Tackling the Lagos traffic nightmare – Guardian

Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu’s recent declaration of war on traffic offenders in an attempt to ensure sanity on Lagos roads should not be allowed to be yet another tale that is full of sound and fury, which signifies nothing. The reproach of dilapidated federal and inner-city roads in Lagos must be frontally addressed this time.

The other day, we bemoaned the gross failure of a presidential order on the Apapa gridlock. How is the new police commissioner’s declaration different from the previous ones and what new strategy is there to deal with the problem?

The intractable traffic nightmare in Lagos is taking its toll on economic activities. Daily, Lagosians are confronted with a horrendous traffic situation that appears to defy every measure applied so far. We have repeatedly noted this in recent weeks.

The other day, Governor Sanwo-Olu, in a clear admission that the condition of roads in Lagos had become unbearable, declared an emergency on them. The emergency underscores the deplorable state of roads in the state and the untold hardship members of the public have been subjected to as a result of the situation.

It is unimaginable how almost all the roads in Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria, have been left to disintegrate to the point of causing a terrible gridlock in the city. Most of the roads are under reconstruction and maintenance, a development that has worsened the situation. How do you enforce sanity under such a condition with the insufferable vehicular traffic?

According to the police commissioner, a Monitoring and Enforcement Coordination Committee to be headed by former Commissioner of Transport, Kayode Opeifa, is to monitor and enforce all the new executive orders and other existing laws of the state. He disclosed that a synergy now exists between all the law enforcement agencies in the state, which would make the enforcement of discipline possible on the roads.

“Because we are now together, you cannot hide under any agency to break the law. An officer of LASTMA can do the job of a KAI if he is the one present at the scene of the crime. All security agents across the state can get involved in maintaining law and order, notwithstanding if it’s within their jurisdiction because we now work in synergy,” he stated.

He added that mobile courts would now move from one point to another so that there would be instant judgment. This is not a new strategy. There should be new thinking that can elicit a glimmer of hope. What people would like to see is the sustainability of some efficiency. Most road users in Lagos cannot rely on the integrity of Lagos traffic law enforcement agencies who are notorious for placing extortion above orderliness. These officers of the law need to reorientate themselves about how to make Lagos work.

We have been consistent on the Lagos affair too because the past four weeks have been horrible for commuters who, daily, spend hours in traffic in an attempt to move from one part of the city to the other. This should not be a feature of Lagos we call the ‘‘centre of excellence.’’ When the governor used the rainy season as an alibi for tardiness, in this regard, this newspaper had also noted that the new governor should not be blamed solely for the debacle of Lagos roads as previous administrations had set the tone for what has become a systemic failure on road infrastructure. We had then enjoined him to get cracking when the rains began to disappear. We had then noted that the governor should not tolerate shoddiness and mediocrity in road construction and maintenance. Just as we reiterated the same line the other day when we told the same chief executive to discard ‘‘His Excellency’’ and embrace ‘‘excellence,’’ in the circumstances.

The failure of government to live up to its responsibility at all levels has brought untold hardship on the public. The inability of commuters to move smoothly from one point to the other, as a result of bad roads in the country has brought about general suffering and pain across the country. Sadly, our public officers don’t care about that as they all fly over all the road transportation tragedy. They don’t see the extent of the decrepit road infrastructure. Nor do they see how police embarrassing checkpoints have compounded the woes of the hapless road users. However, while we bemoan this national tragedy, there is a sense in which we can say that Lagos, generally regarded as the economic nerve centre of the West Coast should not be trifled with.

Endemic traffic crisis in Lagos was one of the major factors that forced the Federal Government’s decision in 1976 to relocate Nigeria’s capital to Abuja. The relocation took place in December 1991. It is unfortunate that there has been no improvement in management of Lagos traffic crisis since 1991. That brings into focus the Federal Government’s role in Lagos as promised by the then Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed who proclaimed Abuja as the nation’s capital. Nigeria’s leader then said Lagos would remain a Federal Territory and ‘‘Special Area’’ that would continue to attract substantial investment because of the national security assets in the state including federal roads and the sea ports.

The way out for the authorities in Lagos is to repair all the roads in Lagos. The inner city roads should be repaired too to provide alternative exit routes. One thing is clear, once the roads are good, traffic congestion would drastically be reduced. The other corollary to this road issue is the way the town-planning and revenue authorities place revenue mobilisation above governance and orderliness. They allow street traders and undisciplined bus drivers to use parts of the narrow roads. These authorities should do some introspection, in this regard. There must be sanity in the centre of excellence, after all.

Meanwhile, a recent resolution by the Lagos State House of Assembly asking contractors to work from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. to reduce congestion should be adhered to. The authorities in Lagos should walk that good talk.

Similarly, Sanwo-Olu’s directive to the VIO, police and other traffic officers not to check vehicles’ particulars during peak hours should be enforced. The menace of police and VIO crude checks everywhere is part of the critical governance issues the governor should not condone too.

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