OF all the problems facing Lagos, the worst might be traffic. Chaotic traffic in Lagos is man-made - a phenomenon as destructive and inevitable as the rains that falls anytime of the year.
Some residents believe that there is no weekend for traffic in Lagos.
Traffic is every day and Lagosians have words for traffic the way Eskimos have words for snow: congestion, logjam, lock-down, holdup, gridlock, deadlock, and the wonderfully evocative go-slow.
Summary of danfo drivers' psyche: The most popular commercial bus in Lagos is known as a Danfo. Someone at a time said that "the average Danfo driver either has psychological imbalance or he is possessed by some spirit of self destruction.
"They drive like they get a medal every time they bash or scratch their vehicles, and they have no problems scratching yours. Who else would change lanes without indicating or race into an express road without looking out for other drivers knowing very well that he do not have the right of way?
Danfo drivers of course. They have never ceased to amaze me with the kind of risks they take, the norm for them is for the conductor to hang by the door, and shout to attract passengers, they just seem unable to sit down in the bus .."
According to him; "Clearly the Danfo driver is unpredictable and unwell, plus they think they are stunt men."
Case study: Sometime in June, the Lagos State Government issued a 48-hour ultimatum to commercial bus operators, danfo drivers, in Ikorodu, especially those indiscriminately discharging and loading passengers at the town's roundabout, to move to the designated motor park at Sabo or face the wrath of the law. The order by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, said the move was aimed at ensuring the safety of lives and free flow of traffic in the area.
The General Manager of LASTMA, Babatunde Edu, issued the order during a meeting jointly organised by the agency and the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and other Special Offences for the National Union of Road Transport Workers and the Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria at Alausa, Ikeja. The following week, life was back to 'normal' with the danfo drivers doing the exact opposite of what the order stipulated.
Although some efforts were made to arrest some of them, the government had to abandon the enforcement drive because the commercial bus operators are fond of flouting traffic rules and regulations. They always drive in directions prohibited by the law and have turned every nook and cranny of Ikorodu into parks rather than using the dedicated spaces allocated to them.
Lagos' unsuccessful plan to phase-out Danfo: The introduction of the now popular Lagbus by the Lagos State government, some years ago, no doubt signified some attempts by the state government to improve on the chaotic transportation system in the city.
It is on record that despite its explosive population, which enumerators had put at over 18 million people, the city has been battling with the problem of finding a suitable means of conveying this vast population of residents from one place to the other.
For instance, before the advent of the Lagbus, a public private partnership initiative between the Lagos State government and some investors in the state, the former capital city had been under the siege of the Molue and the yellow buses, popularly known as danfo.
Fresh hope but for how long
"It is no longer business as usual for Lagos State residents and road users who are bent on going against traffic laws and regulations. Right now, measures are in-place to ensure that offenders are brought to book." This is according to Bisi Yusuff, a lawmaker representing Alimosho constituency 1 and the Chairman House committee on Transportation, Commerce and Industry who added that there is severe punishment awaiting road offender in the state.
In a chat with Vanguard, he said further: "Traffic offenders will not go unpunished. There are measures in-place to ensure that traffic offenders do not go unpunished. And that is what agencies like Motor Vehicle Administration is embarking upon. Its operation is already in place, right now, there are bigger plans by the agency."
His words: "This agency is saddled with the responsible of tracing any vehicle with its number plate. A motorist can be traced to his or her house through his or her number plate. Therefore, it is no longer needed for any traffic agency to run after traffic offenders. The only thing is to get the number plate and anyone who is caught will be brought to book. Again, anyone who violates traffic light rules and regulations would be fined the sum of N30,000.
While calling on Lagos residents to take the responsibility of arresting traffic offenders and handing them over to the appropriate agency for proper prosecution, he said, "anyone who wants to arrest traffic offenders must be extra careful and such individuals must know that they have limits. The first step is to capture the number plate of the vehicle and hand over the information to nearest law enforcement agent for proper arrest and prosecution."
Why commercial buses flout traffic order
From investigation, it was observed that some vehicles which violate traffic order when intercepted, are found to be owned by uniform men, officials of LASTMA and leaders of NURTW or the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN. Most of them are familiar with senior officers at the other end of the divide.
Most times when erring commercial vehicle drivers are apprehended, calls are immediately put through to their owners who in turn, speak with the officials of the contravening agency, at the end of which the vehicles are released. In some cases, the drivers turn out to be serving or retired uniform men who usually plead for the essence of esprit de corps .
At times also, it was discovered that some of the arresting officials bow to the temptation of corruption by accepting gratification which are never remitted into government coffers, before the vehicles are released to the owners, an action commercial vehicle drivers gladly opt for.
It was reliably gathered that sometimes, some impounded vehicles are taken to LASTMA offices but would not be parked inside the yard, apparently to give the erring motorists an impression that they meant business. This, however, occurred when a huge amount is demanded.