Sitting behind the driver’s seat, Timothy repeatedly looked through the cracked windscreen of his commercial yellow bus. His mission was to monitor the heavy traffic ahead of him.
He watched in disdain the hundreds of vehicles already stuck in the everyday gridlock at the old Tollgate area – the boundary community between Lagos and Ogun States. He let out a sigh, having spent about 50 minutes in traffic, which was, aptly put, movement without motion. As the vehicles soon started moving at a snail’s pace, he, alongside other passengers in the bus, cursed under his breath.
But when he finally arrived Tollgate Bus Stop from the Alakuko axis of Lagos, he discovered, as usual, that there was no major thing that could be cited a the cause of the gridlock that lasted for hours. Many of the passengers, who were obviously frustrated, spontaneously asked why they were subjected to the traffic congestion without a visible cause.
Commuters and other motorists, who regularly ply the route have condemned the impunity that the commercial bus drivers exhibit within the Tollgate Bus Stop. They described most traffic situations on the road as manmade, stemming from indiscipline, impatience and flagrant disobedience to traffic rules.
As gathered, the lawlessness is not peculiar to this area alone. Virtually all busy bus stops in the city have been condemned to the same fate. Places such as Ikorodu Road, Agege Motor Road, Lagos-Abeokuta Road, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Mile Two-Badagry Expressway and many other routes experience traffic as a result of motorists’ disdain for law and order.
It might amount to stating the obvious that as Lagos battles its perennial traffic debacle, and as the people of the state continue to hope for a permanent solution, the sheer lawlessness that is being displayed by commercial drivers further compounds the situation.
Residents have expressed concerns on the non-adherence to traffic rules and regulations by motorists, especially commercial bus drivers. The problem has persisted over the years, even though it has become worse now. And motorists, residents and keen followers of the situation have demanded long-lasting, workable modalities to ensure free flow of traffic.
Jobs have been lost, appointments cancelled, precious man-hours wasted and people disappointed due to traffic congestion.
Most residents, especially those who live on the mainland, have resorted to waking up as early as 4am in order to be at work by 8am. For the millions of Lagosians who live on the mainland and work on the Island, this has been the only method for beating the early-morning traffic in order to be punctual at work.
Unfortunately, those who wake up very early to beat the traffic also have bitter stories to share. Many of them have been robbed, kidnapped or even murdered by criminals who pretend to be commuters and commercial bus drivers popularly referred to as ‘One Chance’ buses.
No doubt, the Lagos traffic congestion has been accepted as an unkind destiny that many workers have to integrate into their daily schedule. Some people have lamented that the stress they pass through on the road is greater than the actual duties they perform at their offices.
A driver with a telecommunication company, Mr. Ayomide Ayofe, lamented: “I live at Abule-Egba and I spend an average of seven hours going and returning from my office in Victoria Island. This is a journey that should not be more than two hours to and fro. There was a particular Friday in December 2018 that I spent six hours between my office and Iyana-ipaja Bus Stop. The thought of facing the traffic congestion from Monday to Friday makes me quiver. I often doze off when I get to the office. It is very painful and annoying seeing the same problem every day and the government is doing nothing about it.
“The traffic wardens are after private car owners and company drivers who they arrest for the slightest offence. But the people who constitute the nuisance on the road are the commercial bus drivers, whom the officials often find difficult to arrest.
“It is in Lagos that you would see a danfo driver parking in the middle of a busy express road to pick passengers. They even do so in the presence of policemen or officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA),” he said.
As observed by many residents in different areas of Lagos, there has been a complete breakdown of law and order on the road in the last few months. Some people have accused those responsible for ensuring easy flow of traffic of going into a deep sleep, while others raised the allegations that the officials have been compromised. These critics argued that, if the officials had not been bought over by the danfo drivers, the impunity wouldn’t have continued unabated.
A regular user of the Oshodi-Ikorodu route said commercial drivers dropping and picking passengers in the middle of the expressway was daily carried out with some sort of pleasure by the perpetrators. He said that Ketu Bus Stop was particularly notorious for the indiscriminate discharge and picking of passengers. A further drive inwards Ogolonto revealed the same chaos experienced daily in Ketu.
What seems surprising and worrisome to most residents is that as the drivers are having a field day on the road, the policemen attached to Ketu Police Station, who are supposed to control the traffic situation, simply look the other way. Many people are convinced that the disregard for regulations was the cause of the ugly traffic situation in the entire state.
However, Madam Kudirat Abioye commended the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode for creating lay-bys at different strategic busy bus stops for vehicles to properly drop and pick passengers.
She said the Abule-Egba and Ajah bridges were the governor’s ideas that had helped to eradicate traffic in the areas. She also praised the lay-bys constructed at Ojodu Berger, Iyana-Oworo, Ikeja Along, Allen Junction and many others.
But despite the provision of lay-bys and the good intentions behind the structures, danfo drivers have abandoned them to pick and drop passengers on the express road.
At Cele Bus Stop on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, many motorists facing oncoming traffic towards Mile 2 are making life hell for other users of the road. They sometimes occupy up to three lanes of the opposite lane, leaving a tiny portion for the rightful users.
Many lives have been wasted in that axis due to the recklessness and constant flouting of traffic rules.
On the negative impact on the economy, it is estimated that the state loses an average of N42 billion per annum due to the perpetual gridlocks in many parts of Lagos. There are increasing lamentations that the traffic crisis in the commercial city has indeed for long assumed a dangerous, life-threatening dimension, which stakeholders need to address without further delay.
A Lagos resident, Mr. Chinedu Ike, believes that traffic rules and regulations in Lagos was more on enforcement than mere enactment. He called for more punitive measures as well as a re-evaluation of the entire process so that fines would be paid directly into government’s account.
“When all the loopholes of taking bribe from motorists are blocked, the officials will be more serious with their real job. Even the commercial drivers will sit tight. But the situation is more disheartening when you find out that those who flout traffic laws are the ones who are supposed to keep erring motorists in check.
“Some of these bus drivers have developed the habit of conveying military or police officers in front of their vehicles so as to enable them breach traffic regulations, especially taking ‘one way’ by facing oncoming traffic and taking the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors.
“Let the change we are preaching begin with us all. Some of us are quick to criticise government officials but we do worse things, especially when nobody is watching us,” Ike said.