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BRT service and sanitation: A case of Oshodi Terminal 2 in Lagos

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Last week, I was opportune to travel to the Island from my base at the Mainland, Lagos for a meeting. I thought of the best options to reach my destination on time and in a conducive environment. I chose the BRT service at the Oshodi Terminus, where I would board a bus to Obalende. My decision was prompt because of past experience of getting good service from this point on several occasions.

The Bus Rapid Transit service came into effect during the administration of former Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Raji Babatunde Fashola and the current Minister for Works and Housing. His tenure was between May 2007 to May 2015. His administration achieved in many areas including the planting of trees, and flowers on Lagos roads. Sanitizing Oshodi, which is an acclaimed centre of Lagos and then hotspot for criminals and their gangs. With the tree and flower plantingLagos wore a new look to the relief of Lagosians. There was improved ambiance and green scenery across the city and erstwhile bad spots were converted to gardens. Then came the flag-off of the BRT service on Lagos roads. First was Ketu -Mile 12 axis through CMS, et al. BRT as it was had its lanes carved out from major express road of Ikorodu Road through Western Avenue, Mile 12 and CMS at the first instance. With the introduction of BRT service, commuters heaved a sigh of relief with the modern approach to transportation in the state.

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The BRT Buses were clean, as contractors and staff ensured the buses appeared neat and inviting to commuters inside out. There was a decorum. Staff were cultured and attended to commuters with respect. No wonder, Lagosians were always happy to queue in their hundreds for the buses at different bus stops very early each day for journeys to their respective offices and business. The fair was moderate, instant, Iyana Ipaja-Yaba Oyingbo attracted 150-200 Naira, only. Commuters’ patronage of BRT buses was to the envy of the yellow bus drivers, they were forced to review their fares. Even where the buses were late in turning up, passengers were patient, as one can observe them discussing in groups while waiting for their turn. The birth of BRT was an idea conceived by the state government and in collaboration with other road transport operators, including the State arm of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) in the state and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Part of the reason was to phase out the popular but endangered ‘molue’ which posed a lot of risk to commuters. This includes constant traffic violations and accidents, air pollution from emissions, uncultured drivers and conductors, vehicle overloading, with passengers hanging by the doors. Others include fighting, quarreling, sexual molestation, pickpocketing and losing money to the conductors because there is no ticketing policy. Molue buses could be likened to a ‘ghetto’ where anything goes.

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BRT was to put sanity into road transportation. It was to achieve the ‘mega-city’ slogan of Lagos in the 21st Century by ensuring prompt service and commuters’ safety. In summary, the BRT buses were regarded as a big relief to commuters in Lagos, but this expectation was short-lived. Like many other such laudable initiatives, this idea was short-lived, sadly. A closer look at the roads shows that the once beautiful BRT bus stops had long been demolished. At present, most of the buses, are worse than ‘molues’, with the inside of the buses vandalized, the outside cries out for panel beater’s attention. With overloading of the buses comes with its attendant crimes of stealing, pickpocketing, quarreling and fighting. The buses are littered and dirty. It could be discerned from commuters’ reaction, that the buses are not the first choice anymore. People patronize it when there are no alternatives like cab, and buses and bikes. Judging from the foregoing, the successor of Mr. Raji Fashola, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, launched a fresh strategy of strengthening the BRT service in Lagos State. To his credit, modern Bus Terminals were erected in selected areas of Lagos, including Ikeja, Oshodi and Yaba. This complemented the earlier ones at Race Cross and Ojota, The Terminals (one, two, three) built-in the Oshodi axis is first of its kind in Nigeria. It serves the entire state from this central location. Lagos, with an estimated population of over 17million people, the Terminal is a laudable initiative of the government. The terminal not only serves as a loading bay but also serves as a vehicle park for commuters. With the volume of patronage rising daily, Lagos is sure to raise good revenue from this facility. It is in addition, a good source of employment generation from the 3 terminals and other ancillary services offered by consultants and companies.

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With the building of the Terminal and it’s commissioning by President Buhari in April 2019, Ambode launched and delivered over 800 new sets of buses, smarter and fully kitted with air conditioners for its take-off. The TerminalTwo, which is presently operational, has CMS, Obalende, Mile 12 et al as its route. Others within the Ikeja terminal, covers, Alausa, Iyana Ipaja, and Agege. The terminal boast of a beautiful sight. It is instructive to note that the operations of the Terminal is less than one year. There is increased patronage as more and more people are becoming aware of the service. A visit to the site last week made a lasting impression. I needed to use the convenience before embarking on my journey to Ikoyi. After picking my ticket, I asked one of the Lady Security Officials within the building, where I could ease myself. She pointed to the toilet, just across the loading bay. I was happy, that at least I can travel without having an overfilled bladder. As I moved close to the toilet area, I could perceive offensive odour from the place, but I was not deterred. I continued moving closer, thinking maybe it was being washed, since it was still morning, around 9.30 a.m. but, I was wrong. On opening the door of the toilet which has male on one side and female on the other. I sighted about four (4) plastic mobile toilets placed on the female toilet area. To my astonishment, the floor of the toilet was littered with fresh and dried feces, and urine was streaming out from the toilet to the outside compound. No wonder I saw only one lady marching out quickly from that place when I was making my way to the place. Within that minute, I ran with all the energy I had. I ran outside the terminal to buy water to wash my hand and applied hand sanitizer. It was an embarrassing sight. A contrast to the beautiful and smart buses waiting to transit passengers to different locations within Lagos.

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Someone may ask, who is messing up the place? Are there staff employed to manage the facility. For the toilet that is projected to cater to over 10,000 commuters daily, there was no sign of water pump, borehole, or water drums. Assuming someone used the toilet, there would be water to clean up. Let us presume that the Staff works there for about 8 hours daily, where do they ease themselves? Asking further, is the health of the staff considered as important? How about that of the commuters that patronize the place? Where are the Commissioners of Health and Environment? Do they carry out on spot checks? I hope and pray for the success of this present BRT buses, it is of great importance to the state for revenue generation and employment and to commuters, the ease of transportation. All it requires is to put it in the hands of committed and accountable people to avoid the mistakes of the past.

There are several transmittable diseases ravaging the citizens. Presently, the Lassa Fever is present in about 11 states and has claimed several lives in Nigeria and spreading, not to mention the Coronavirus with its dragon-like attack across countries that can boast of sophisticated health facilities, but this virus has refused to be tamed despite efforts and funds put towards eliminating it. No Nigerian would wish that we experience this type of calamity in our dear country…hmm, God forbid. Where shall we start? That is why urgent attention to hygiene and cleanness should be a priority to every one of us, just like in our homes. Ebola virus has not gone too, we still receive news of its presence in some African countries. Soon, the rains shall set in, where would the dry faeces littered all over the ground of the BRT toilets wash too? Must our facilities be left in this shape? I’m quite sure a lot of contractors would jump at the opportunity of managing the toilets, considering the number of passengers that patronize the terminus daily.

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A visit to some public Ministries and Parastatals confirms the unavailability of toilet facilities too. Where it is provided, it is always in a sorry state. This is the same for most public universities and polytechnics, where students and even staff improvise by defecating in surrounding bushes and pathways with attendant risks. In some instances, where toilets are provided, it is always under lock and key for a few privileged staff. This is dehumanizing, considering our rights enshrined in the Socio, Economic, and Cultural Rights, including “the right to an adequate standard of living” the Last year 2019, UNICEF, ranked Nigeria second after India to “Open Defecation” all over the world of about 200 nations. This is unacceptable to Nigerians as cultured people. The Bus Rapid Transit attracts cream de la cream of Lagosians and travelers from other states and even neighbouring countries. The Bus Rapid Transit is, of course, a noble idea that should not be allowed to ruin and turn to a death trap for travelers. Should there be any breakout of disease from such neglect, the multiplier effect shall be disastrous. This is ours to salvage. “A stitch in time saves lives”. The time to act is now.

Kalu wrote from Ireti Street, Yaba, Lagos.

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