United States Consulate General in Lagos.
The traffic problem was described as “the other pandemic, a transportation virus” by Prof. Bola Akinterinwa.
With the advent of the rainy season with its attendant flooding and huge craters doting many parts of the state, the fear of severe congestion in the coming days was on Monday heightened with the announcement that the Third Mainland Bridge would be closed for six months for repair.
The virtual event, which drew stakeholders in the transportation industry, government officials, scholars and media practitioners, lived up to the billing of its theme: ‘The never-ending story, Lagos traffic congestion: What can be done? Will it be done?
While the forum did justice to the first part: ‘What can be done?’ with panellists proffering homegrown solutions and models from the developed world to address the intractable problem of Lagos traffic, the answer to the second part: ‘Will it be done?’ was left blowing in the wind after the two-hour session.
The U.S. Consul General, Ms. Claire Pierangelo, kicked off the discussion on why Lagos, as the hub of economic activity in Nigeria, needs to open up a conversation around looking for solutions to the traffic problem.
The keynote speaker, Mr Frank Aigbogun, publisher of Business Day newspaper, urged the private sector to be more demanding for solutions from the Federal Government and state government. “Lagos traffic congestion is a failure of policy. I have lived with this problem since 1982 when I came to Lagos for the first time from Kano. I was to report to The Guardian newspaper for my NYSC and for more than two hours, I was moving round and round from Oshodi to The Guardian office at Toyota [Bus Stop] in traffic.
“On average, people spend 30 hours a week in traffic, 10 hours short of the 40 hours a week work schedule. This poses stress to individuals, families, productivity decline, economic losses and grave danger to life. I have been attacked thrice in my car in traffic. One of the occasions was with my whole family in the car. The private sector needs to hold the government to high standards, demanding pragmatic solutions,” he said.
Robin Hutcheson, Director of Public Works, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, noted that a single person in a car is not an efficient use of space, reason why massive investment in public transportation is key.
“Space is a constraint in cities worldwide, which is why the bus-only lane is helpful to reduce road congestion. The BRT model will save travel time for those who commute by bus and encourage more people to drop their cars at home.”
Engr. Abdulhafis Toriola, who represented the Commissioner of Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde, reeled out some plans the state government had been working on to manage its 21 million population in the little space available.
“We have invested massively in mass transit, especially BRT lanes with a soon to be launched Oshodi to Abule-Egba route, invested massively in water transportation with purchase of more boats and working to transit the public transport sector from the unorganised model to an organised one.”
Prof. Innocent Ogwude, professor of transport management and former Acting Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Imo State, said that narrow roads, poor connectivity of inner-city roads and mass movement of trucks have compounded the traffic situation in Lagos despite the movement of the Federal Capital Territory to Abuja in December 1991.
Commenting on the discourse, George Ashiru said: “Until economists put the figures of the impact of road congestion on the GDP, governments may not altogether understand how to ensure the prioritisation of the issue of public transportation, bottlenecks and endemic congestion. The impact on location and localisation of industries is palpable.”
Adenusi, Patrick of the Safety Beyond Borders, founder of the NGO focused on road safety, said: “Daily, about 250,000 vehicles are caught in avoidable traffic in Lagos. If each of the vehicles expends N1,000 on extra fuel above what should have been spent for the journey, that is N250 million wasted daily. In five days, that is N1.25 billion and in a month, N5 billion. In 12 months, we are talking of about N60 billion.
Dr. Mobereola, a former Managing Director of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) and former Commissioner for Transportation said: “The first problem is lack of coordination between the three arms of government in Nigeria to address the problem of urban transport with Lagos as the focus. This, the embassy can help to coordinate so that the major decision-makers will be present.
“Are there plans and policies that would take care of the prerequisites for effective traffic management? How can traffic be managed effectively without good road network, enough diversion routes, plans for proper parking, proper provision for the pedestrian precinct, proper training of traffic management agents and monitoring, policies that would punish corrupt agents and offenders?”