Lagos: Where traffic flow remains chaotic
Solomon Adebayo was panting. He wipes his face constantly with his wet handkerchief. His shirt is also partially wet from his sweat. He had walked from Iyana-Iba to Barracks Bus Stop on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, to evade the chaotic traffic within that corridor of the city, instead of wasting economic hours in the traffic.
This is almost a daily routine Adebayo maintains, especially between Monday and Friday. Three points of intercepts on that corridor are usually problematic, Iyana-Iba, Volks and Barracks Bus stops. At each of these points, there are either no traffic officers or, where they are available, they are not adequate to handle the volume of vehicles navigating through the intercepts.
Adebayo had expected that with the recruitment of new 1017 traffic officers, who were inducted a year ago, precisely on February 5, by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, traffic management in the state would improve.
The governor during the induction had envisaged increased productivity once chaotic traffic situation in Lagos was overcome.
This perhaps explains why he called on the newly recruited cadets to see their enlistment as an opportunity to serve and contribute to the economic development of Lagos, because of the importance of their daily responsibilities to the productivity and prosperity of the state.
However, the addition of the new officers to the LASTMA team may not be yielding fruits, as the traffic situation does not seem to have improved on many routes. It is still business as usual.
Often times too, the officers are almost always on the look out for motorists, who may flout traffic laws rather than control traffic. In some cases, the officers are crowded where the traffic situation is not bad or not needed. In an instance observed by The Guardian, at the junction of Church Street, off Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, in Oshodi, not less than six traffic officers were on duty. This was in addition to the regular Police and Police traffic officers stationed at the spot on the said day. The officers are usually swamped at that point under the guise of controlling traffic, but often times only two are engaged while others are just gisting.
On that same route and close to the spot where about seven to 10 traffic officers are located, another set of traffic officers from the local government are also on duty at Igbehinadun Street Junction. These local government officers are concerned about extorting motorists than controlling traffic. However, after a report in one of the national newspapers exposed their wrongdoings, they left the spot. They returned some months after, with no change in their conduct.
It is the same scenario at Ikeja under bridge and Awolowo-Kudirat Abiola Way. At the last two spots, traffic officers from the Central Business District are also on duty, claiming to be controlling traffic.
At Cele Bus, the U-turn before the Apapa-Oshodi expressway, inward Mile 2, there are usually not less than five traffic officers of LASTMA and Nigerian Police. But a few metres away, at the intercept on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway, there is usually chaotic traffic as a result of those driving against traffic. The result is usually hellish traffic situation flowing to as far as Ilasa, about four bus-stops away, yet no traffic officer intervenes at the intercept at Cele bus stop.
In addition, poor traffic management at Second Rainbow Bus-stop also often leads to hectic traffic on that route. But some metres away from Second Rainbow, there are LASTMA officers, Police and Federal Road Safety Corps by Fatgbems bus-stop, all claiming to be controlling traffic. If one or two of the officers were at Second Rainbow, controlling vehicular movement into Apple Junction to bypass Mile 2 and the traffic gridlock on that axis, it would have made commuting very easy for many heading towards Festac and beyond. The traffic at Second Rainbow Bus-stop, sometimes, flows back to as far as Sanya Bus-stop, about four bus stops away.
Unlike in Mile 2 where there are a number of traffic officers on duty, at Alakija, there are usually no traffic officers. When there is one, he often gets overwhelmed by the chaotic traffic, because of the multiple intercepts at that point and at the entrance of Festac.
The lack of traffic officers and the unruly behaviour of articulated vehicle drivers at Alakija usually lead to chaotic traffic along that axis, with long queue of vehicles flowing backward to Agboju Bus stop and robbers harassing and pilfering motorists. This was usually the case at night. And it is same scenario down to Okoko Bus-stop. The worse hit areas are Volks and Iyana-Iba Bus-stops, where because there are just one or two traffic officers controlling traffic, motorists spend hours on a journey that should not take more than three minutes.
During the reconstruction of the fast lane of Cele-Oshodi section of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway inward Oshodi, despite the attendant chaotic traffic due to the construction, traffic officers were not on ground to control traffic. If any, they were emergency traffic officers that got held up in traffic, and leave the scene immediately their vehicle is cleared off the traffic. Yet, three towing vans managed by traffic personnel claiming to be working for Mushin Local Council, but who will not help to control traffic, indiscriminately tow vehicles parked on layby, where there are no sign instructing motorists not to park. There are various points like Ishaga Junction, Idi-Araba, within the local council, where traffic officers are needed, but with none present. Any point they are available, they are officers looking out to tow vehicles.
Similarly, before the completion of the reconstruction of a section of Mile 2 on the Orile-Badagry Expressway, there are about six intercepts; traffic officers are usually available in one of the points. As a result, it leads to chaotic traffic on that corridor for the period construction lasted. The general manager of LASTMA was alerted about these lapses but there was no change till the road construction was completed.
It has also been observed that before nightfall, LASTMA officers are usually not seen controlling traffic in most of these troubled spots. This is despite Governor Sanwo-Olu’s directive in an Executive Order that LASTMA should run shifts and close by 10pm.
A resident, Gloria Bassey said along her route, Oshodi-Ipaja, she had not come in contact with LASTMA controlling traffic late night, especially till 10pm that the governor directed them to close for the day.
Another resident, Bayo Adepoju stressed the need to audit the staff and work schedule of LASTMA officers across the state. He added that there is also need to re-orientate the officers from the head of the agency to the least officials that their primary duty is traffic management.
He noted that at Oshodi, at the edge of the layby, beside the transport interchange to link the Apapa-Oshodi road, there are not less than five LASTMA officers apprehending drivers who are not keeping to their lane, but the big LAWMA waste bin kept on the road, which forces many of these drivers not to keep to their lane has been on the expressway for months with the officers doing nothing. Adepoju also said just metres away before the officers are commercial buses picking passengers on the road, thereby obstructing traffic. Yet the LASTMA officers had not deemed it fit to ensure sanity within that area.
But the experience on the Island seems to be positively different, if the narration of an Ajah resident, Joan Rosanwo, is anything to go by. “I stay around Ajah axis and I usually take the Ikoyi to Ajah route during the weekdays. From my experience, LASTMA officials are usually on duty as early as 6am. This is quite visible at VGC, Chevron and Jakande Roundabout/Traffic Light. In terms of controlling traffic, more often than not, the traffic lights are on. During rush hours, they are prompt with work and are quite helpful. So far, they are doing their best; quite surely, they can do better.”
It was also observed that the junction improvement done on the Lekki-Epe Expressway has helped considerably to manage traffic better on that route, with traffic officers having less duty, especially when the traffic lights are functional.
Responding to some of the issues raised by residents, the General Manager, LASTMA, Olajide Oduyoye said, legally, it is the absolute responsibility of the contractor and those supervising the work to ensure that traffic management process is put in place around construction sites.
“But what I have noticed from late experience is that contractors go on the road, they do not inform LASTMA, they get paid for traffic management, they keep the money to engage officers. They will close and open sections of roads without informing the agency. So, there is a lot of confusion.
“Nobody informs us, we are not magicians and do not have cameras all over the place. We are going to get there, but we do not have the facility right now, so it behooves on the public to report it when the construction work is going on, so that we can look at it.”
Responding to whether the agency does not have feedback mechanism for traffic situation across the state, especially since it has units across the local councils, Oduyoye said his agency needs everyone to respond, whether they are officers or residents, especially as traffic affects everyone.
When told that residents complained that traffic officers do not comply with the executive order of Sanwo-Olu, which required them to close at 10pm, Oduyoye said the observation was very correct and it is simply because officers do not feel safe in places where there are no streetlights, or support system to protect them from attacks. “They do not feel safe because the job is one of the most volatile. Generally speaking, we have people that do not like corrections; they just want to do their own thing. So, they come to attack us when it gets dark after they had been corrected.”