It is unfortunate that the challenge of Lagos traffic and worsening state of roads can be likened to a bad ulcer that thrives on the medications applied to it. Every year, residents of most parts of Lagos have to agonise over bad inner-city roads. The gridlock in Lagos has been compounded by unending rehabilitation of some arterial roads. What is worse, the rainy season has made driving in Lagos a nightmare. And so as motorists and other road users are groaning, there seems to be no end to the ordeal.
The Lagos gridlock, compounded by influx of tankers and containerised trucks that have also become some menace on the roads. On a typical day, traffic could stretch from Mile-2 end of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to Cele Bus Stop, down to Anthony Bus Stop on Ikorodu road. This in turn compounds the constant logjam on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Funso Williams Avenue and even the Third Mainland, Eko and Cater bridges.
Most times, heavy-duty vehicles get stuck in the flooded bad portions of the roads. Traffic thieves and miscreants most often cash in on the confusion to extort money from motorists, while others make brisk business by helping victims remove stuck vehicles off the danger zone. It is hard to quantify the man-hour lost daily in Lagos traffic.
The deplorable state of roads in Lagos, the commercial nerve-centre of Nigeria, is to say the least embarrassing. For a long time, the issue of roads has remained on the front burner. Since 1999, trillions of naira have been budgeted for roads by successive administrations but results have been minimal. With no functional railway system, roads are the only means of movement of people and goods. But rather than give premium to this vital means of transportation, the roads are left in decrepit condition.
As the rainy season intensifies, most roads filled with potholes are waterlogged and muddy. Vehicles break down; heavy-duty trucks overturn and get stuck. Motorists disembark at such horrible spots to push articulated vehicles, leading to gridlock.
Bad road networks, which have plagued the country since independence, remain about six decades later. It is pertinent to ask what premium government places on road. Roads are economic assets that should not be abandoned. Lagos, generally hailed as the economic capital of West Africa, remains a laughing stock when its roads are compared with those of cities in the sub-region.
The question is why the authorities are unconcerned about social and economic benefits of good roads. Why are inferior materials used in building roads? It is not that enough money is not often budgeted for standards roads; the fund earmarked is often stolen. This newspaper has consistently suggested building of concrete roads, especially, in the southern states where erosion is rife.
It is gratifying that the Dangote Group is constructing concrete road on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, a federal highway. Such critical roads should be concrete roads for them to be sustainable. Outside that, the quality of our roads is not guaranteed. Most roads are built by politicians who double as contractors. Such contractors do shoddy job without value for money consideration. Besides, our roads are built at prohibitive cost.
The World Bank’s benchmark for building a kilometre of road is about N238 million but the same one-kilometre is built for N1 billion in Africa’s most populous nation. This is outrageous. Roads should be built to standard for sustainability.
Despite being the economic powerhouse of Nigeria, the roads in Lagos are few and are among the worst in the world. The same roads and flyovers that were built more than fifty years ago when the population was low and vehicular traffic was minimal, are still in use without expansion or maintenance.
Nothing has been added. No additional flyovers. For instance, the Ikorodu road, which is a major arterial highway at the centre of Lagos, has been constricted to accommodate BRT lanes.
Traffic crisis in Lagos was one of the major factors that triggered proclamation of capital relocation from Lagos to Abuja in February 1976. This shows that the problem is not new yet, nothing has been done about it many decades later. It is also worth remembering that the same Federal Government, which also promised to make Lagos a special area to be worked into the 1979 constitution as Nigeria’s commercial capital, has not fulfilled the promise 44 years after. In other words, the Federal Government’s attention to Lagos has been awful – since 1976, yet the only two functional seaports in the country are in Lagos where the federal authorities rake in billions of naira yearly.
Meanwhile, it is not clear why Lagos State has been unable to pay attention to the inner-city roads as well as the bad portion of most roads despite the creation of the Lagos State Public Works Department, which is saddled with the task of rehabilitation of local roads.
Leaders in Lagos should note that heavy vehicular pressures on the few available roads cause them to fail rapidly and so it is worse when they are of poor standard. Lagos State should, therefore, focus on rehabilitation of the inner-city roads to make them motorable and thus ease traffic.
Finally, the Lagos Light-rail project under construction should be completed without further delay. That will certainly complement mass transit effort and will be a veritable means of easing gridlock that often paralyses operations in Nigeria’s economic capital.
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