Dorcas O. Aluko
When Mr. Tony Akinlade’s seven years old daughter asked him, “When will I see you again?” over the phone, one would think they lived far apart but that is untrue. Mr. Akinlade lives in the same house with his daughter but they only get to see each other on Saturdays and Sundays.
The reason for this is not far-fetched. Mr. Akinlade lives in Isolo, a community on the mainland of Lagos but works in Ajah, a suburb of the state. On a normal day, his trip to work should not be more than a two-hour journey but he always ends up spending close to five hours just to get there in the morning and spend more to get back home at night.
To beat traffic and get to his workplace early, Mr. Akinlade leaves home by 4:30 am and returns home around 10:30 pm. This means he leaves home before the kids wake up and only arrives when they are already in bed. They only get to see him during weekends and that is even when he doesn’t have to fix some unfinished business at work.
Mr. Akinlade’s situation is synonymous with a lot of people who live in Africa’s biggest commercial city, Lagos. Despite being the smallest state in terms of land mass, Lagos is the most populous state in Nigeria having about …. million residents. Owing to this large number of residents, the traffic conditions of the state are pitiable.
Numbeo, earlier this year, rated Lagos State as the worst city in Nigeria in terms of traffic congestion. It estimated that Lagos had a traffic index of 348.69, coming top of the list ahead of seven other African countries surveyed.
Numbeo explained that the traffic index is a composite index of time consumed in traffic due to job commute, estimation of time consumption dissatisfaction, carbon dioxide (CO2) consumption estimation in traffic, and overall inefficiencies in the traffic system. It also estimated that due to traveling to work/school, 2,000.38kg of CO2 is produced yearly per passenger and that there is a need for 91.89 trees for each passenger to produce enough oxygen to cover that in Lagos.
“I don’t want to die Young” – Lagos resident
A resident of Lagos State who lives in Agege but works at Ikotun, both communities on the mainland of Lagos described his daily journey to and from work as a frustrating task as he spends not less than three hours commuting everyday, a journey that should be ideally for 90 minutes altogether.
“I always return home with a headache daily because I have to sit in traffic for long hours. Sometimes, when I think of the trouble I’d go through to get to work, I’d just feel like staying in bed but that is not possible else I will go hungry. I’m seriously giving relocating to Ogun or Oyo state a thought because I don’t think I can keep embarking on frustrating journeys everyday. I don’t want to die young” he said.
Efforts of the Lagos State Government
The issue of traffic congestion has been a thing of concern in Lagos for years now and the state government is not resting on its oars concerning it. Early in November 2022, the state’s Ministry of Transport charged its agencies to come up with creative initiatives that will improve traffic management and transportation in Nigeria.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Engineer Abdulhafiz Toriola charged the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Lagos State Drivers Institute (LASDRI), and the Lagos State Bus Service Limited (LBSL) during a visit to their head offices in Oshodi, Lagos to be proactive and do all they can to ensure that citizens are comfortably living in the state.
There has also been continuous repair of roads, the creation of bus rapid transit systems that run from the North to South axis of the state, the construction of bridges, and stricter traffic rules all in a bid to combat congestion. This is also to ensure that Lagosians have more time to do meaningful things with their lives rather than spending it stuck in traffic as experts have predicted that by 2030, Lagos will lose 21 billion dollars monthly due to the growing congestion.
Government and Citizens both have roles to play
During an interview, Chikwesili Victor, an urban and regional planner said that since he arrived in Lagos in 2001, traffic congestion had always been a problem. He also noted that while the government has its roles to play in combating the problem, Lagos State residents too are not left out. They have to join hands with the government to finally put an end to the problem.
In his words, “Although a lot of responsibilities concerning traffic jams in Lagos fall on the shoulders of the government, the citizens also have responsibilities. Citizens should obey all traffic signs and officials. They should also pay their taxes as at when due so the government can utilize the funds for developmental purposes”
“Also, we know that there are some people who deliberately spoil the roads at midnight because they make a lot of profit from selling wares to commuters in traffic during the day. These people should be handled with an iron hand and made to face the consequences of their actions. The government cannot be trying to make us live better lives and some people would be spoiling such efforts because of some profits”
“Drivers of commercial buses too should be made to obey laws fully because they contribute a lot to this problem. They should stop dropping passengers by the roadside rather than bustops and should also be compelled to desist from using service lanes” he added.
Effects on physical and mental health
A physical health educator, James Oduh spoke on the effect of sitting in traffic for long hours, stating that it is the cause of many illnesses but people seem to have overlooked this for years.
He said, “Sitting for long hours in traffic exposes you to all forms of pollution which causes a lot of danger for the body. Physically, it counters your exercise routines and could lead to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a situation where the blood in your leg clots because you sit for long hours”
“Unusual weight gain and back pains are also some of the effects. All these illnesses can shorten the lifespan of a person if proper care is not taken”
Matthew Gbemisola, a mental health advocate, believes that traffic congestion is the main reason more people suffer from anxiety in Lagos.
“Most people don’t believe that sitting in traffic for long periods has an effect on their mental health but it does. Firstly, it makes people get anxious unnecessarily and that is why you see that the majority of Lagosians have anxiety written all over them. This can even make them withdraw from family and loved ones”
“Older people could also start losing the ability to perform basic activities of everyday life gradually. They may start finding it hard to make use of parts of their body and also start to forget things because of frustration” she said.
Gbemisola also listed some things the government should be doing to combat traffic congestion in Lagos.
“Government should invest in infrastructure or build roads based on concession, there should also be an expansion of the current road network and massive development in waterways” she stated.