By Samuel Omojoye
For me, it was like a scene from a blockbuster movie. It was such a horrendous scene that I couldn’t get over the shock for some time. I left home for work that fateful day, looking forward, as usual, to an eventful working day. But alas, the whole of the day was messed up by the wayward action of a naughty ‘danfo’ (commuter bus) driver who acted in, perhaps, the most irresponsible manner I had ever witnessed in my whole life. We were caught in the typical Lagos early morning traffic gridlock which wasn’t really as bad as it used to be because it was a moving traffic.
My mind was not actually on the traffic situation as I had an urgent task to accomplish that auspicious morning. As I was thinking about how I would carry out the pressing assignment, I looked up and behold I saw a ‘Danfo’ bus that moved completely out of our line and faced on coming vehicles in what I considered a very audacious display of lawlessness and haughtiness. He drove in such a reckless fashion that every oncoming vehicle had to delicately swerve to avoid having a smash with it. Sadly, a heavy duty lorry which, perhaps, was oblivious of the stray ‘danfo’, was approaching and within a twinkling of an eyelid, there was a collision between the lorry and the ‘danfo’ and what followed next was better seen than imagined. It was such a repulsive scene.
By now, the whole place was in serious disarray as commuters, pedestrians and others along the road were running helter-skelter in utter confusion. Thanks to some brave guys who put a call through to the Lagos State Ambulance Service, ambulance came in no time to ferry wounded commuters in the ‘danfo’ for emergency medical care. The whole place had become a mess of sort. The goods inside the heavy duty lorry had littered everywhere. The hitherto moving gridlock had now become completely motionless with serious overriding impact on adjoining and other link roads along the route. It took the combined efforts of men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, Federal Road Safety officials, traffic police and others to restore the traffic back to normal. But havoc had been done already because I eventually ended up spending about 4 hours on a trip that ordinarily shouldn’t have taken me more than 30 minutes.
Welcome to the lawless and irritating world of Lagos ‘danfo’ drivers! It is well known that in Lagos‘danfo’ drivers are notorious for contravening traffic laws. For instance, the BRT lanes are strictly meant for BRT buses but ‘danfo’ drivers, in their characteristic recklessness, have continued to flout this rule with impunity. Aside this, most of them drive against traffic, carry more than the required number of passengers, stop to pick passengers at undesignated places, over speed among many others terrible acts. Whenever they are apprehended by relevant officials for such acts, they simply resort to harassing, and even beating up the hapless officials. They act in such unruly manner that makes nonsense of the law of the land. In Lagos, impunity is a way of life for the ‘danfo’ drivers whose reckless attitude on the road has become quite legendary.
Like most cosmopolitan cities across the world, Lagos experiences gridlock which is popularly referred to in local parlance as ‘go slow’. Though, the Lagos traffic jam occurs as a result of many factors, it is, however, really worsened by human factors. Human induced actions that complicate traffic hassles in the state include deliberately driving in an unsafe or threatening manner, illegal parking, street and roadside trading, driving against traffic, making illegal U-Turn and disobeying traffic lights and other traffic instructions.
One significant truth that is always ignored is that failure of motorists, particularly commuter bus drivers, to obey simple traffic rules and regulations often leads to traffic snarl that occasionally cripple socio-economic activities in the metropolis. Sadly, traffic chaos has severe consequences on the socio-economic landscape of the state. These include economic losses arising from delays, diminished productivity, wasted energy, environmental degradation and a diminished standard of living. Other outcomes are missed appointments, higher fuel bill, decreased productivity and diverse health challenges. This, no doubt, poses great threat to the state’s viability as a decent place to live, visit and invest in.
With time, especially with an effective and efficient mass transit system in place, the Lagos State government should save our souls by gradually phasing out commuter buses on major roads in the metropolis. Public transportation is too important and strategic to be committed into the hands of unruly and disorganized set of individuals. This could jeopardize the drive for foreign and local investments in the state. The traffic situation in every city determines the volume of investment that is attracted to the city. No sane investor would want to put his money in a place that is renowned for irresponsible traffic behaviour. It is, therefore, imperative, all other things being equal, for authorities concerned in Lagos State to address the nagging question of the nuisance of commuter bus drivers in the state, once and for all. To avoid any public outcry that such step might attract, especially from transport unions, willing commuter bus owners and drivers could be incorporated into the enlarged BRT system to avoid job losses.
Consequently, there is an urgent need to expand the operational scope of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. Though the system does not use all the features of some of the renowned BRT systems across the world, it still has many advantages over a traditional bus system. Universally, the BRT system has the capability of moving huge numbers of people from one place to the other at a time in a faster and more convenient way. The system operates on the concept of utilizing dedicated lanes in areas where competition with highway traffic would be greatest while it makes use of existing highways and roads in areas that are less congested in order to reduce cost. According to the Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority, LAMATA, by 2009 the BRT system has lifted over 52 million passengers.
The BRT scheme, if well expanded and strategically developed, could help in drastically reducing traffic chaos in the state. A first step towards achieving this would be to inject new busses into the fleet of the scheme. Once this is done, the next strategy would be to create more routes across the state for the scheme to meet more needs. In creating these new routes, priority should be given to areas with greater population density such as Badagry, Mowe-Ibafo axis, Sango-Ota axis, Alimosho among others. Also, the BRT scheme could be planned to include commuting within short distances within a particular local government or location.
The efficiency with which people, goods and services can move from one point to the other largely determines the quality of life of a society. Hence, every investment and every effort geared towards sanitising the sector is worthwhile.
Omojoye wrote in from Palmgroove, Lagos
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