Like every cosmopolitan city across the world, Lagos also experiences gridlock. The gridlock, popularly referred to as ‘go slow’, in local parlance, has been a recurring headache to successive governments in the State. In one of his ever green songs, ‘Confusion Break Bone’, late maverick musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, symbolically captures the chaos that was typical of the Lagos gridlock in the late 70’s.
Sadly, traffic gridlock has severe consequences on the socio-economic landscape of the State. These include economic losses arising from delays, weakened productivity, wasted energy, environmental deprivation and a diminished standard of living. Other effects are failed appointments, increased fuel expenses, decreased productivity and diverse health challenges. This, no doubt, poses great threat to the State’s viability as a civilized place to live, visit and invest.
A variety of strategies have been deployed by subsequent administrations in the State to deal with the perennial Lagos gridlock. In the last sixteen years, for instance, the State government has expanded and rehabilitated major roads across the State. In same vein, the Bus Rapid Transit scheme, BRT, a mass transit initiative, was developed to advance and enhance public transport. Similarly, a traffic management agency, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, was exclusively created for efficient management of traffic. Efforts were also made to improve water transportation while the first light rail project to be undergone by a State government in sub-Sahara Africa is already nearing completion. Also, the first traffic radio station in the country, Lagos Traffic Radio, solely established to give traffic news to commuters, came on board in May, 2012. Equally, the Lagos Drivers’ Institute was set up in June, 2008 to improve and moderate the driving attitude of motorists in the State.
However, in-spite of these genuine interventions, recent experience has shown that much still need to be done by all stakeholders to effectively be on top of traffic situation in the State. Presently, the Akinwunmi Ambode administration is putting in place lots of strategies to tackle the problem. To begin with, efforts are on-going to restructure and reform LASTMA, especially in the area of expanding the scope of its operation as well as enforcement of traffic laws. In this regard, there is already a change in the leadership structure of the organisation. It is the view of government that LASTMA needs to be strengthened and expanded to be able to respond swiftly to contemporary traffic challenges. An exercise aimed at recruiting more hands to strengthen the body has begun. The goal, ultimately, is to make certain that Lagosians get the best of service out of the organization.
Equally, LASTMA is being repositioned for its operatives to fully embrace civility in all official conducts. The aim is to make them more courteous in their interface with members of the public. This is against the backdrop of public outcries concerning what many have perceived as the ‘highhandedness’ of a few LASTMA officials in handling traffic matters. Many have, for instance, decried the a few of the agency operatives’ style of arbitrarily jumping into alleged traffic offenders’ vehicles, all in the name of enforcing traffic rules.
Another strategy being deployed to address traffic situation is on-going road rehabilitation programme code named ‘Operation Zero Tolerance for Pot Holes’. This is particularly geared towards rehabilitating major roads to give residents a pleasant motorist experience. Through this course of action, the deteriorating condition of some 220 roads across the State has been improved. Some of the roads include Mongoro-Cement-Dopemu under bridge axis, Epe-Ijebu -Ode road, Odumola-Poka/College road junction axis, Ado road, Ajah, Obalende bridge descent inward NIPOST, Lekki-Epe expressway, Elemoro-Abijo axis, Billings way, Oregun, Ashabi Cole street, Alausa, Abdul Ouadri Adebiyi street, Magodo Ph II among others. This is in addition to on-going efforts to restore the Ejigbo-Ikotun road as well as Brown road in Oshodi.
Equally, a Task Force that monitors and enforces traffic laws round the clock has been put in place. In the past few days, for instance, dozens of traffic offenders, including military officers, have been reprimanded by men of the Task Force. The Governor’s recent pronouncement on the need for courteousness in traffic enforcement was mistaken by many to denote jettisoning the State Traffic Law. Recent operations of the Task Force have, however, put pay to this erroneous notion. Part of the tasks of the Task Force includes getting rid of roadside and street trading. It is a common knowledge that roadside and street trading constitutes a great impediment to free vehicular movements across the State.
Another option that is being considered by the State government is establishment of parking spaces in major working and major residential areas. Similarly, more inner routes are being developed, especially in areas where road rehabilitation works are on-going. As government works to expand major roads and construct or maintain street roads, streets that are likely to be alternative routes are being given top priority.
Since we now live in an ICT driven world, technology is also being leveraged on as part of a holistic solution to tackle traffic hitches in the State. The goal is to rely more on technology to capture offenders for prosecution. Considering government’s plan to approach enforcement of traffic laws with civility, maximizing technology solutions would be quite apt. Similarly, in order to make public transport more attractive to all class of people, government is working on ways to expand the scope of the BRT. Plans are on to increase its fleets while routes being covered are equally to be increased. This is being carefully planned without diminishing standard.
Either rightly or wrongly, some analysts have allegedly linked the recent upsurge in traffic gridlock across the State to the conspiratorial stance of a few LASTMA officials whom they claim are not happy with the current administration’s approach to enforcement of traffic rules. The argument of those who hold this view is that such LASTMA officials are out to incapacitate government’s effort with a view to ensuring a revert to the status quo. Hence, it is being alleged that a few of them have become lackadaisical in their attitude to work as they now more or less encourage chaos on Lagos roads.
In as much as one does not really have any empirical basis to reinforce this conspiracy theory, like other regulatory and enforcement agencies in the country and around the world, it may not be unusual to find bad eggs among LASTMA men since they are products of the society. Some may truly be culpable of the many allegations usually leveled against LASTMA. However, as for the conspiracy contention, it is hoped that concerned authorities would swing into action to substantiate the veracity or otherwise of the claim. This has become quite decisive in order to preserve the reputation of the organisation.
One is quite convinced that by the time the Lagos light rail project becomes effective and expanded, coupled with renewed efforts to improve water transportation in addition to on-going efforts to rehabilitate and expand more roads across the state, Lagosians would enjoy more pleasant motoring experience. But then, all stakeholders must join hands together with the State government to make this dream a reality.