Lagos traffic: When corruption fights back
LAGOS is always a traffic mess during the raining season. This is an incontrovertible fact, as a coastline city below the sea level, it should be expected. Anybody who is familiar with big cities in China where traffic sometimes run bumper-to-bumper for 48 hours, or in Mumbai and Bangkok would know that this is a mega-city feature that is not peculiar to Lagos. Fridays are even worse, with their inexplicable traffic complexities, especially on those days when the two big churches along Lagos-Ibadan expressway have their special retreats.
Needless to say that because this year was an election year, attention and perhaps funding for roads by the immediate past administration somewhat seized early, leaving many gaping holes and various degrees of decay on many roads. But then all these could have been gradually fixed as I believe they are being fixed without the orchestrated attacks on the governor of Lagos State, if LASTMA officials had not been perceived to be complicit in their actions.
And this is where the attention of the new Transport Commissioner must be: get LASTMA to work according to the vision of their employer or replace them with those who have the interest of Lagos State at heart!
Ambode has given an indication of how he wants citizens whose votes gave him the job to be treated without breeding an irresponsible citizenry; it is left for LASTMA to marshal out the correct manner of enforcement. And by this, I do not think one is asking for a miracle. The Apapa traffic debacle was always there even when LASTMA was at its peak and it has always been an unwritten rule for people who work on Lagos Island but live on the mainland to stay till 9 or 10p.m. once it is after 5p.m. due to heavy vehicular movement.
When Vanguard newspapers in 2012/2013 decided to devote a full week to putting the madness on Apapa road on its front-page, it was simply calling for a national attention to a federal road for which both the former governor and LASTMA were clearly helpless.
All that Lagosians seek now is for those officials to be alive to their duties and earn their pay particularly during rush hours on the few notorious routes linking the mainland Lagos to the affluent Island. Anything short of this would amount to sabotage for which the Governor must wield the big stick.
It is gladdening that many roads projects are now being commissioned and palliative works are being done as a response to the cries of commuters. These will even improve further as the rains subside in a matter of few months. But a far greater challenge still looms: the influx of people into Lagos as economic realities bite harder in many other states that are unable to pay salaries. Lagos will become the Mecca of those looking for escape and this will further put pressure on security, road infrastructure and the limited purse of the state.
Only dutiful and incorrigible traffic management officers would be needed at that point to rescue the roads and commuters. Therefore, Ambode must either make an ideal lot out of the present crop of officers or find his reliable traffic lieutenants elsewhere.
• Abe, a security and human behaviour analyst, lives in Lagos