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Street gates, barricades hinder traffic flow in Lagos

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Some Lagosians are losing sleep and living in trepidation due to the increasing crime rate in the state. As a result, some Community Development Associations (CDAs) and other Landlords-Tenants organisations are joining forces to raise the fences of their houses, construct gates at the main entrances and exits of their streets, as well as, erect barriers to restrain certain types of vehicles and people from coming into their communities.

Consequently, the state now wears a new look, as there is hardly any street without a barrier or a gate hindering free movement. Some gates even display conspicuous notice warning non-residents against entering the streets at certain time, mostly late hours, as well as informing residents when the gates would be open and close for them to come in the evenings and leave in the mornings.

It would be recalled that former Lagos State governors, including Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode had to tackle this issue. Indeed, they gave different directives to the effect that street gates should only be locked between 12:00 midnight and 5:00am, and that locked gate should have gatekeeper(s) to man them in case of emergency. The order also came with stern sanctions for violators. But the order is no longer being enforced. This time around, more street gates have sprung up, even in areas that hitherto did not have them, while instruction about time frame of when to open and close these gates is not adhered to.

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However, Lagosians, especially motorists are not finding this funny, as they feel it undermines free flow of traffic in the metropolis. For instance, during traffic gridlocks, some of these inner routes that should have served as alternatives to ease up things are not always opened, contributing to the stress and loss of valuable man-hours of motorists.

In addition, this idea does not fit into the bigger picture of the plan to make Lagos a smart city, as it impedes intra-city road travels and trade. The Guardian gathered that rather than keep to the laid down rule, many if not all, close their gates as early as 8:00pm and open them by 5:00am to certain class of people and motorists. Some do not even allow non-residents to pass, once the gates are locked.

Babatunde Adeleke, Chairman of Ajewole Street/Community, Ikotun, explained that the security situation in the state called for this. He said the idea is a way of relatively protecting residents in case of any danger before official help comes.

He said when any criminal activity is noticed in any part of the street or neighbourhood, the first thing the people do is to lock all the entry and exit points, while the vigilante group or guards go to the troubled areas. With this method, the residents have been able to secure lives and property, as well as stop robbers from entering some people’s houses or stealing cars parked on the streets.

Noting this may not be the best way to protect themselves, he said the measure serves as checks on anybody or group of people coming to attack any resident(s). He said since the gates were constructed, movement of people at odd hours has drastically reduced, which has brought relative peace to the neighbourhood and residents.

But an official in one of the CDAs said this development is an indication of failure on the part of government to provide security for citizens. He said many residents associations are resorting to self-help because the police that should protect them are overwhelmed and can no longer do much, especially with their inadequate and obsolete weapons.

He disclosed that while the main gate is closed most of the time, the smaller gate (Needle’s eye) is opened to passersby and is usually closed by or before 12 midnight depending on the situation and weather.

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He revealed that whenever there is a heavy traffic on the major roads, the gatekeepers take precaution by locking the big gates to avoid inflow of commercial vehicles with the nuisance they bring in their trail, adding that criminals sometimes use the opportunity to carry out their dastardly acts in the community.

This is so, because many people, including the security men, would be off their guard, and that it is only in such situation that residents are allowed to use the small gate, while others walk round to get to the main road.

Abdul Isa, a gatekeeper at Norman Williams Street, Ikoyi, said the issue goes beyond security to orderliness and sanity. Opening the gates for all manner of vehicles, especially non-residents, he said, helps to reduce the noise and reckless driving in the area. It also wards off heavy-duty vans, buses and other vehicles that blare their horns, not minding the hospitals and offices in the area.

According to him, it is also a way to check criminal elements from entering the area and if any such attempt is made, it is easy to alert residents, who then take charge of the situation.

He recounted how some assassins had snuffed life out of someone in the neighbourhood and up till date the culprits have not be caught. Corroborating the need for barricades and gates, Madam Anita Nwando, who stays in FESTAC, said: “These gates are not for beautifying our communities. They have become a necessity, and residents contribute money on monthly and yearly basis to maintain them. During the period when self-tagged One-million Boys’ gang were terrorising Lagos, our street and others with gates were not attacked. The marauding gang members found it difficult breaking through and we were all protected. The gates were locked and the guards screened anyone before gaining entry.

The Guardian checks, however, revealed that in some localities, some of the guards manning the gates turn their duty-posts into gold mines at peak periods in the morning and evening, as they connive with touts to get tips from motorists and open the gates for them to pass through. This happens especially where the gates serve as major link roads.

Regardless of the good intentions behind the erection of these gates and barricades, some Lagosians said the issue contributes in no small measure to traffic jam experienced on major roads, especially where such street gates or barricades are on roads meant to serve as alternative link routes.

Dr. Adeola Ayenijo, a medical practitioner, said since some of the gates and barricades only prevent buses and bigger vehicles, it is unfair to those that drive vans, SUVs and such big vehicles. He wanted a situation where ambulances, police vans and other utility vehicles would be allowed free passage without necessarily waiting for the barricade to be unlocked or pulled down.

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According to him, these essential vehicles should not be subjected to the rigours and delay of taking longer routes, while taking patients to the hospitals or to emergency scenes, when an alternative link road could help hasten the process and save lives.

For Ekanem Effiong, a hotelier, the gates and barricades make the city look untidy even though some are beautifully painted. According to him, they give the impression that citizens are caged, especially as they curtail free movement in some areas.

In areas where the gates are permanently locked, it is common for people to convert that portion of the street into taxi parks, mechanic workshops, car lots, sale outlets or even a bar or rendezvous, while some have been turned into dumping grounds, which further deface the city or make those areas unhygienic.

He noted that many CDAs or Landlord-Residents Associations are good at proffering solutions without thinking of the long-term effect, especially considering the fact that some gates are permanently locked because the groups concerned cannot afford more than two gatekeepers — one for night and the other for day.

Effiong said alarms and cameras should be installed to monitor crime, as they are more effective than locking the gates.

While urging government to beef up security in the city with the Neighbourhood Corps or encourage community vigilantes to operate alongside the Corps, Alhaji Lanre Kazzim, Secretary, Irepo Community, said the gates and barricades are temporary solution and would ease out when security situation improves in the state.

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