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Lagos groans under traffic as hawking returns full swing

By Olusegun Olanrewaju
It’s a working day and Mr. Idowu Adejobi is heading for office on the Lagos Island from the Ikorodu axis in Lagos.

His resumption time is 8am, but as of noon, he is still on the ever-busy Ikorodu Road, no thanks to the resurgent menacing traffic on the Lagos streets.

He sits there silently cursing and swearing. And the situation is no easier going back home.

For some five gruelling hours, he has to bear with another round of sweat-inducing seating in the Danfo bus, caught in the crawling traffic.

Another round of silent curses follow
In truth, Adejobi is not alone in this grief, as it were. Many other Lagosians are facing the same harrowing experience.
Yes, heavy traffic have returned to Lagos streets and highways, and several factors are being darted as the cause. One is the peaking of the rainy season, and the other, the heavy outlay of road construction, among others.

Indeed, workers, traders, artisans and students now find it difficult to keep to their regular schedule because of daily experience with traffic gridlock. Commuters and motorists are also seriously lamenting the situation.

A housewife, Mrs. Ify Edeze, says, “It is really a terrible experience these days. You spend hours on end to get to work at CMS/Obalende from Odogunyan, but the traffic just wouldn’t move. The babies are there shrieking on their mother’s backs.

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“You equally spend close to the same number of hours to get back home late in the night, meaning that, on the average, you spend 10 precious, strenuous hours virtually without achieving anything.’’

Just name them–Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Orile-Mile Two highway and the Alaba International Market areas need no emphasis on notoriety in traffic bedlam. The same happens at the Iyana-Ipaja axis on the Lagos-Abeokuta highway.

For the residents of Ikorodu-Ketu axis, their trouble is hemmed on the Ojota-Maryland portion of Ikorodu Road, where a segment of the highway is under construction.

Historically, the Third Mainland Bridge has never been light to traffic, and with the outset of rains and activities on road repairs now compound matters every day, particularly at the Iyana Oworonshoki-Ogudu-Alapere-Ketu portion.

“I wonder what kind of work or service one is going to diligently do when he or she spends five or more hours to resume duty daily.

“You practically have to start thinking of eloping from the office or shop to avoid being caught in road crisis on your way home,’’ Peter Anozie, an insurance executive, grumbled.

A septuagenarian, Alhaji Ajani Olowookere, blamed the government for the emerging scenario.

He said, in a public bus, “It is lack of proper care in Nigeria. Since we sat in this vehicle, we should have reached where we are going.’’

He adds, in vernacular, ‘’Ati ago merin ni mo ti ji, sibe ao ti de ibi kan kan (I woke up at about 4am to board a bus, we are yet to get to anywhere).’’

Commuters try to weigh in on factors underscoring the hold-ups.
A resident of Mafoluku Oshodi, Mr. Adeniyi Joseph, attributes the causes of gridlocks to rainfall and road construction.

“It the rains,’’ he says, adding, ‘’and you know that when there are traffic, street traders will troop out, and when they are constructing roads, the highways get plugged.

An Israeli firm, ROM Transportation Engineering, had revealed that between 2007 and 2009, Lagos residents lost more than three billion hours to traffic congestion yearly.

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) also declared that traffic congestion in Apapa alone costs Nigeria over N5bn daily, killing businesses and spreading poverty. The business community in Lagos is also not spared the rebounding effects of the debilitating gridlocks on Lagos roads.

Experts have asserted that the business community loses N11bn monthly to the daily traffic congestion, and that, beyond man-hour loss, traffic congestion in the nation’s commercial city is doing much more damage to the health of residents.

“Being stranded in stationary traffic has been noted to incite rage in the most timid of individuals, thereby bringing their blood to boiling point.’’

Speaking on the issue, a transport expert and official of the National Aviation Handling Co. (NAHCO), Mr. Kunle Ijagbemi, summaries the causes of the traffic problem ‘at this period’ to the quartet factors of rainfall, road maintenance, ‘structure of roads’, and bad roads.

The first two factors, he stresses, are prevalent in all parts of the Lagos metropolis.

“The situation is compounded in places like the Iyana Ipaja by the structure of the road, and at Ikeja ring road, bad roads,” he said.

The situation is so bad that, in some cases, it is not uncommon to see commuters and motorists abandoning their vehicles and walking to their destinations.

Commercial motorcyclists are having a field day too making fast business on the side lines. Commenting on the situation on the Oshodi-Iyana Ipaja Highway, a man screamed; “My God, this road is getting worse!’’

Economists attribute the net effect of heavy traffic shut downs to economic loss (time, resources) and issues like crime and psychological stress.

David Wiesenthal, a professor of psychology at the York University, says gridlock aids aggressive human behaviours.

His words, “As your car slows to a crawl, your heart rate picks up, your breathing intensifies, and your blood pressure shoots up.

“Drivers become more irritable and have a higher tendency to behave aggressively, increasing the odds of rude behaviour, shouting obscenities and cutting other cars off.”

Another research links traffic to negative mental health outcomes, including stress and aggression and an increase in domestic violence.

Scientific American, an online journal, notes that most people stuck in traffic might not be induced to commit crime, but they bear a psychological burden from traffic.

Government officials told ThisNigeria in Alausa on Thursday, that the state government “has never stopped working, so that traffic congestion is overcome.’’

They attributed traffic gridlocks to the fact that “people keep streaming into Lagos on a daily basis.’’

State Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladehinde, says the aquatic state is constantly experiencing chaotic traffic “due to the fact that 89 people are being added to the population every hour.”

He adds that the problem is exacerbated because “Lagos has 227 cars per km, compared to the national average of 16 cars per km of road.’’

The commissioner also states that the state is faced with the challenge of unregulated public transport network, limited alternatives to vehicular transportation, and inadequate traffic management, among others.

The Permanent Secretary in the state ministry of transportation, Mr. Kamar Olowoshago, says that as an emerging Smart City of 22 million people, the state government is embarking on reforms to meet with the challenges of renewal of transportation infrastructure through the provision of more boats and rail infrastructure.

Meanwhile, highway hawkers are back with vengeance, ignoring the enforcement of a law criminalising all manner of street trading by the state government in 2016.

The hawkers have dropped their fear of safety which peaked with the killing of two traders in 2016 that forced the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to enforce the ban on street trading

Hawkers are pinning their endeavour on unemployment and the pervading poverty ravaging the land.

In 2003, the state government had enacted a law to ban street trading to protect lives, as well as check crime and illiteracy.

Highway trading is back with a big force and they vigorously hawk anything: biscuits, candies, chewing gums, bottled water, soft drinks, beverages, snacks, fried chips, canned food, fruits, bread, corn, among others.

Others sell handy items such as motor parts and handkerchiefs. But despite the attendant risks, highway hawkers say they have no option but to hit the streets.

“I have to earn a living to feed my family,’’ Jude Obi, one of them, says.

Obi says he takes to the streets to make a living from hawking “because this area has a lot more traffic and that means more money.”

He adds, “I know it is dangerous for us, but I cannot afford to stay idle and die of hunger.’

Even with the threats of Lagos State’s environmental law and enforcement by Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) dangling on their heads, the hawkers say they have found a sustaining means of livelihood.

“Competition is tough, but I make about N35,000 a month which I use to feed my wife and child,” a hawker notes.

They may have found a way to checkmate poverty, but a greater problem lays ahead. Those caught in the line of ‘business’ risk a fine of N90, 000 or a six-month jail term.

The state government acknowledges that street trading and highway hawking compound traffic jams and put lives at risk.

An economist, Dr. Johnson Olajuwon, says, “As for street trading, the consequence are grave, but those involved are only taking an advantage of slow-moving traffic to make brisk sales.
”Their lives appear to be less endangered on the streets at normal times, but they risk other dangers like crime and death.”

As the matter goes, it is obvious that the government has a lot on its hands to ensure free-flowing traffic in the state.

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