The agony was intense; the stress, debilitating. Many men took off their shirts while the women poured some cold water on their faces. But even all that could scarcely curb the trauma they were experiencing in the long bus on the Ketu-Mile 12 axis of Ikorodu Road.
In the past couple of weeks, millions of Lagos commuters have been enduring excruciating times on the roads across the metropolis. Intractable gridlocks on many of the major highways and inner streets all over the country’s commercial nerve centre are making the people’s lives hellish.
For many residents, traversing to and from their offices and workshops has become a major headache. Journeys that took less than two hours before, even at the peak of traffic, now take between five and six hours.
Anxiety has been the lot of many commuters on Lagos roads in the past weeks. Commuters stay in traffic on unguarded roads, at the mercy of roughly dressed, suspicious-looking men aimlessly walking about with no destination in mind. Many are those that have lost valuables to robbers while they were trapped in traffic.
“The situation is terrifying,” Lucky Ailoje said. “I am an insurance executive with a firm on Victoria Island, but I live in an estate after Mile 12, at a place called Irawo on the way to Ikorodu. It has been pure hell on the road in the past two weeks. As you are aware, the Third Mainland Bridge has been partially closed for repairs. While coming back in the evening, those of us from the Island can make use of the bridge. But you can just imagine the heavy traffic, as many people are heading home to beat the 10pm curfew.
“You will then face another problem when you get to Ketu, as a result of the closure of the Ketu-bound lane at Mile 12. It is a major problem, and no one has an idea when it will end.”
Adewale Musa, who runs a shop somewhere around Idumota, also on Lagos Island, said he had been having a similar experience. He told the reporter that connecting his house at the Ojodu Berger area has become a herculean task.
His words: “This is not something that we bargained for. The traffic situation in Lagos now is killing, and that is not exaggerating. I live in Ojodu area, and work on the Island, in Idumota. “The problem one faces everyday on the road is huge. The Third Mainland Bridge has been partially closed for repairs since July 24. Before then, in March, a section of Eko Bridge had been closed. Government officials said the bridges were closed because they wanted to embark on comprehensive rehabilitation work on them. So for those of us living or working on the island, the challenges have been huge. The Carter Bridge is now the only artery to the Island. The alternative is to take the ferry, if you live in Ikorodu or Oworonshoki.
“But even the Carter Bridge is not without its problems. We all know the problem with the commercial bus drivers in that axis. There are also major markets in Iddo, Otto and Oyingbo communities as you cross the lagoon. These constitute major impediments for motorists using the Carter Bridge.
“Now, after escaping all that, the problem is still far from over. You will face another traffic congestion on Ikorodu Road. That one might stretch from Mile 12 to Fadeyi. You will spend hours on that road. And at the Ojota/Ketu interchange, through which you should connect the old tollgate, the road has been closed. So you will have to go all the way to Mile 12 to turn under the Mile 12 Bridge, then crawl back to Ketu and then link the tollgate and face Berger. It is a most traumatic experience and I don’t know how much longer one could keep enduring all this stress.”
Road closures everywhere
In Lagos, it will be no exaggeration to term this the season of road closures. Not a few of the major highways and link roads in the metropolis have been closed, purportedly for execution of repairs. Some of the popular roads and bridges that have been totally or partially closed are Eko Bridge, Third Mainland Bridge, a section of Ikorodu Road, Ketu Link Road (by Abiola Gardens), Lagos-Ibadan Expressway Link Road (by Ojota Interchange) and others.
Some other access roads are also intermittently closed, without the knowledge of motorists. Agidi Road and Demurin Street in Ketu have been experiencing road closures for about two weeks, for instance.
Many commuters said the daily traffic congestion on Ikorodu Road is caused by the total closure of the Mile 12-Ketu lane on the road. Motorists driving from Ikorodu end will have to divert to the Ketu-Mile 12 lane immediately after the Mile 12 Bridge up to around Ile-Ile Bus Stop. The resultant congestion usually causes a long traffic on both sides of Ikorodu Road. Sometimes the traffic snarl stretches as far back as the Jibowu/Fadeyi axis, causing total chaos on the road for those coming from Lagos Island. For those coming in from Ikorodu, the traffic congestion sometimes stretches from Mile 12 to Ogolonto.
Those going to Ketu, Mile 12 or Ikorodu from Ikeja, Ibadan, Berger and other areas in that axis have also not been having a good time. The link road to Ketu was closed without warning or notice, allegedly for repairs, forcing motorists to travel as far as Ogudu to make a turn.
For those going to Berger, Ikeja, Magodo or those travelling to Ibadan, their problem has also been compounded. The link road at Ojota Interchange was also closed without notice, and commuters now have to journey all the way to the already congested Mile 12 to make a turn underneath the bridge.
Those that want to avoid that could divert at Ojota to Ogudu Road to connect the Lagos Ibadan Expressway. Unfortunately, it will also not be a smooth ride for the fellow. Ogudu is already congested, as several vehicles that should have turned in to Ikorodu Road through the now closed link road by Abiola Gardens would also be making that turn at Ogudu.
Motorists wishing to make use of Ajiboye Street to connect Agidi Road in Alapere would also be wary, as Agidi, along with Demurin Street, is closed at will by the authorities. As such, connecting Ajelogo to Mile 12, for those moving towards Ikorodu, is a difficult mission.
Commuters heading to and from Mile 2, Apapa or Badagry are also facing a hectic time. The Lagos–Badagry Expressway, which should have been an alternative route to lessen the pain of the Third Mainland Bridge closure, has been rendered almost impassable by hundreds of articulated trucks.
The traffic also affects those working in Lagos but living in Warewa, Arepo, Magboro, Ibafo, Mowe and other Ogun communities along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. They spend many hours on the road heading to their offices or returning to their homes.
Fear of curfew
Some motorists have opined that the curfew imposed on Lagos and other parts of the country as part of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions is a major cause of the gridlocks currently making life unbearable for Lagos commuters.
In April, the Federal Government announced a gradual relaxation of the total lockdown imposed on the country. Part of the relaxation was a national curfew that would last between 8pm and 6am. In June, the lock
down was further eased. Since then, the curfew has been from 10pm to 4am.
But with the unending traffic in Lagos, the curfew has become another challenge for commuters. Obeying the curfew has not been as easy as it sounds.
Those who leave their offices on the island by 6 or 7pm might not get home before the curfew. On most days, Lagos roads are still as active as ever with gruelling gridlocks by 10 or 11pm.
“The curfew is absolutely unnecessary, and it has been of no consequence,” an exasperated Waheed Momodu, a (danfo) commercial bus driver said. “If the essence of the curfew is to check the spread of coronavirus, how is it doing that with the number of people trapped in traffic every night? The proper thing would have been for the government in Lagos to further reduce the curfew to maybe 12am to 4am. If the governor, Mr Babatunde Sanwo-Olu really wants to know how the roads are, he should take a helicopter tour of the major highways between 9pm and 11pm. He will understand the situation better.”
Indeed, the fear of the curfew, many have said, is in a way responsible for the increasing congestion on Lagos roads, as many people usually head home at the same time in order to beat the deadline.
Also in some areas, police personnel mount roadblocks by 10pm in a bid to restrict vehicular movement during the curfew. Those commuting on foot are hardly bothered, no matter the number.
Experts have also been concerned about the financial losses being recorded in Lagos through the current traffic congestions.
Bismarck Rewane, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) Limited explained that the Lagos metropolis loses about N4.6trillion annually due to traffic congestions.
“The closure of the bridge will further reduce labour productivity, increase revenue losses and widen price differential across markets,” he said.
While announcing the partial closure of the Third Mainland Bridge last month, Governor Sanwo-Olu had assured road users of minimal inconveniences during the exercise, which he said would last for six months.
The governor appealed to Lagos residents to exercise patience and bear the discomfort, saying it was for the safety of every user of the road.
But many are wondering why government had to close so many roads at the same time while also enforcing a 10pm curfew. Many commuters are convinced that rehabilitation of roads and bridges should not be a death sentence for the people. They urge the governor to save them from avoidable trauma by taming the traffic congestion on Lagos roads.