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‘This government has completely abandoned us’

By Tobi Awodipe
20 April 2019   |   4:28 am
It has been a bad week for commuters to ply the Oshodi-Apapa expressway as articulated vehicles, especially tankers and trailers parked on both the expressway and service lanes have made the roads impassable culminating into a scene of terror on Wednesday and Thursday nights...

Gridlock at Ilasa section of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway,Lagos… yesterday PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN

It has been a bad week for commuters to ply the Oshodi-Apapa expressway as articulated vehicles, especially tankers and trailers parked on both the expressway and service lanes have made the roads impassable culminating into a scene of terror on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Femi Adeoye, an airport taxi driver would never forget his experience. He is yet to recover as he said he slept on the road on Thursday night into Friday morning. “I picked a passenger going to Mile 2 from MM2 and if I had known that this was in store for me, I would have told him to look for another driver and gone back home.”

Brandishing a toothpaste and toothbrush, he said he had just finished brushing his teeth and hadn’t eaten anything since the previous night.

Speaking with anguish on his face, he said, “look at the time, it is now almost 8:00am, Friday morning. I left MM2 at few minutes to 11.00pm thinking I would get there and come back before midnight. The first inkling I got that something was terribly wrong was that I noticed that commercial buses, danfo were driving against the traffic, but I pegged it down to their usual impatience.

On getting to Iyana-Isolo, I saw buses turning back and facing one-way but by then, the other side that is the side going to Oshodi was already blocked as well, so I decided to stick to where I was. That was the worst decision I could have taken. From Iyana-Itire, we ran into this terrible traffic and moved one kilometer every other 30 minutes. There were no traffic officers, so it was a matter of everyone for himself.”

Berating the state and federal governments, he said the parked tankers and trailers from Cele bus-stop, coupled with the bad roads, created the lockdown.

“All the inner streets we could have passed were blocked and the roads are so bad. Why is the government insensitive to our plight? This is not the way to live and if we continue like this, high blood pressure and stroke is imminent. We were still complaining of Wednesday’s traffic not knowing something worse was coming,” he said bitterly.

For Mercy James, a customer service staff with one of the airlines, Thursday night would not be forgotten in a hurry. “When I got to NAHCO junction, commercial buses were charging N500 to get to Mile 2 and I was surprised because normally, it is N200. I was short of cash, so my colleague and I had to sit on each other’s laps.

Eventually, when we got to Ilasa bus stop, the driver suddenly received a phone call and said he wasn’t going again. All pleas to return part of our money fell on deaf ears as the conductor suddenly disappeared and the driver claimed he didn’t have any money on him.”

James said it was getting late and didn’t want to fall victim of robbers, so she left and tried to get a commercial motorcycle (okada) to complete her journey. “However, there were no buses, tricycles (keke napep) or okada. Everywhere was completely blocked and I could see a lot of people trekking to their various destinations so I decided to join them. I walked home and arrived few minutes to midnight,” she said.

The situation was worse for residents staying around FESTAC, Amuwo-Odofin and its environs as the parked trailers have completely taken over the roads, leaving just a single lane for commuters, a situation a commercial bus driver, Muftau Adesina, described as wickedness and failure of governance.

“The government has completely failed us in this country. How can they be looking at us suffering like this everyday without looking for a solution? It doesn’t give us joy to inflate transport fare but we need to make our money because traffic or not, “delivery money” and owo ajo (daily contribution) must be complete. The trailers have made this work very difficult and cumbersome and I am looking for another route to ply pending when the trailers are removed from the road.”

A visit by The Guardian to the stretch of the Oshodi-Apapa dual-carriageway showed a dire situation at its boiling point. From Toyota bus stop to Mile 2, articulated vehicles have completely taken over the service lane and part of the expressway, leaving just a little space for other road users.

Most parts of the service lane from Iyana-Itire was completely dilapidated but motorists were seen slugging it out with no choice. Commercial buses were plying one-way with traffic officers looking the other way. One man was almost knocked down by a danfo while trying to avoid an oncoming vehicle that was approaching at high speed.

Managing to jump out of the way in time, the bus driver still turned to curse him, asking him to ‘face where you are going’, despite his violation of traffic rule.

At Oshodi, bus conductors could be heard telling passengers, this one dey follow one-way, justifying the increased fare. From Oshodi to Ballet/Cele, the traffic is almost bearable but from after Cele, impunity reigns. The tankers and trailers are parked from there right up till Mile 2 and the only means of moving around is with Okada.

A young man who simply gave his name as Bayo and works at Apapa regretted the gridlock, wondering if the state was being governed at all. “The way things are going, I don’t think there is any governor in this state. This problem has been on for several years now but has gotten worse in the last couple of weeks. Before, one could even get a bus to Apapa from Mile 2 but now; commercial motorcycle is the only means of transportation within Apapa.

Very soon, we might have to start taking it from Oshodi because this government has completely abandoned us. Everyone is so frustrated as governance appears to have collapsed. I understand that Easter is tomorrow and people were trying to travel but it shouldn’t have been this bad, everywhere was completely shut down and people trekked far distances just to get home. Something has to give at this point, it is either the trailers or our lives.”

Chidinma Eze and her husband decried the agonising moment, lambasting the state government as incompetent. Narrating their experience of Thursday night, the pregnant woman said she thanked God that they didn’t lose their lives to men of the underworld. “We were robbed after that Apple Junction right inside our car in the traffic. Two men, one on each side of the window, broke the glasses, demanding our wallets, bag and phones. My husband was still trying to see how he could maneuver his way but the man beside me brought out a knife, threatening to slice my throat while the one on other one beside my husband brandished a gun.

“I didn’t even bother finding out if it was a real gun or toy, I quickly gave them my bag, his wallet and our phones. All those are small things we can easily get back; we can’t get back our lives. They went on to rob other people unchallenged all in that traffic before disappearing into the night. If not for the traffic and the trailers packed on each side of the lane that gave them cover and opportunity, such would never happen,” she recalled. Calling on the state government to provide a lasting solution, she said they would have been just another statistics if they had been killed.

As yesterday was a public holiday, normalcy was returning gradually. Starting from around Cele and stretching to Mile 2 and beyond. The Guardian noticed that danfos and okadas were still plying one way from Toyota all the way to Mile 2 in a bid to beat the traffic while bus fares remained on the high side.

Adesina said he wouldn’t be caught unawares today and would close immediately he noticed build-up of traffic. “Yesterday, I got home around 1.00am, today, I wouldn’t make that same mistake. Immediately I notice the traffic, I would park my bus and look for where to relax because I can’t kill myself,” he declared.