Lagos State Traffic: A Way Out

Lagos state occupies the smallest landmass and yet holds the largest population in Nigeria.  This is because to many, it is the city of dreams offering endless opportunities for all who dare to live within its borders.  Despite the population explosion resulting in housing deficit, scarce resources such as electricity and water, the flood menace, waste management challenges high crime and the heavy traffic, people still continue to troop westward in the hope of securing their own piece of the sky.

Welcome to Lagos

It is no longer news, the traffic conditions that exist here.  For many of the inhabitants it is a way of life.  Someone I know wakes up as early as 3:00 a.m to meet up with the start of his daily activity.  I used to wake up 5:00 a.m., then 4:30 a.m., now 4:00 a.m.  Sad really, for someone who isn’t a morning person!  Many people get home late to find their families fast asleep, only to wake up again and continue the rat race.  In most recent times, many people – young and old – have collapsed dead in their tracks (or their cars), most likely due to stress and lack of previous medical checkups and adequate care.  People take two-hour trips to meet up with an appointment – either for business or pleasure.  The traffic situation has carved a lifestyle for Lagosians.  If you like it, stay.  If you don’t, go. It’s no news, really.

What is news is that for the past several weeks, traffic has become something of a horror story.  The federal roads leading to the nations ports and tank farms located in Apapa and environs have not received attention for more than sometime now.  The poor maintenance accorded these roads have led to deep craters forming right in their middle, causing mobility to be very difficult in these parts.  Being that this is the most direct route to the ports, oil tankers and trailer trucks bringing in petroleum and other commercial products makes navigation a grueling experience.  The inability of these huge vehicles to make their way to and exit the ports, tank farms and warehouses has caused an overflow of vehicular traffic, which has slowly spread out like a virus to affect other traffic routes.  The result?  Accidents. Loss of lives and property. Staff and clients getting late to work and appointments. In general, an economic decline.

Traffic in the axis where I live, sometime this week

Lagos actually loses as much as it makes in revenue, because of some of these setbacks.  I mean, what mental contribution has a staff got to offer his employer when he has spent up to 3 hours in morning traffic?  What value does one get from buying thousands of Naira’s worth of petrol and wasting it in endless traffic?   What sense of security and love can one benefit from a parent who shows up too late and too tired to cater for his family?  way of The negligence and non-intervention of both state and federal governments in the matter must stop.  What you might ask, can be done about it? Remember that In a place like Lagos, it’s not so much about road expansion as it is about system efficiency and the introduction of new initiatives.

  • Alternative to Roads.  The state government initiated and is currently running projects focused on rail and waterway transportation, but can they be quick with it?  The road construction taking place on the mile 2/Badagry expressway has been ongoing for over 3 years now.  It is obvious that the roads cannot contain the overhaul of motorists which seem to be increasing in number – especially with the ban on motorcycles – which coerced many people into buying cars to ease their mobility.  It is also interesting to note that the government is working on cable car transportation as another alternative… Now wouldn’t that be grand?

  • Fix it better, please? The roads have gone without maintenance for ages.  Of course, with the upcoming elections, we hope to see “selfless acts of public service” by way of road repairs and such.  Oftentimes these roads are poorly repaired and hardly ever maintained.  The community is left to fix the road by sand-filling the potholes with sharp stones, sand or cement which is soon washed away.  I doubt if anyone will be fooled this time.  If only these roads are being properly fixed and maintained routinely, cars will not have reason to breakdown in their craters – another source of traffic holdup.

  • Mass / Communal Transport: The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) initiative was a massive breakthrough in resolving transportation in Lagos state but as is common in Nigeria, its effectiveness is fast declining.  Fresh efforts should be infused in maintaining the BRT system.  The buses are getting old and keep breaking down, causing even more traffic.  Better and bigger buses should be introduced and more service lanes created and made more flexible (destination routes are quite limited).  Once this is done, more people will (hopefully) be encouraged to use the buses and leave their cars at home for the weekends.

    BRT Buses (courtesy
  • Work from Home! A colleague of mine has a job where he can work online from home but is unable to due to the incessant power supply in his home.  For this reason he has to endure about 5 hours-worth of traffic every day.  The issue of power supply in Nigeria is another story altogether, but imagine if many other people could work from home at least once a week and not have to come to the office on alternate days, wouldn’t that ease the traffic a little bit?  For example, Thursday mornings are less congested because shop owners are under a sanitation law and not allowed to open until 10:00 am.


What if companies in Lagos allowed each staff to pick a day off where they could work from home and still produce results (by introducing a control method to ensure that, obviously)?  That would give thousands of people the opportunity to stay at home at different days of the week.  This means less pressure on the roads and less traffic.  There is the possibility that those people may still use the roads to drive elsewhere, but at least not in the same direction or the same time as is the usual.  Sounds like a radical idea but I feel the private enterprise in Lagos has earned this right. Plus, in Lagos, being radical is the norm!

In the past three years I have spent at least 4 hours in traffic for at least 5 days (sometimes 7 days) a week.  That would be approximately 4,380 hours of my life spent in excruciating traffic.  It is a waste, really, because that time could be better spent on improving my relationships, writing, reading or singing skills.  Instead here I am, nursing my once-dainty-but-now-swollen feet and too tired to think about anyone else but myself.

More ideas, anyone?

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