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LAGOS AND THE DANFO QUAGMIRE

Tayo Ogunbiyi

Expectedly, a recent disclosure by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, of plans to rid Lagos roads of yellow buses, widely known as danfo, is being trailed by mixed reactions.

According to Governor Ambode, danfo would soon be phased out to give way to a more efficient, well-structured and top-notch mass transport system that would facilitate ease of movement within the city.

Though the State Government is yet to fully reveal how this new plan would be implemented, it must be affirmed that the phase out of Danfo buses on Lagos major roads is long overdue. A large percentage of the chaos that we daily witness on Lagos roads is partly caused by Danfo drivers whose recklessness knows no bound.

Danfo drivers are notorious for contravening traffic laws. Whenever they are apprehended by relevant officials, they simply resort to harassing, and even beating up hapless officials. In Lagos, impunity is a way of life for Danfo drivers.

Though, Lagos traffic gridlock occurs due to many factors, it is, however, worsened by human factors. Failure of motorists, particularly commercial bus drivers, to obey traffic rules and regulations often lead to traffic snarl that occasionally cripple socio-economic activities in the metropolis. Sadly, traffic chaos has severe consequences such as economic losses arising from delays, diminished productivity, wasted energy, environmental degradation and a diminished standard of living.

Public transportation is too important and strategic to be committed into the hands of unruly and disorganized individuals. This could jeopardize drive for investments in the State. The traffic situation of every city determines the volume of investment it attracts. The efficiency with which people, goods and services can move from one point to the other largely determines the quality of life of any society. Hence, every investment and every effort geared towards sanitizing the sector is not misplaced.

We live in a rapidly changing world where socio-economic system evolves speedily. That we still debate over the phasing out of a chaotic transport system that has been in existence for God knows when speaks volume of the slow pace of development in our society over the years.

With a population in excess of 20 million while also attracting 65 per cent of Nigeria’s commercial activities, Lagos, no doubt, has an understandable public transportation challenge. As it is with similar cities across the world, population growth in Lagos compounds the challenge of public transportation. The ubiquitous Lagos traffic, complicated by the legendary Lagosians’ knack for impatience in addition to motorists’, especially commercial drivers, impunity make commuting in Lagos a tough call.

Given the necessary political will, Danfo can be effectively taken off major Lagos roads. The needless fear that such move would render operatives of Danfo jobless; thereby increasing the rate of crime in the state should not be entertained. The State Government could, among others, help those among them with proven and profitable skills courtesy the Lagos Employment Trust Fund to secure loans to pursue their chosen enterprise.  It will be recalled that cheques worth about N1billion were recently presented to 705 some beneficiaries through the Employment Trust Fund.

Also, the Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, could also be assisted with loans to get franchise that would enable their members to be part of whatever new arrangement the government is trying to put in place. But this must come with a proviso that they must be ready to imbibe new thinking and orientation. This is to ensure that a new wine is not placed in an old bottle.

Similarly, for commuters not to be unduly affected by the new development, more fleet could be injected into the BRT scheme to cover more routes across the State. In creating these new routes, priority should be given to areas with greater population density such as Badagry, Mowe-Ibafo, Sango-Ota, and Alimosho among others.

The BRT scheme could as well be designed to include commuting within short distances within a particular local government or location. For instance, commuters within Apapa, Ikeja, Island, Alimosho, Yaba etc could rely on BRT buses within the locations for their daily and routine movement. Once this is done and the operation of BRT in these locations becomes reliable, effective and efficient, more commuters would opt to leave their cars at home and would willingly embrace the BRT alternative. For the system to become more reliable, effective arrangements must be made for constant repair and refurbishment of buses in the BRT fleet. A well planned culture of maintenance must be strictly adhered to.

On the whole, the need to embrace intermodal transportation mode cannot be over-emphasized, given the complex and indispensable nature of the sector in Lagos. This is exactly why the State government has been exploring other forms of transportation in the State. This is to reduce the over reliance on road mode of transportation.

Today, from one operation route in 2007, Lagos is running water transport on many routes (Ikorodu-Marina/CMS; Marina – Mile 2; Ikorodu – Addax/Falomo; Ikorodu-Ebute Ero; Marina-Ijegun Egba-Ebute-Ojo; Mile 2 – Marina/CMS-Mekwen-Falomo; Badore – Ijede; Badore – Five Cowries; Marina – Oworonshonki; Ebute Ojo – Ijegun Egba; Oworonshonki – Five Cowries and Baiyeku – Langbasa).

On rail transportation, the State government is working on the construction of urban rail-based systems covering seven major corridors of high commuter traffic demand within and beyond the metropolitan Lagos extending to border areas with States like Ogun and Oyo. The seven lines link the major population and activity centres in the state, as well as taking advantage, where possible, of existing transport corridors.

The network is geared towards integrating with planned and existing water transport and BRT routes. In this layout, there are the North-South corridor between Agbado and Iddo along the Nigerian Railway corridor; the Eastern corridor to serve the Lekki to Epe axis; and the western corridor to serve the Mile2 – Okokomaiko axis. The seven corridors will be connected by a central ring road between Victoria Island and Lagos Island.

By the time the Lagos light rail project becomes effective and expanded, coupled with renewed efforts to improve water transportation in addition to numerous on-going roads development projects across the State, it is expected that a more robust public transportation would evolve in the State and Lagosians would be the better for it. But then, we all need to join hands with the state government to make this dream a reality by protecting public infrastructure as well as strictly adhering to all traffic rules and regulations.

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