The long-talked-about megacity status of Lagos is under threat… Former Governor Tinubu built infrastructure to justify that emerging status.
On many roads in Lagos, things have fallen apart. The city’s streets are gone to trucks. And government cannot come to the rescue. Sheer confusion is unleashed everywhere. Pain reigns; it is every man unto himself.
On many streets, gridlocks are the phenomenon. Even the blind can see this. So, Lagos residents are forced to deal with the strange phenomenon.
Before the seat of power was moved to Abuja, Lagos was known as a city of gridlocks. But over time, the problem has grown in scale and proportion. Still, it did not present itself as the menace as it is now. Back then, vehicles could drive straight from Oshodi to Apapa without much hassle. Stubborn Lagos bus conductors could be seen perching at their danfo doors, screaming “Wharf straight,” warning prospective passengers that they were not prepared to stop midway until they hit the port city. From the mainland, vehicles could drive freely to Apapa and Lagos Island and return in good time. Traffic hiccups were occasionally experienced, especially when there was a breakdown. But now, residents of Lagos suffer far more than that.
Over the past three years, the traffic situation in Lagos has changed considerably. Now, it has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. From nowhere, articulated vehicles have descended on the city’s streets like a swarm of locusts. Their arrival was steady. And now, there is hardly any major road around the wharf where people are not experiencing severe pain. Space on such streets – including various inner-city streets – have been taken over, leaving motorists and commuters in despair.
As it is, the long-talked-about megacity status of Lagos is under threat, if not rubbished. In eight years of Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s tenure in office as Lagos State governor, he mounted the Eko megacity campaign. Experts, however, believe that the area’s megacity status is self-imposed on account of its population, which is in excess of 10 million inhabitants. Whichever way the argument goes, the truth is that former Governor Tinubu built some infrastructure to justify that emerging status. He also established the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to contain the traffic menace. His successor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, also brought significant improvement to the metropolis. The current governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has continued in similar stead. He has, so far, tried to solve a good part of the traffic gridlocks in the Berger and Oworonshoki axis. With such improvements, some are beginning to believe in the megacity idea. Some people, including the state government, prefer to now see Lagos as a smart city.
But the traffic situation in Lagos leaves one with a sour taste. Perhaps part of this challenge is the city’s population, which is on the upward climb, and which the state government says is in excess of 16 million. On account of numbers, Lagos counts in the league of megacities like Tokyo, Japan, Beijing, China, Cairo, Egypt, and Johannesburg, South Africa, but is short on infrastructure.
On a bad day in Lagos, trucks are all over the Ojuelegba Bridge, all headed for Apapa. They take up one of the two lanes, condemning every other motorist to the remaining lane. Doing so, they drastically reduce traffic flow. Now, you have guessed right: when any of those trucks break down, which could be for hours, Lagos suffers.
From Funsho Williams (former Western) Avenue, down to Costain and areas around the National Theatre, Apapa-bound trucks are parked on the road. Even on the bridge inward Lagos Island, trucks are parked for days. Their drivers urinate and defecate on the bridges and any available open space. And they could be on the same spot for many days.
Many who are still using the Oshodi-Mile 2-Apapa Expressway might be unable to tell their experience in one breath. The traffic situation in that axis is hugely unpredictable with the pain and anguish it brings. Sometimes, queues of trucks stretch as far as Ilasamaja, each of them bound for Apapa’s two ports about 10 kilometres away. They are either going to drop containers or pick up goods or load imported petroleum products from tank farms.
At some spots, the vehicles occupy the innermost of the three lanes, at other places, they take up two, including the service lanes. In some other areas, they lock down the roads. Other road users are allowed no chance to drive through or make a quick getaway. Those caught in this mix are marooned for hours, unable to free themselves from the maze.
One of the articulated vehicle drivers told Daily Sun at a spot near Trinity Bus Stop that he had spent 10 days crawling along the queue to where he was, and he was still miles awaty from the wharf at that time.
Investigations by Daily Sun showed that, at Berger, both sides of the Apapa road under the Kirikiri Bridge have failed. From there, the road is progressively in disrepair, up to Tin Can Island Wharf. Only a section of the service lane is fairly motorable for heavy-duty vehicles whose cargo falls off every now and then.
At the moment, Apapa is only assessable via motorbikes, which barely convey the passengers to and from the area at exorbitant costs. The popular yellow mini-buses can only reach Mile 2 and a little beyond, doing so against oncoming traffic. They share the lane out of Mile 2, thereby adding to the accident profile of the road.
Weeks ago, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo paid a visit to Apapa to assess the situation, using a chopper. Before he departed, he handed down an order for action to solve the problem. Part of the measure was the award of the contract for the rehabilitation of the road. In the interim, a task force comprising members of the police, FRSC and LASTMA, among other agencies, was put together to open up the area. The task force worked for a few days before abandoning the task. And now, the status quo has returned. That part of Lagos and those who use it every day are back to the days of sorrow. It is now under lockdown.
Now, many who live in areas around Satellite Town may not find any joy in telling their own story. There are a couple of tank farms in the region. Trucks coming to lift petroleum product have been flocking to the area in their numbers. Before they are allowed into the loading bays, some of them stay in queues for days, obstructing traffic. Residents of Agboju, Satellite Town and Oluti, among other areas, are all having a rough patch. Some people sometimes cannot drive into their premises because the trucks have occupied the area and have stubbornly refused to move away.
“The truck drivers are a real menace to us in Satellite Town and other adjoining areas,” Mr. Chike Ogalonye told Daily Sun. “While waiting to go into the tank farms, they block everywhere, taking every space on the streets off the major roads. We are under serious siege here and we feel strongly that this is an issue of urgent importance, which the Lagos State government should take seriously.”
Residents of Mazamaza, Old Ojo Road and Kirikiri Town are receiving a double measure of the menace of the trucks. The drivers have discovered a narrow street through the densely-populated area through which they can reach a couple of container terminals in Kirikiri.
Each hour, residents of the streets are confronted with monstrous trucks chugging their way in their large numbers, bearing containers some of which fall off at unpredictable intervals. The trucks cause unimaginable gridlock in the area. Some of them stay stationary for days and bring nothing but raw pain to the people.
A tricycle rider, who identified himself as Wahid, said: “We have never seen anything of this magnitude in this area before. It is a huge problem that is affecting everyone, especially those in the transport business.
“Once the trucks block the lone access road, no one moves an inch. If we can’t carry people, how do we make money?” He called on government to come to the rescue of people of the area.
In areas around Wilmer and Oshodi-Apapa, the story is not different. Trucks that cannot find space have found their way to the streets. They deny residents access to their homes and premises with impunity.
A pastor in the area, who did not want his name mentioned so that his church would not be attacked, said: “When the trucks started coming here, the landlords rallied to erect gates on their streets. But the truck owners soon paid the police and, at night, they came and cut the iron bars. Now, they are everywhere. No one is at peace and no one dares complain or ask questions. That is our lot here.”