Oshodi… Returning to the era of rowdiness, chaos
When the current Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, was the governor of Lagos State, one of the outstanding achievements that endeared him to the people was ridding Oshodi Bus Stop and its environs of the notorious rowdiness and chaos.
Before Fashola assumed office, Oshodi Bus Stop was easily one of the terrible spots in Lagos, if not the worst, in terms of the criminality and menace it posed to pedestrians, motorists and commuters.
However, by taking some drastic measures, which included the installation of streetlights throughout the corridor and relocation of motor parks and roadside traders, among others, Fashola was able to restore sanity and transform Oshodi into a modern, attractive area.
Commuting through Oshodi became pleasurable, with many marvelling at the pleasant change. This feat was built upon by the immediate past administration of Akinwunmi Ambode, with the construction of the gigantic Oshodi Interchange, and three terminals that reshaped the landscape of the once infamous environment.
But all that gains are gradually fading, as Oshodi is returning to its old ways. Some stakeholders believe the government’s failure is at the centre of this ugly development. This is because not only have traders and commercial bus drivers fully returned to the roads to trade and pick passengers, thereby obstructing vehicular movement, there are many potholes dotting the routes, which further slow down traffic and contribute to the bedlam that was the signature of old Oshodi. Presently, the installed streetlights that ensure that criminally minded people were kept at bay, are no longer working. Pedestrians and commuters plying the routes are finding this particularly disturbing. This is because when the place was well illuminated, they could see ahead and from afar, which left little or no room for mugging and such other nuisances.
Surprisingly, the state and local governments seem unperturbed, as little or nothing is being done to halt the lawlessness around the Oshodi area, especially the expressway. And if the government is doing anything, it is definitely not making any impact, as the disorder continues, with nobody held to account particularly government agents with the responsibility for maintaining order in the area.
A resident, Precious Okonta, said passing through Oshodi, whether as a motorist or commuter, has become problematic. “The experience brings back the old Oshodi before Fashola brought some sanity to the area. Now, traders carry out their activities on the road, just as commercial bus drivers practically stay on the road to pick passengers. The consequence is the confusion and the hectic traffic that has returned to the road.
“The irony of this is that there are Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officials along the corridor, just as officers of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI). But they appear interested in things other than ensuring free flow of traffic, as they often look the other way when commercial bus drivers deliberately violate the law by picking passengers on the road and traders displaying their wares by the roadside,” she stated.
A motorist, John Adebayo, explained that anytime he needed to connect any part of Lagos through Oshodi, he was always apprehensive because of the traffic around the Oshodi corridor. “The traffic is usually between Bolade Junction (Arena gate) and just after the Interchange, which is principally caused by human activities, yet people paid through taxpayers money stationed along the corridor do not take their job seriously to ensure that there is free flow traffic.”
Tayo Sikiri felt bad that Oshodi is returning to its old state. “The difference is quite noticeable. For a long time, Oshodi was known for careless trading on the road, which often resulted in the roads being congested, causing unnecessary traffic and in some cases accidents. But after Fashola’s intervention, the road became a lot less congested and safer for motorists and pedestrians alike. That gain recorded under Fashola is being lost, as bus drivers now pick and drop passengers on the road with impunity, not bothered by the ordeal other road users go through,” she said.
Adeboye Adeyemi, whose phone was stolen about two months ago at Oshodi by hoodlums, also had harsh words to describe what Oshodi has become. “It is not advisable to be at Oshodi around 10 pm now, as it is not well illuminated at night,” he said
But in Tajudeen Ogunsola’s view, the traders and commercial drivers should not be fully blamed for their actions. He said: “You cannot fully blame the traders or commercial bus drivers for the rot in Oshodi. Rather, the government should be held responsible for the crisis in Oshodi. The traders have driven away from their space with no concrete plans to relocate them to an alternative site. The lockup shops provided by private developers are far above what many of these petty traders can afford. Meanwhile touts and local council officials daily harass these traders to pay levies for displaying and selling their wares by the roadside.
“Similarly, commercial drivers have driven away from the places they were using as garages with no alternative spots for them. Yet, those who claim to be unions backed by state government collect levies from these commercial buses on every trip, with no corresponding facilities, such as major bus stops or garages for these drivers to pick passengers. The most annoying part is that LASTMA officers just look away on many occasions, as these bus drivers carry on their business on the road in an unruly manner.”
However, the Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Transportation, Mr. Oluwatoyin Fayinka, said LASTMA officers are not looking away as commercial drivers lawlessly turn sections of the road into garages.
He explained that the state government is equally worried by the high lawlessness along the Oshodi corridor. He expressed delight that journalists are drawing the government’s attention to the issues so that when the government is clamping down on violating motorists, the media should be on the government’s side to say motorists invited the wrath.
He admitted that the bad portion of the road contributes to the slow traffic being experienced along the road and that activities within Arena Market are not helping because vehicles are not allowed inside the facility. Shoppers and traders are forced to park their cars on a section of the road, and the majority of the car owners are military officers.
“So, we plead with the military formations to cooperate. It is not that we are not aware of what is going on in that area. LASTMA cannot be available at each of the bus stops, because the officers are inadequate. Just as they have Oshodi to contend with, so also we have Ajah, Mile 2, Iya-era and other parts of the state to supervise. We are not overwhelmed; we shall continue to deal with the issues,” he said.
When he was told that transport unions also contribute to the mess, as they embolden commercial bus drivers to park on a section of the road to pick passengers, Fayinka said the state government is engaging the unions and it will continue to engage them to achieve a better result.