Weeks after inaugurating special traffic team, Lagos gridlock still defy solution
From Oshodi, Cele, Ojota, Ketu/Mile 12, Iyana Ipaja, Onipanu inward Anthony, Jakande Gate, Ikotun junction, Igando, Ikeja under bridge, Ikorodu roundabout to Idumota, not a few Lagos residents undergo untold difficulty in navigating through these locations in pursuit of their daily activities.
In a response to numerous complaints by residents for some intervention to bring the situation under some form of control, government deployed a special traffic team to bring sanity to some of the areas prone to traffic gridlock within the state.
However, almost 50 days after the Lagos State government announced the deployment of the special traffic team, the identified points seem to be defying solution and have remained sore thumbs.
Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Transportation, Mr. Oluwatoyin Fayinka, on March 16, 2022, while announcing the setting up of the special traffic team during a meeting with Zonal Commanders of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), said the team was made up of officials of LASTMA, Lagos State Parks Monitoring Committee, Removal of Abandoned Vehicle Committee and Ministry of Transportation taskforce.
Fayinka stated that aside working to bring sanity to identified gridlock points, the team would also identify traffic choke points within the metropolis in order to ease traffic around there.
He mentioned Oshodi (Charity, Arena, Brown), Cele, Ojota, Ketu/Sunami, Mile 12/Owode, Iyana Ipaja/Abeokuta, Onipanu inward Anthony, Elediye inward Palm Grove, Jakande Gate, Ikotun junction, Igando, Ikeja under bridge, Ikorodu roundabout and Idumota as the identified traffic choke points to be worked on, maintaining that the sole aim of the deployed special team was to focus on reduction of traffic towards improved travel time.
Also speaking on the task of the team, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Kamar Olowoshago, while tasking the LASTMA personnel on professionalism, advised the officers to take advantage of the new insurance policy package approved for traffic officers by Governor Sanwo-Olu to double their efforts and commitment.
“I want you to reduce your over zealousness, just as you increase your professionalism. You are the face and image of the state government and thus should desist from any behavior capable of bringing the image of government to disrepute. Let your interaction with members of the public be more corrective than punitive.”
In his response, the General Manager of the LASTMA, Mr. Bolaji Oreagba, reaffirmed the commitment of the agency to deliver on its core objective and statutory responsibility
“We want to thank Mr. Governor for your unrelenting support in spite of the many challenges facing the Agency. We know to whom much is given much is expected. We will not relent but continue to live up to a very high standard of discipline and service delivery.”
But a visit to some of the identified gridlock points by Fayinka showed nothing has improved in terms of traffic flow and journey time. In some locations like Mile 2, things have got worse compared to when the team was not in place.
At Oshodi, the three points identified by Fayinka as gridlock points are still choked. The congestion is caused principally by commercial vehicles picking passengers on the road. It is the same scenario in all the other identified locations by Fayinka except Mile 2, where articulated vehicles are the cause of the logjam. This is so because inward Apapa, articulated vehicles have turned the fast lane of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, especially the Second Rainbow to Mile 2 section of the road into a parking lot. This is in spite of the fact that the service lane is impassable as it is undergoing reconstruction.
A study conducted by Planet Projects, a company playing in the transport sector, revealed that at least three of every 10 years spent in Lagos is lost to traffic. Also, the Economic Intelligence Unit of the Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, in a report, said that about $1bn is being lost yearly to congestion, adding that traffic congestion in Lagos affects both private and public transport users as it produces losses in terms of economic efficiency and other negative social effects like road accidents.
The report read in part: “There is also the associated inability to forecast travel time accurately, leading to drivers allocating more time to travel “just in case”, and less time on productive activities. Excess congestion results in higher transportation and logistics costs for various industries, due to the higher direct costs of transportation (fuel expenses, labour costs, maintenance, etc.) and several direct costs such as the need to maintain higher levels of inventory as a buffer against delivery time reliability, a higher frequency of missed deliveries, and so on. These effects serve to both increase costs and decrease revenue, with a concomitant reduction in employment.”
A number of residents and motorists, who spoke with The Guardian, said the traffic flow on their corridors has not improved despite their locations being among those identified by the special adviser to be attended to. They revealed that the situation becomes more precarious during peak periods – morning and evenings.
A resident of Agboju, Mr. Kamoru Adegbite, said it is a pity that residents are made to go through pain daily because of the traffic gridlock at Mile 2 principally due to the activities of articulated vehicles who have converted the expressway into a parking bay.
“As a result of this, a journey that should not take more than a minute would take not less than 30 minutes. This has forced many commercial drivers, especially those heading to Orile to drive against traffic to beat the gridlock. All of these are happening in spite LASTMA officials being on duty.
“Before now, the trucks stoped parking on the expressway, but I am surprised that they have returned to the road again for over a month now. Why is government handling these truck drivers with kids glove? Ironically, a retinue of traffic and Police officers are usually stationed within the corridor supposedly managing traffic,” he said.
For Deborah Okoli, a resident of Ikotun, the logjam is a product of a combination of commercial drivers and motorcyclists cum petty traders’ activities, helping to obstruct free flow of traffic by and around Ikotun roundabout.
“They all compete to use the road for different activities. While the commercial drivers and motorcyclists are stationed on the road competing for commuters to come on board their buses or motorcycles, the traders take another section of the road, usually lanes meant to serve as walkway to commuters as spots to display their wares. Yet there are persons employed by the state government to control traffic and take off all these persons from the road or not allow them to convert the road as spots for commercial activities.”
Similarly, another resident, Esther Kalu said: “The traffic has increased in the last two weeks. It usually starts from Idi-Iroko bus stop towards Ketu, especially from 4pm in the evening. I ply the axis on my way back from school. Yesterday, (Tuesday) and it was difficult to get a bus heading to Ketu bus stop.
As unusual as it was, I later realised that the commercial drivers were trying to avoid being stuck in the traffic for long hours, which explains why they tried to avoid heading toward Ketu. So, the traffic is worse now compared to early last month.”
Efforts to get the state government to speak on why the special traffic team has not been effective in clearing the hot spots were not successful. The Special Adviser, Fayinka, was unreachable just as the General Manager, LASTMA, Mr. Bolaji Oreagba, failed to respond to calls. A message sent to the Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Transport, Mrs. Bolanle Ogunlola had yet to be replied as at press time.