It was with trepidation I drove out of my house on Monday morning. As one of those who bore the brunt of last week’s traffic tsunami on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway, I hesitated before summoning courage to go to work. Good enough that the Lagos State government eventually lived up to her responsibility by taming the monster in an operation that lasted 72 hours, but what some of us saw last week must have left terrible impression on our psyche.
It affirmed my theory that living too long in Lagos must be a contributory factor to reducing one’s life span. Those who were not involved might not understand how one can spend two to three hours rooted to a spot when you’re three or four streets away from your house.
The hours lost on the road further confirmed that we don’t value time in our part of the world. We don’t have to be human resources experts before we know that none of us who experienced the pain and agony of commuting on some Lagos roads last week could not have given our best in our places of work. We merely went through the motions and pretended we worked; we could not have achieved much. The initial message by the Lagos State information commissioner too did not help matters as it merely sympathized with citizens asking us to look towards Abuja for succor, but thank God reason eventually prevailed and the government rescued us from the death throes. Folks must be counting their losses now, deals lost or agreements terminated because of inability to deliver on time, goods undelivered due to lack of passage, and medical emergencies that must have gone awry because help was not provided in time.
With a landmass of 3, 577 sq.km, Lagos is the smallest state by landmass in Nigeria. It constitutes about 0.4% of Nigeria’s territorial landmass of 923, 773 sq.km. Yet it is home to nearly 25 million people based on a population estimate as at 2015 and also has the highest vehicular density of over 222per km when the national average is 11 per km just as Apapa and Tin Can ports handle 70% of total national cargo freight. All these combined together will give a perfect recipe for chaos and confusion transportation wise. We need not wax lachrymosely any longer about how a planned metro was cancelled in 1984 after a putsch of December 31, 1983, we remember too well who did it, but it is obvious now that we cannot decree a mega city into existence by fiat. I’m sure there must be a link between many attempts at committing suicide and higher incidents of depression among Lagos residents and our intractable traffic issue.
Our traffic architecture needs modification in line with today’s realities. Turning the city and by extension, the state, into a huge construction site is good and has huge potentials economically. What better approach to jumpstart an economy than infusion of much needed financing through projects across the state but we must start asking questions as to the cost of dislocation caused by these projects. For instance, would it not have been better if the Oshodi renewal process is completed before embarking on the Airport Road expansion seeing that the two will add more to the Apapa-Oshodi expressway chaos? Would it not have been better too if the inner roads of Oshodi and Isolo were fixed before the constructions started so that people can veer off the main roads and use them instead?
The Agege Motor Road that could have been another major alternative is under construction as well with a BRT corridor being added; only those who ply the road can talk about their woes daily. While the rains have not been helpful, the slow pace of work and shoddy construction especially on the Agege Motor Road deserves more than the periodic inspections of the governor and the works commissioner. Greater attention too ought to be paid to water transportation, as we just have to take part of the huge vehicular movement off the road, we need to ensure more people take the ferries by offering secure and affordable services.
Good enough that the vice president saw for himself the agony those of us using the Apapa Oshodi expressway go through daily, however, the state government deserve more than a presidential fiat that articulated vehicles be cleared off the road. The Akinwunmi Ambode government should be supported in restoring sanity to that road using the instrumentality of law and order. A group of individuals, no matter how critical to our economy, should not hold the rest of us ransom as we seek to conduct our own affairs too. Regular fixing of bad portions on the road does not convening a press conference, let that be done periodically. By the way, when are we going to develop other ports in the country? Let’s divert the freight to those areas as well so that we can prolong Lagos residents’ lives.