Economic implications of transportation bottleneck in Lagos
Lagos is a cosmopolitan city with an increasing population. A highly boisterous state known for huge economic transactions. Lagos occupies a special place in the macroeconomic space of Nigeria. The people of Lagos are highly enduring people who can do anything to ensure their trade continues legitimately. They weather the difficult transportation challenge in Lagos to ensure that business continues. In fact, traffic jam scenes are market places in Lagos where street traders sell various items despite the ban on street trading.
Due to the traffic menace, a transportation system known as the Lagos Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that operates on selected and dedicated routes was launched in 2003. At present, the BRT system is operated by the Lagos State government-owned LAGBUS Asset Management Limited and the private Primero Transport Services Limited with the aim of providing fast transport services to Lagosians. Users find relief in these buses because through them, they can travel within the city faster and at relatively lesser cost. The Ikorodu to CMS and Ikorodu to Oshodi routes are probably the most-used BRT corridors in Lagos. The reason is not unconnected with the fact that the Ikorodu local government is a densely populated area in Lagos with majority of its residents working on the island axis of Lagos. Majority of residents in Ikorodu and those along the Ikorodu road stretch therefore depend on the BRT buses for their transportation needs to work and back home.
On November 4, 2016, the Lagos State Government revoked the franchises issued through LAGBUS to transport companies which operate the red buses on BRT corridors. By this decision, the red buses are no longer allowed to use the BRT corridor along the Ikorodu-CMS road and other routes too. The implication of this is that their service is now limited to the normal road every other private road user ply. It strips them of the right to use the fast lane dedicated to the BRT system. It simply makes them unattractive to passengers who used to prefer them to other buses in order to bypass the stubborn traffic jam on some Lagos roads. The decision, therefore, gives Primero Transport company (the operators of the blue BRT buses) the sole right to BRT lanes.
The challenge is that, even though Primero boasts of having 475 buses in their fleet, they have failed to seamlessly meet the needs of the teeming number of passengers who are always left at the mercy of their poor service. It is extremely annoying that passengers are always left queuing for hours in the mornings and evenings at major bus terminals. This is usually very tiring for passengers who are eager to get to work and who also hope to return home on time to attend to domestic needs. The effect of this is that it makes workers tired and left with little strength. A tired workforce definitely affects output and ultimately, performance on the job.
More so, the continued operation of the red buses formerly under the franchise of the Lagos State government is seriously under threat too. Investors who bought into the BRT franchise have raised their voices, lamenting the risk of losing their investment. This is definitely economically-disadvantageous. In a ripple effect, the over 5,000 employees of the LAGBUS franchise holders such as ticketers, drivers, etc, are threatened by the possible loss of job in an economy that is biting harder by the day. This will increase unemployment in an already inflationary economy.
In addition, commuters are left with limited choices. The popular yellow buses operators in Lagos are known to be people who liken waiting crowd of passengers with the need to hike their fares. Lagosians are, therefore, made to pay through their nose for services that aren’t any better simply because, they now have very limited options to choose from. It leaves civil servants, apprentices, petty traders, students, workers, etc, at the mercy of the unfair fares they charge.
Regarding the decision of the state government that revoked the franchise given the red BRT bus operators, it is imperative that the Lagos State government come to the mercy of its residents for the following reasons: (a) The time and energy commuters waste on queues for those ‘unrapid’ buses which are supposed to be rapid in their operation is counter-productive. A tired worker will not perform optimally and this will affect productivity. (b) The unprecedented inconveniences commuters now face which is a direct consequence of government’s decision to cancel the LAGBUS franchises is unbearable to commuters. (c) The possible loss of investment by investors in the LAGBUS franchise scheme will have negative impact on Lagos’ outlook as an investment destination. (d) The decision can also increase unemployment. (e) It is capable of leading to monopoly in the BRT system which is unhealthy.
On the last note above, government needs to take a second look at its decision because, leaving only one transport company to enjoy the BRT system will encourage monopoly, discourage further organized private sector involvement in the transport sector in Lagos and further make Lagos a difficult place to do business in. This is because transportation is an aid to trade that needs be well ran in a city like Lagos.