Reimagining the Chaotic Splendour of Lagos Traffic

As one of the fastest growing megacities in the world today, the projected population of Lagos in 2017 is over 24 million and still increasing – meaning that facilities are often stretched to their limit. Thousands of Lagosians from different local government areas as well as neighbouring states, troop en-masse, on a daily basis, to key hubs, such as Ikeja and Lagos Island, for business, work and pleasure.

Consequently, the increase in population, along with the constant motion of people, has resulted in a seemingly inevitable increase in the number of cars on Lagos roads. The trend since 2003 shows a consistent rise that only dips slightly during the recession years. Most of these are privately owned in comparison to government or even commercial vehicles.

Sadly, when there are so many cars are on the roads at the same time heading in different directions from different locations on the same decrepit roads, the result is often chaos, confusion and lost man hours in traffic – especially in a metropolis with little propensity for order.

Hopefully, this might be the case in the foreseeable future if the Lagos State Government (regardless of who is in charge) completes work started on a number of projects aimed at easing the irritations of daily transportation for commuters in the state.

One of these is the construction of 13 new bus terminals in designated areas of the metropolis including Agege, Alapere, Anthony, Ikeja, Ilupeju, Maryland, Ojota, Oshodi, Oyingbo, Tafawa Balewa and Yaba which are among the most densely populated areas in the state and likely to have the the highest road transport usages daily.

With 800 new buses to be acquired, the entire project, according to the commissioner of transport, Ladi Lawanson, will “provide over 3000 jobs for youths and also increase transport connections and inter-modal connectivity in the state.” The idea behind the scheme is also to “cater for Lagos residents of especially lower and middle classes who cannot afford to fund their own cars every day.”

But transport in Lagos is not just about roads. Thankfully, the state is also looking towards enabling railway and water transportation. The proposed light rail network is made up of seven lines: Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Purple, Brown and Orange. So far, work has begun on the Red and Blue lines only. The former will be 30km long while the latter, 27km. Each will have 13 stations each. Three stations in the south end of the Red line will be shared with the Blue line and both will comprise 23 stations in total.

Since 25 per cent of the state’s land mass consists of water (779.56 sq km), the state has also announced plans to connect water terminals and the roads, especially in places such as Badore, Ajah, Mile 2, Badagry, Ikorodu and other places where there are terminals. Presently, the government has identified about 30 commercial routes on the state’s waterways for dredging and channelization, while 10 jetties spread across the state were being constructed, among other ongoing plans for the sector.

With elections looming – along with the certainty that the incumbent will not be returning – it is the hope of commuters in the state that the new government will bring these projects to completion. But beyond the realisation of these grandiose plans, there is a more lasting desire that Lagos citizens become more involved in the planning and assessment of these projects.

Sadly, the current default is a lack of openness of all procurement processes in Lagos, especially those that pertain to transportation. Lagosians are covered with a layer of thick veil on issues related to the cost of projects, bidder information, contract signing dates and timelines and so much more.

The new government will need to introduce policies that offer a better and sustainable way to earn the trust of its taxpayers who, aside from immediate solutions to transport problems, want to see how their money is being used. Everywhere in the world, when citizens are carried along, they better appreciate the work of their government and seek to preserve or use public facilities with care. On the other hand, non-adoption of open principles necessarily leads to speculations and the kind of distrust that undermine the goodwill of leaders.

Openness simply means that we will all be heading in the same direction from the same location along a revamped transport infrastructure. It might still seem chaotic but it will be the Lagos we want to imagine.

About David Oputah