17th May, 2011
Once upon a time in Lagos State, the fear of the Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, brigade and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, was the beginning of wisdom for erring motorists, Okada riders and street traders. Not any more.
Even the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, has gone to sleep and that old culture of impunity has fully returned to our roads, especially in Lagos. Walkways have become market places and Okada parks in several areas. Danfo (commuter bus) drivers have moved out of the motor parks to the roads, creating unnecessary traffic jams and confusion.
On Lagos Island, Mainland, Surulere, Itire, Ijeshatedo, Mile 2, Ketu, Ojota, Palmgrove and several other places in the metropolis, just before the general elections, perhaps to soften up the electorate a little, rules seemed to have been relaxed and lawlessness began to take shape. Today the situation is so bad that commuter bus drivers now park right on the expressway at Ojota to pick up passengers, causing traffic to build up as far as the Ketu axis on the same highway.
Meanwhile, LASTMA, FRSC, Traffic wardens, Policemen and other law enforcement officers, who happen to be around, look the other way. Sometimes, only the siren-blaring motorcade of a government official saves the day. At other times, it is the koboko-wielding military men, trying to clear a path for a top military brass, that untangle the mass of traffic and humanity.
The dedicated Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, lanes are no longer sacred. Whenever the traffic is heavy, and even when it is not, Danfo drivers, Okada riders and even private vehicles use the BRT lanes, speeding recklessly without a thought for their lives or that of others. LASTMA officers and those who should enforce the law and maintain order see the lawlessness, shrug and look away.
The worst part of it happens at Ojota, on the BRT lane going towards Palmgrove, where Danfo drivers now park and solicit for passengers right on the dedicated lanes. When the BRT buses which have the right of way arrive at their bus stop, they have to wait behind the danfo until it is ready to move. There seems to be nobody to check these commuter bus drivers. They seem to have become a law unto themselves.
One should not, however, forget to give kudos to the officers of KAI who enforce the no-crossing-the-highway law at Ojota. They sometimes do their jobs; but not so for those at Palmgrove, Onipanu and Fadeyi, where stubborn pedestrians who refuse to use the footbridge are regularly killed or maimed by speeding vehicles. KAI could sure do better if they put their mind to it.
Mushinâ€™s notoriety is evident in the resurgence of the market women on the walkways and the complete takeover of one lane of the highway by commuter bus drivers. Iyana Isolo and Ladipo junction have also been taken over by okada riders. Now, that face of Mushin that we used to loath is back; add the regular gang wars and reign of terror, and disorder is back in full swing.
Oshodiâ€™s refusal to go back to its past is commendable but the intermittent wars by factions of the National Union of Road Transport Workers is condemnable. Whenever the mayhem begins, not a few Lagosians are injured, and such problems in a mega city make us look uncivilised. Lawlessness is not yet back in full swing but it soon will, if LASTMA and KAI do not get back on their feet. Traders are already preparing to come back in daylight while commuter bus drivers are already testing the waters by dropping their passengers wherever they wish.
In Ikeja, the ever growing Computer Village is bursting at the seams and would soon be taking over Awolowo Way and Oba Akran Avenue, and KAI, which responsibility is to keep the traders in check, has shirked that responsibility or has joined the growing ranks of â€˜businessmenâ€™.
Commercial motorcyclists are one menace this mega city must curb. After putting so many people in hospital and traumatising several others, they still have the effrontery to refuse to wear helmets, thus putting them and their passengers at great risk in the case of an accident. One wonders if it is illiteracy or just plain recalcitrance. But then, there are laws guiding their operations, and if they refused to obey such laws, whose fault is it?
Like the reggae legend, Robert Nesta Marley sang in his album, Confrontation, Wake Up And Live. The Lagos State government must wake up and do something. Nobody is asking for anybodyâ€™s head but sanity must prevail. This madness has gone on long enough.