Traffic Congestion In Lagos: The Beginning Of The End?

by Walemi Ogunleye

It is not every time that one gets the privilege of something commendable and inspiring to write about in Nigeria. Not in the midst of so many negative news in the media everyday. If it was not some sordid tales of leadership failures on the part of some in government, then, it was reports of irresponsible followership on the part of some of us on the other side. Many a public commentator would give anything to have an opportunity to celebrate something good and positive about the country, but unfortunately, such prospects are scarce and far between.

However, the renaissance of good and innovative leadership going on in Lagos is so obvious and compulsive that it can not go unnoticed by any objective observer that has visited the state in the last 18 months. For once in a long while, I felt good about the things I saw on a recent visit to the center of excellence.

This city is known to be enslaved by the multifarious burdens of overpopulation, indiscipline of the citizenry as well as a serious failure of leadership on the part of the ruling elite over the immediate past. In addition, the city is notorious for traffic congestion caused largely as a result of indiscipline and utter disregard for traffic rules on the part of the motorists, especially the commercial drivers. Furthermore, the numerous potholes which litter the roads make free flow of traffic a mirage, and congestion had become a routine, unavoidable way of life. To make any trip within the metropolis, one needs to factor a couple of hours into the projected duration to cater for the nuisance of traffic jams.

What I have always found baffling has been the inability of successive governments to do anything worthwhile towards addressing this menace, apart from the few palliative rituals of filling the potholes and surface dressing the roads. No deep and creative thinking has gone into addressing this challenge and as a result, the situation had steadily gone from bad to worse. The implication of this is that a lot of productive manhour is daily lost to the congestions.

However, the commendation I give to the government of the day does not stem from the fact that congestions are no longer common on the roads in the metropolis, far from it; there is little or no noticeable improvement yet. But for the first time in a long while, we are seeing some serious attempts on the part of government to address the problem. Unlike the surface scratching palliative measures of the past, some high level thinking and creative attempts have gone into the approaches conceived to tame this menace, and in a clime like Nigeria, such is quite uncommon.

The BRT scheme is working well, and I actually used it a couple of time on my recent visit. It was quite gratifying to know that you can actually move from Ketu to Yaba in less than 40 minutes without having to worry about traffic congestion at least on the BRT dedicated lanes. But of more importance to me was the gradual inculcation of a culture of discipline and decorum on the part of the motorists. Commercial drivers who were notorious for their reckless breach of all traffic regulations are now been forced, albeit reluctantly, to obey regulations. Patience and respect for other road users are now gradually creeping into their sensibilities, buoyed more by their fear of the stiff penalties associated with its non observance. Deterrent is being achieved by the huge penalty they pay for any breaches.

This conveys a clear picture of the influence of law enforcement on the conduct of the people. To the best of my knowledge, no major new laws have been enacted to address this issue, all that the government has done is to sharpen its capacity and exhibit a firm will to enforce the existing provisions of the laws in situations of breach, and this in my view is working well. This has further reinforced the conviction that our statutes are replete with more than enough laws that are required to ensure that we have a country where the rule of law prevails, and everything works. What has been lacking is the courage, and conviction to enforce these laws and punish offenders.

In apparent appreciation of the fact that other forms of transportation are required to effectively tackle the menace, the government has also shown some serious commitment by conceiving some ambitious projects that would ensure an integrated transportation network incorporating the rail and water ways. Also noteworthy is the fact that these initiatives are not being packaged as government driven, rather the private sector is been encouraged to take the driver’s seat through the Public Private Partnerships scheme.

This represents a refreshing and commendable attempt at addressing an age long challenge that has always plagued Lagos. If the numerous initiatives are successfully implemented, no doubt, they will go a long way in reducing the enormity of traffic congestion in the state and the effects of this on every other sector in the metropolis will be astonishing.

If anything, this Lagos example has further gone to underscore the general belief that the main problem with Nigeria is a grievous failure of leadership. Leaders are not just elected to enjoy the opulence of high public office without corresponding responsibilities to address the challenges confronting the people whose taxes go into footing their every expenses while in office and sustaining the opulence they so enjoy. Get the leadership right and you will be amazed at how much influence it will have on the followership. One can only hope that the Lagos example would galvanise the other states, and by extension, the Federal government to start thinking out of the box in conceiving and implementing innovative solutions towards addressing the peculiar challenges confronting their peoples. In addition, it should serve as the impetus required to open the eyes and consciousness of the followership to asking questions and raising their expectations of the leadership they elect.

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1 comment

Iroabuchi Onwuka November 22, 2008 - 12:04 pm

The Lagos is late in coming. The problem of population is sneaking up on the country in general. These projects and roads ought to have be taken seriously a long time ago. Whatever is happening in Lagos in terms of Traffic is the side effect of over population, engineered by too much attention to the former federal capital. This attention caused many Nigerians to relocate and the population size simply ballooned. Imo is showing some example and existing Nigerian states should follow the lead. Population and trafffic/ a big deal in Lagos and Nigeria in general.


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