12 December 2018

Nigeria: Can Lagos Be Free From Traffic Challenges?

opinion

Some Lagosians ignorantly see public facilities as state properties belonging to people in government only; as such they fail to take care of these public facilities. Put simply, public facilities are facilities provided by the government for the benefit of the general public. These facilities include, but not limited to roads, street lights, public buildings, crude oil pipelines and recreational areas. Public facilities, in reality, belong to the people and the people are expected to take ownership of and responsibility for them. This ought to be so because public facilities are made available and funded with the tax payers' money. The wrong mindset that public properties belong to the government makes some people vandalise them. It is same reason people steal and sell off public properties. By so doing, they believe they are punishing and hurting the people in government alone through these acts of vandalism, whereas and of a truth, they are indirectly hurting themselves by destroying amenities which make life easier for all.

Some of these vandals who damage and destroy public property with the aim of stealing them believe that they are getting their own share of the national 'cake'. This underscores the decadence and loss of moral value in our society today.

The effect of vandalising public properties is huge and cannot be overemphasized as it does not only result in temporal setback and growth retardation for the state alone but it also brings untold hardships on the entire citizens. Vandalism has immediate, short and long term short consequences. It may lead to insecurity and discomfort for the general public thereby having a negative impact on the quality of life the people live. Destruction of public properties can also potentially lead to increment in taxes and insurance payment.

Here in Lagos, vandalism takes a major toll on traffic when public facilities especially street lights, traffic lights, median lanes, demarcating culverts, barbwire railings, Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT) shades at designated bus terminals, traffic signal boards and other facilities positioned on or by the road to ease traffic are destroyed.

Just recently, the Chief Executive Officer, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Chris Olakpe, frowned at the spate of destruction of public facilities meant to make life easier for motorists and residents in Lagos. He appealed to those in the habit of doing such to desist from the the act or risk facing the full consequences of the law if caught. In his words, "we have observed to our chagrin and dismay, the vandalism of wire barriers and signal lights. They are frustrating the efforts of the government. As government is moving forward, they are taking them backward by ontoward conduct." He further added that, "so we want to say from now, it has been resolved that those places would be fully backed up with manpower in surveillance and monitoring strategy. So warn those who are the spoilers of good deeds, the hands of the law will catch up with them very soon."

Undoubtedly, vandalism is a consequence of bad behaviour of the citizens, frustration, distrust, poverty and lawlessness. Among many causes of traffic congestion are chiefly bad roads and impatience by road users. For example, a single pothole or single bad spot on any part of a busy road may lead to a traffic build-up that will stretch the entire length of that road with attendant ripple effects on adjoining roads. Some motorists are also impatient as everyone wants to move at the same time at junctions, road bends and turnings where the roads get bottle-necked. These result in self-inflicted traffic congestion.

A good road is an elixir to traffic congestion in Lagos. However, attempts by government to fix these bad roads with the ongoing road construction and rehabilitation appear to be worsening traffic situation as Lagosians go through terrible gridlocks in their daily outings.

To ease traffic and avoid traffic obstruction where road construction or rehabilitation is in progress, I call on contractors and project handlers to immediately evacuate their heavy duty equipment once their work is completed. And if it will take longer days for the completion of such projects, such machinery should be positioned away from the roadside. Same is also applicably advised for contractors who install and fix public electrical (or solar) facilities such as street lights. I also advise strongly that construction or repair works on major roads must be done only at night.

For a traffic-free Lagos, I suggest the following: first, vandals must be arrested and prosecuted. Secondly, special emergency toll-free phone numbers should be provided for the public to report these unscrupulous and unpatriotic elements that are hell-bent on stealing or destroying public properties which are provided to ease traffic flow. Thirdly, since the most common forms of vandalism are on road andº electricity equipment, the state government may also adopt a whistle blower policy to encourage law-abiding citizens to always report these vandals promptly. Fourthly, to nab these criminals who perpetuate the destructive acts at night, the state may consider improving its security architecture to fully curb this menace. Finally, the issue of rising poverty level must be urgently addressed in the country at large as this forces people to resort to self-help through sale of damaged and stolen public properties.

National Orientation Agency (NOA), the media, civil societies and organisations and religious institutions are not left out in the war against vandalism by creating public awareness on the long term consequences of destruction of public facilities within their neighborhood in their own self-interest.

Ojewale wrote from Idimu, Lagos.

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