Essay On Oshodi Market

There is a saying in Lagos, or a prayer, or perhaps the city’s version of God bless America. Èkó ò ní bàjé – “may the city not spoil”. One might wonder, upon hearing this saying, what it means for a city to spoil, to go bad, as would a fruit capable of decomposition.

Lagos was unspoiled in my eyes as a child. Although it was only a four-hour drive from Akure, where I was born and lived well into my teenage years, I never visited the city until I was 18. Lagos held a grand stature, evoked by the people who had visited or lived there. To the rest of us, Lagos was Europe within Nigeria. The children who came from Lagos were “tush” – well put together – and usually more enlightened, exposed to a better life, than those of us who lived on the outside of the city. It had the tendency to render everywhere else provincial. My uncle who lived and worked in Lagos was considered the grand person of the family, the one to whom we looked for many good things. For a very long time, I hoped fervently that he would take us to Lagos on a holiday. But it didn’t happen until 2004, when I had a gap year before college.

One thing that spoils Lagos, at least in the eyes of non-Lagosians, is crime. On my visit with my uncle, the city was roughly what I had been led to expect. Its streets were congested. People navigated through the tight roads in huge numbers. My uncle picked me up from a “garage,” a dirty commercial transport park, and warned me to keep keen vigilance, anya saa. I had heard the warning many times before: in Lagos, anything could be stolen – even a human being. My father used to tell the story of a friend he knew in the 1970s who drove a new car to a party. By the time he came out of the party hall, all four wheels were gone. Another frequent story was that you could keep your wallet in the inside pocket of your coat and someone would still manage to steal it. Whether by magic, or by trickery, I did not know.

My uncle and I walked for close to a mile on foot, crossing dangerous roads, stopping occasionally to buy bread, bananas and groundnuts off street hawkers, their trays balanced on their shoulders or heads. We arrived at a junction, where a few molue buses were parked, their drivers and assistants calling for “Isolo!” We hopped on one. My uncle, then a bank accountant, had come to pick me up straight from his office; in his suit and glasses, he must have reeked of opulence. Throughout the bus journey he kept an eye on me. It was jerky and rocky, through dense traffic and deficient roads. By the time we got out, both of us were soaked in sweat, and I was delighted to be able to breathe again, having almost suffocated on the bus. Suddenly, my uncle put his hand into his pocket and shouted. We looked back at the bus, but the assistant had mounted the door, banged it with his hand and shouted as it sped away. The wallet was gone.

They still come, pulled by the myth that opportunities still exist in abundance in Lagos

As is often the case with things of great value and historical significance, there is a constant, hovering fear among those who love Lagos that something external, some negative force, people or events, will destroy it. And Lagos has indeed seen much that could have led to its destruction. The first European visitors to the port of Badagry, perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, were the Portuguese in 1472, followed by a coterie of foreigners – including its future colonists, the British. The port gradually expanded, and became an easy transit port for the heinous transatlantic slave trade. Before the British arrived and chose Lagos as their imperial capital, the city saw wars and battles, kings dethroned and forced into suicide. Yet none of these wars spoiled or destroyed the city. In fact, they fed it, like beasts fattened on steroids.

While the trampling of traditional African culture under the elephantine foot of the British empire should have tainted Lagos, it transformed it instead into a western-like city in the heart of Africa. When the colonists finally left in October 1960, Lagos became the new nation’s capital and from Dodan Barracks, now a mostly dilapidated structure, coup after coup was plotted and squashed, military juntas unseated and enthroned. But none of them, no matter how violent, spoiled the city.

People from all around the country flocked to it, attracted by the promise of white-collar jobs in the colonial period, and of growing industrialisation and civil service in the years before the civil war. They still come, pulled by the myth that these opportunities still exist in abundance in Lagos in the new millennium. Lagos has swelled, gulped up surrounding cities, and even encroached, menacingly, into bordering states. The tide does not seem to abate. The Populations Reference Bureau predicts Lagos will double in size in the next 15 years. These new arrivals live in the lowest parts of the sprawling city, in places such as Ajegunle or Makoko, on less than a dollar a day. Overpopulation is what people expect will spoil the city now.

For years, Lagos’s notoriety stemmed from the agberos, the “area boys”. They live on the streets and act as arbitrary law-enforcement officers, robbers, teachers, traffic controllers, and just about anything they can – but, above all, as coercive tax-masters who impose illegal tariffs on the helpless, particularly small roadside businesses. These extortionists, too, could have spoiled Lagos.

But when I returned after a time away in 2010, the agberos were gone. I was shocked to see Oshodi bridge, and the Isolo and Bariga areas where they used to congregate, empty of them. Former governor Babatunde Fashola, who ran as the man who’d keep Èkó from going bad, had lived up to his billing. He’d even tried to fix the legendary congested traffic by introducing BRT buses, carving out separate lanes for them in the tight roadways.

The more pleasant portions of my first experience of Lagos – the sightseeing trips to the national theatre, the former national stadium at Surulere, the drive over the Third Mainland Bridge, which, my uncle told me delightedly, was the longest bridge in Africa – merely added to its stock. I realised I was experiencing a city that had no equal in Nigeria. It was expansive, noisy and effulgent. I loved its cosmopolitan attribute, its fast life and its complex beauty.

Even greater infrastructure is now springing up, including a light-rail project that was meant to start running in 2011 but has been mired in delays. The massive structures on which these trains would run crisscross the city, prominently along the greater Oshodi area. Other promised graces for the Lagos skyline include the extraordinarily ambitious Eko Atlantic project, dubbed Nigeria’s version of Manhattan.

While these projects aim to keep Lagos from going bad, the outlook remains dim. Lagos does not exist in isolation. It sits in a country that has wasted many decades of wealth and now – in the age of the oil market crash – has become poor. Nigeria no longer has enough income to run as it always has. Many of the city’s projects may never be finished.

But while their stagnation (or abortion) may not spoil the city, what could do so is the deterioration of existing social structures due to lack of funds, and the harsh living conditions of the bulk of the city’s millions of inhabitants, which could decline still further as the city adds hundreds of thousands of people every year.

As our future decays, cockroaches, ants and moths – the dark insects produced by such conditions – will thrive. The gaping holes on the roadways, the agberos, the congested traffic, the festering slums, the suffering – all could worsen. And it is these things, if something is not done to urgently change the course Nigeria is currently steering, that will spoil our beautiful, great yet fragile Èkó.

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma is published in paperback by ONE (an imprint of Pushkin Press) on 10 March

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In the past few decades, African cities have been experiencing huge population increases. This is mainly due to galloping urbanization and rural exodus. It is estimated that by 2020 some 55% of the African population will be living in urban areas (African Association of Public Transport, 2010). Such fast‐growing cities face enormous challenges in terms of infrastructure provision and the need to cope with the increasing demand for transport. This is especially acute as much of the existing road infrastructure in African cities is far from being appropriate for the actual transport demand. In addition, apart from a few remaining companies, almost all publicly owned and managed public transport enterprises in Africa ceased to exist during the 1990s, often as a consequence of structural adjustment policies required to comply with aid programmes associated with international agencies. Therefore, the public transport sector has suffered more than 15 years of neglect and this, combined with escalating urban populations, has resulted in chaotic, unsustainable, time‐ and money‐wasting transport systems in most African cities (African Association of Public Transport, 2010).

Today throughout Africa, public transport is dominated by the operations of the ‘disorganized’ informal sector (that is market‐based, unregulated, low-capacity service offers). The dominance of these services hampers economic development and reduces the quality of life for citizens as the large number of vehicles required to meet demand causes congestion and parking issues and, in the main, citizens suffer with high levels of local associated pollution and low levels of security and safety (African Association of Public Transport, 2010).

The foregoing situation is not totally different from the system in Lagos, the largest city in Sub-Saharan Africa. Lagos is a City-State regarded as the economic and commercial capital of Nigeria with estimated population of 23, 305,971. It has a total area of 3, 577.28 square kilometers of which 779.56 square kilometers representing about 22% is wetland and a population density of 6, 515 persons per square kilometers (Lagos State Government, 2013).

With more than 23 million inhabitants, Lagos is one of the largest cities in the world, and its population is growing rapidly, at a rate of nearly 3.2% per annum. The poor condition of the road network and of the public transport system affects severely the development of the city and the working and living conditions of the population, particularly the most vulnerable. Rapid growth of the private vehicle fleet, combined with reliance on commercial vehicles and motorcycles including Danfo, Shared Taxis, Okada, Keke Marwa and boat has resulted in extreme traffic congestion throughout the city, and poor‐quality public transport outlook. Before 2007 when LAMATA law as regulator was amended and implementation of LAMATA flagship project, BRT-Lite commenced, public transport in Lagos could largely and best be described as unregulated, chaotic, inefficient, expensive, low quality and dangerous, both in terms of road traffic accidents and personal safety. There are about 2,600 km of roads in Lagos that are frequently congested, with over 1 million vehicles plying the roads on a daily basis. (African Association of Public Transport, 2010, LAMATA, 2014).

In order to provide consistent planning and efficient implementation of the policies and address some of the issues previously mentioned, the Lagos State government established, with the support of the World Bank, the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) in 2002, the executing agency of the Lagos Urban Transport Project (LUTP) which was initially started in 1994-95 on the basis of building capacity to manage the transport system, identifying the priority actions, investments and enabling measures for improvement of the sector.

LAMATA has the overall role of coordinating the transport policies, programmes and actions of all transport‐related agencies and of implementing and managing public transport services in Lagos State. The ‘BRT‐Lite scheme’ is one of the flagship programmes of LAMATA while other institutions have emerged in the road and water sector.

In spite of improvement in the transport sector in Lagos through LAMATA and other agencies, laws and plans, challenges remain undaunted. In the last five years, the city and its residents have had series of misunderstanding on issues bothering on transportation. At different times, the traffic management officials have engaged in free for all with police, armed forces, members of transport union or community members. Even the former Governor of Lagos State has had cause to challenge a Colonel of Nigerian Army on the street of Lagos on traffic issues.

The petroleum tanker drivers have repeatedly shut down access to Apapa, the Nigerian port complex, and other neighboring roads due to disagreement with the Lagos State Government while buses under Bus Rapid Transit and LAGBUS systems have become target of attacks during any urban crisis involving government officials, members of transport union and vulnerable street boys.

Residents who lost their homes without compensation to the transport infrastructure expansion have took to various platforms to criticize the transformation while some arrested crime suspects have attributed their involvement in crime activities to the loss of their livelihoods as a result of property demolitions for road infrastructure expansion or renewal. The current governor directive to the traffic management officials to stop the harassment of residents under the guise of traffic control has been perceived in some quarters as the reason for traffic congestion in the city-state.

Lagos State is regarded as the economic and commercial capital of Nigeria with estimated 23, 305,971 population. It has a total area of 3, 577.28 square kilometers of which 779.56 square kilometers representing about 22% is wetland and a population density of 6, 515 persons per square kilometers. Population has continued to grow at a rate of 3.2% per annum. If the current growth rate of 3.2% remains the same, the population of Lagos will be as shown in Table 2.1.

The state government is aiming at transforming the city–state into Africa’s model mega city and global economic center. In a bid to realize this aim, the state government, in 2007, adopted 10 point development agenda as strategic guide for transforming the city–state. The ten point agenda are roads, transportation, power and water supply, environment and physical planning, health, education, empowerment, food security, shelter and employment.

Table 2.1: Projected Population for Lagos from 2015 to 2050
S/N Year Population Population Density/km2 Remark
1 2015 23, 305,971 6, 515
2 2020 27,281,339 7,626
3 2025 31,934,798 8,927 (Terminal year for Lagos Development Plan)
4 2030 37,382,011 10,450
5 2032 39,812,738 11,129 (Terminal Year for Strategic Transport Master Plan )
6 2035 43,758,371 12,232
7 2040 51,222,365 14,319
8 2045 59,959,516 16,761
9 2050 70,186,998 19,620

Source: Urban Mobility Research Group, Heinrich Boll Stiftung, 2015

With the rising population, increasing population density and over 70% of Lagos in the form of slums or informal settlements, future transportation system in the city without strong bias for land use planning and sustainable integrated mobility system will not lead to the envisaged significant transformation of the city.

The transport network in the state is predominantly road based with 90% of total passengers and goods moved through that mode. The state has natural water ways for ferry services and federal rail network which will be complemented by the emerging state rail network. The demand for trips in the Lagos megacity region by all modes (including walking) was estimated at 22million per day with walk trips accounting for 40% of total trips in metropolitan Lagos. See Table 3.1 below

The rapid increase in population and standard of living will bring the daily demand for trips to about 40 million/day by 2032 (Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, 2014)

Table 3.1: Passenger Traffic per Day in Lagos
S/N Mode No. of Passengers/Day Percentage to Total Passengers
1 Walking 8,800,000 40%
2 Bus Rapid Transit 90,000 0.41%
3 Regulated bus (LAGBUS) 150,000 1%
4 Private Cars 2,508,000 11%
5 Semi-Formal Mini Buses (Danfos) 9,982,000 45%
6 Federal Mass Transit Train 132,000 1%
7 Water Transportation System 74,000 0.34%
8 Other Non-data Modes (including, motorcycle, tricycle, bicycle, taxis, articulated vehicles, mini-vans and boats) 264,000 1%
9 Total Passengers Traffic/Day 22, 000, 000 100
Source: Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, 2015

The mode of transport consists of High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) regulated buses (Bus Rapid Transit – BRT and LAGBUS, High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) unregulated buses otherwise known as Molue buses, Low Occupancy Vehicles (LOV) otherwise known as Danfos, motorcycle taxis otherwise known as Okadas, tricycles (Keke Marwa), cabs, ferries, boats (Makoko), trains and private vehicles (cars). Others are articulated vehicles of different uses (fuel tankers, container laden trucks and sand tipping trucks among others). Table 3.2 provides data on quantity of modes in the city;

Table 3.2: Quantity of Modes in Lagos
S/N Mode Number Remark
1 Number of vehicles on the road Approx 2,000,000 (Rep. 25 to 30% of Nigeria total)
2 Vehicle annual rate of increase 100,000 vehicles per annum
3 Vehicular density 264 vehicles/ km of roadway Estimated at 30 vehicles/km National average
4 High capacity buses Approx 1,034
(BRT(Old) – 100
BRT(New –Nov.2015) – 434 LAGBUS – 500 Over 23,000 required at 1 bus/1,000 population
5 Mini buses (Danfo) Over 145,000 registered
6 High capacity buses (Molue) Less than 150 Being phased out
7 Taxis Estimated at around 7,000
8 Other vehicles Estimated at around 5,000
9 Motorcycles Now estimated around 100,000
Source: Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, 2015

In the mix of transportation in Lagos State, it is crucial to note the existing quantity of road infrastructure which has been acknowledged of carrying over 90% of daily passengers’ movement. The road characteristics are shown in Table 3.3.

Table 3.3: Level of Road Infrastructure in Lagos
S/N Classification/Ownership Length (km) Percentage
1 Federal Road 468 6
2 State Road 1,287 17
3 Local Government Roads 5,843 77
4 Total Road Network 7,598 100
5 Rail Network 30 –
Source: Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, 2015

The challenges in the transportation sector are multifaceted ranging from inadequacy of infrastructure, non-standardization of operations, poor management and technical capacities. The problems in the sector can be summarized in a statement extracted from the Lagos Development Plan 2012 -2015;

“The transport system is inadequate for the growing urban population in the State. All modes of transport have challenges. The bus public transport operation suffers from high levels of fragmentation and inadequate regulation. The rail transport has few existing rail corridors and the existing corridors are grossly under-utilised. In the water transport, there is no coherence amongst water transport regulatory agencies (LASWA, NIMASA and NIWA). In the non-motorized transport, infrastructure facilities are extremely limited throughout the State. Finally in the paratransit mode of transportation (okadas), there is indiscipline and regulations are not effectively enforced.”

With the formal public transportation contributing only 2.75% of daily mobility in the city, it is clear that these modes cannot meet the demand of the Lagos residents, hence semi-formal and informal operators from mini buses (danfo), motorcycles (okada), tricycles (keke Marwa) and boats (example of Makoko community) sectors will continue to fill the gap. Underlying the need to fill this mobility gap by the informal operators are unemployment and high poverty rate in the city and not necessarily as a choice career or grounded profession. The incursion into the transportation sector by the unemployed youth and other categories of the population who seek means of livelihood has contributed to traffic chaos and unethical behavior among the informal operators.

The road infrastructure is grossly inadequate to meet the trips demand of the residents. The road network density, put at 0.6 kilometres per 1000 population, is low. Alternatively, Lagos State has 80 cars per 1000 people, with a high car density of 264 vehicles per kilometer of roadway. The network’s efficiency is similarly low, with a limited number of primary corridors carrying the bulk of the traffic.

Inadequately designed interchanges, where they exist at all, provide only partial access to the primary network. Many tertiary roads play the roles of secondary ones. So far few junctions have been signalized while transport stations, where available, are in a disorganized state. To understand the level of inadequacy in the transport infrastructure in the State, Tables 4.1 and 4.2 provides comparative analysis for road and rail networks in similar large cities across the world.

Table 4.1: Comparative Analysis of Road Network between Lagos and other Large Cities
S/N City Population Length (km) Density (persons/km)
1 Lagos 23, 305,971 7,598 3,067
2 Tokyo Metropolis 13,282,271 24,431 544
3 Seoul Special City 10,440,000 7,689.2 1,358
Source: Urban Mobility Research Group, Heinrich Boll Stiftung, (UMRG,hbs) 2015

Table 4.2: Comparative Analysis of Rail Network between Lagos and other Large Cities
S/N City Population System Length (km) Density (persons/km) No. of Stations No. of Lines Daily Ridership
1 Lagos 23, 305,971 30 (220 Proposed by 2032) 776,867 11 (On-going) (7 Proposed) 132,000 (10,213,984 by 2032)
2 Seoul Capital Area 25,800,000 940 27,447 – 19 6,898,630
3 Shanghai 24,151,500 468
(877 Proposed) 51,606 303 12
(22 Proposed) 6,235,616
4 Beijing 21,148,000 456 (1,000 Proposed by 2020) 46,377 270 17
(22 Proposed) 6,739,726
5 London 8,615,246 402 (54% surface & 46% sub-surface) 21,430 270 11 3,205,479

6 New York 19,746,227 368(40% surface & 60% sub-surface) 53,658 468 24 4,561,643
7 Moscow 12,197,596 317.5 (Expanding to 467.5 by 2020) 38,418 190 12 6,545,205
8 Tokyo 13,216,000 310 42,632 290 13 8,498,630
9 Madrid + Metro 6,500,000 293 (Expanding to 317 by 2015) 22,184 300 13 1,720,547
10 Paris 2,249,975 218 10,320 300 16 4,175,342
Source:, 2013

Poor driver behavior, public transport operators’ indiscipline, unsafe vehicle conditions, uneven road conditions, poor street lighting, lack of pedestrian facilities and poor traffic enforcement all combine to produce an accident rate that is probably among the highest in the world. The environmental concerns include vehicle emissions, improper waste oil disposal and high traffic noise level. Expensive transport fares, high accident rates, unreliability of the transport system and forced evictions due to expansion of transport infrastructure constitute the major social issues.

Since over 70% of development in Lagos is in form of slum and informal settlements (Lagos Development Plan 2012 -2015), the land use pattern is also a reflection of informalities. Self allocated land system and self built housing system are predominant in the city with large scale consequential compromise of road infrastructure standard and delivery. Detailed observation of city architecture revealed that navigation in many communities can be most possible through low occupancy transport equipment and this explained proliferation of informal mini buses (danfo), motorcycles (okada), tricycles (keke Marwa) as major components of transportation in Lagos. The scenario leaves about 52% of households in Lagos (2,275,837 households) with lack of access to adequate transportation (Lagos Bureau of Statistics, 2013). Correction of land use pattern in many communities to accommodate expanded transport infrastructure are often through forced evictions.

Within the city of Lagos, there is obvious absence of organized private sector driven transport companies. The city transport landscape is largely dominated by self procured transport equipment such as mini buses (danfo), motorcycles (okada), tricycles (keke Marwa) and boats. There is no vibrant local or statewide transport policy that could stimulate, encourage or support organized private transport companies to operate and participate in the intra-city market despite the large population and huge daily mobility demand. The existing organized private transport companies operate intercity journeys with take-off points from individually owned transport stations.

The current transport modal network is not proportionally integrated. At the existing rail stations, there is lack of cohesiveness, orderliness and timeliness on the receptacle road transportation, where available. Rather than imposing signage that should provide guidance to the land transport station, arriving visitors and passengers at the city airport are greeted by multitude of individuals struggling to get passengers for their parked vehicles. There is obvious disconnection among all the modes within the city save for Ikorodu water transport terminal that offers pike and ride system.

Within the city, transport fare depends on certain factors such as the bargaining power of the passenger, the weather condition in the city, period of the day, condition of the vehicle and psycho-mood of the operator. There is no fare standardization within the system except for the recently introduced BRT and LAGBUS systems which currently accommodates less than 3% of daily mobility in the city.

The city of Lagos hosts petroleum products depots and provide warehouses for different organizations operating in the downstream sector of Nigerian oil and gas industry. Apart from large concentration of petroleum depot facilities in the city, especially in the Apapa axis, there is low pipe network coverage connecting the city to other parts of the country leaving the transportation of petroleum products to the haulage trucks, otherwise known as petroleum tankers. For most parts of the year, the consistence assembly of the trucks in Apapa contributed to rapid deterioration of roads and technically shut down of Apapa transport axis from other parts of Lagos.

The shutdown of Apapa transport axis regularly leads to diversion of traffic to arterial roads in the city including the three bridges over Lagos lagoon that are already congested. It is noteworthy that Lagos lagoon has three (3) bridges to serve more than 23 million people while Thames River in London has 34 bridges serving more than 8 million people.

In the recent years, the city has witnessed regular lock down, sometime up to six months in any particular year. This is due to perennial shortage of petroleum products which reduces mobility by keeping many vehicles off the road and formation of vehicular queues around petrol filling stations with attendant traffic bottleneck. Many of the filling stations are located along the primary and arterial corridors in the city.

The transport system characterized by inadequacy and poor infrastructure, proliferation of informal sector operators, weak modal integration, inefficient land use pattern, restricted network and absence of organized private sector operators will most possibly results in low cost recovery and inefficient collection systems. That appears to be the situation in Lagos as the rate of poverty in the city can be reflected in the transport equipment in the city portrayed by poor maintenance, low safety rate and poor quality service.

In the intra city transport market operations, there is one common factor both in the formal and informal sectors, lack of maintenance. This is clearly reflected in both the infrastructure and mobility equipment. Often, this manifest the sector as underdeveloped, compromise passengers’ safety and security, and contributes to the aesthetic depletion of the city, Lagos

There appear to be long standing disconnect between pedestrians and overhead pedestrian bridges. Apart from the inadequacy of the bridges in different parts of the city-state, the available ones are rarely utilized. In many cases, pedestrians are being compelled by different law enforcement agencies to use the bridges. The crossings of highways by the pedestrians are often part of the factors reducing free flow of traffic on major roads.

Vibrant transport policies and institutional framework is decisive to sustain the development of the sector and the economic growth in Lagos. The policies range from Federal Government of Nigeria established policies to Lagos State Government policies and laws which influence the operations and organization of transport system in the city, as outlined below;

The report was prepared in 2009 recognizing efficient transport system as a key factor in the socio-economic development of the nation and improving of transport infrastructure as a necessary pre-condition for achieving the Nigerian Government’s 20:20:20 Vision. The aim of the report is to evolve an integrated and sustainable transport system that is safe, intermodal and in line with global best practices by year 2020.

There are different types of instruments governing transportation in Lagos, but yet to be coalesced into a single transport policy. Notwithstanding, the Lagos State Development Plan 2012 – 2025 provides clear direction of government in transport sector. Chapter 8.3 of the plan outlined the state’s aim, objectives and targets for the transportation in Lagos.

The plan developed by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) is a strategic long-term path aimed at transforming the Lagos transport sector beyond its current challenges. The plan identifies possible transport infrastructure and services required for meeting travel demand by 2032, 7 years above the projections of Lagos State Development Plan 2012 – 2025.

The law cited as Lagos Road Traffic Law 2012 expanded the responsibility of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) on control and management of vehicular traffic in the State to include; general regulation of traffic on public highways, prohibition of certain mode of transportation on specified areas and regulation of conduct of operators, especially the drivers.

The Lagos Road Traffic Law 2012 has good intention of controlling and managing the vehicular traffic in the city-state but unfortunately it remains a stop gap measure towards resolving transportation problem in Lagos.

Many of the provisions of the law portray Lagos as a city under emergency rule where citizens are in extreme disagreement with government institutions. The provisions that offenders will forfeit their vehicles to the State which will in turn dispose the vehicle, after one month, failed to take into consideration the precarious poverty index of the residents of the city. In the process of using the law to outlaw the operations of motorcycle taxis (okadas) and tricycles (Keke Marwa), the situation becomes a keen struggle between policy’s declared illegality and livelihood of the citizens.

Since commencement of implementation in August 2012, it has set a situation whereby the city and its residents are in regular combat mode on transportation with high level of mutual suspicion rather than increase level of mutual collaboration. The law has continued to provoke variance between the State and the residents. Its implementation led to a protest by members of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, over the incarceration of a member at Badagry prison in May 2013, on allegation of traffic offence. The protest led to withdrawal of the case against the charged member by the State (The Guardian, 2013). Other alleged traffic rules violators were not so provident.

Section 38 of the law provided that Commissioner may empower any Authority to fix time table for stage carriages on any route, determine stopping times at stands and stopping places; and determine the days and hours during which stage carriages may ply for hire on any specified route among other responsibilities. This provision shows introduction of confusion into transportation in the city where any agency can be called upon to deal with sensitive and intelligence part of transportation.

Despite enormous demand from the residents on compliance, the law does not recognize transport infrastructure especially adequacy, conditions and quality of roads as part of traffic control and management problems as it completely exonerates the State and its officials from any compulsion to make this available to the residents. The law missed an opportunity to empower residents to demand accountability on damaged roads for long period of time.

The traffic law seeks to curb the excesses of informal operators and other classes of vehicles by prescribing jail term and exorbitant fine as penalty for traffic offence; however, it presented Lagos to any discerning investor as a potential conflict point between the city and its residents. If the city want to join the league of global cities, imbibe the principles of new urbanism, inclusive, compassionate and smart city, there is need to urgently amend the Lagos Road Traffic Law 2012.


At the heart of snail speed development in Lagos is over-centralization of tools and resources for development. Local Governments that ought to be at the center of development have been completely ostracized. To obtain disaggregated and vibrant city data, embark on local driven transport solution and to evolve sustainable and inclusive transport system in the city-state, complete devolution of power to Local Governments offer a pathway. Cities in City governance, administrative and management approach need to be considered.

The approach will confer chartered cities status on the existing 20 Local Governments with first level urban services including transportation while the existing 37 Local Council Development Areas will assume the status of cities with lower level services. The State Government will retain strategic direction, policies and service support while cities undertake service deliveries and city operations. A governance decentralization policy for Lagos State would be expected to provide full details on stakeholders, institutional framework, responsibilities and funding among other details.

The multiple roles of LAMATA as service provider, industry coordinator, fund warehouse and regulator are overwhelming for one institution. The authority can be unbundle into three institutions with LAMATA focusing on coordination and service delivery, Lagos Transport Safety and Standard Commission (LTSSC) can deal with industry wide standard, regulations, guidelines, equipment specification, emission control and consumer protection among other regulatory issues. LTSSC can absorb the current Vehicle Inspection Service. The third institution, Lagos Transport Fund (LTF) will mobilize, warehouse, grow and disburse the fund as appropriate.

It is important that at this stage of transportation in Lagos, LAMATA should begin vibrant engagement of local administrations by building their capacity to play significant roles in the future of transportation in Lagos.

Despite the existence of Lagos State Strategic Transport Master Plan, the Lagos State Road Traffic Law 2012 and the excerpt of Lagos Development Plan 2012 – 2025, there is need for holistic and broad Lagos State Transportation Policy that will aggregate all the stakeholders in the sector, roles and responsibilities of stakeholders, clear entry and exit points for potential operators and investors and transparent finance and funding mechanism for the sector. Also, the policy will outline the training need and approaches for all categories of players in the sector, transport infrastructure maintenance operation framework, and monitoring and evaluation strategies for the transportation sector in Lagos.

A key factor for the success of transport transformation in the city of Lagos is the redefinition of the city’s architecture. Retrofitting a 70% informal and slum city with a modern, smart and sustainable transportation system will be a complex task, hence, LAMATA should collaborate with the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency, Ministry of Housing, Lands Bureau, Ministry of the Environment and other relevant agencies to set forth the redevelopment of the city in an inclusive and participatory manner.

In the past 10 years, if Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA) has received considerable political, institutional and financial support from the Lagos State Government as compared to Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), transportation in Lagos would have improved tremendously while multifaceted problems confronting the sector today would have reduced significantly. LASURA large scale intervention would have re-organized many slum communities through upgrading and redevelopment with consequential increase in road and other transport infrastructure both in quantity and quality. Perhaps, the Lagos Road Traffic Law that threatened motorists and residents of the city would have been formulated in another inclusive manner considering the level of engagement between the residents of informal communities and LASURA.

It is instructive to note that while LASURA seeks to support, expand and improve on the livelihoods of the residents, LASTMA seeks to control, enforce and penalize the mobility of the residents.

In many instances, transport infrastructure project implementation under LAMATA has continued to maintain the policy of “no formal title, no compensation” for victims of transformation without taking into consideration that formal title has been severely restricted to property owners in the State. This policy has continued to promote social and economic inequality, recycle poverty, increase the number of disloyal citizens and threaten democratic principles.

Project implementation under LAMATA needs to imbibe the principle of improving the conditions of Project Affected Persons (PAP) (The World Bank, 2015) instead of leaving them in a precarious social and economic condition than they were before the commencement of the project.

To achieve this principle, LAMATA may spearhead the reengineering of compensation system in Lagos State and partner with relevant agencies to develop city wide resettlement policy.

As a matter of priority, LAMATA, in collaboration with the new Ministry of Employment and Wealth Creation, should develop a phasing plan for converting informal operators into formal system. The plan will outline phase out strategies for Mini buses (Danfos), Motorcycles (Okadas), Tricycles (Keke Marwa) and Boats. The phase out plan should be devoid of autocratic approach which many governments in the cities of developing countries usually adopted. The plan should be participatory which all the stakeholders in the sector will be committed to and exhibit high level of transparency in its implementation.

Parts of the plan may include alternative opportunities for the operators in the informal sector, entry models into the formal sector, type and specifications of new transport equipment expected in the city, platforms for participation in the new formal system, incentive strategies and training opportunities for the operators with a view to share larger vision of the city.

If the State will consider non-combatant phase out and conversion of informal operators to formal system, expansion and utilization of existing Transport Fund will become expedient. The fund should be expanded to explore opportunities in the informal sector by raising fund through transport trade associations. Certain percentage of each association monthly income between 5% and 10% should be remitted to the fund which should be reinvested to the sector in supporting the conversion of informal operators to formal system. The fund should focus among other areas training, equipment procurement and maintenance, support mechanism and certification.

Apart from Report on Transportation in the Vision 20:20 that outlined the roadmap for petroleum pipe network, all transportation plans in Lagos State does not considered pipeline network in the overall strategic direction for transportation in Lagos. Perhaps, the conclusion of the plans is that the pipe networks are the remit of Federal Government of Nigeria.

However, the pipe network triggered problem has technically knocked out Apapa from the road network in Lagos with consistence reverberating effect on traffic situation in the city of Lagos. LAMATA can begin to have overwhelming influence in the sector with strong collaboration with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and other relevant agencies in the sector.

Resolving perennial gridlock at Apapa will be a major milestone for transportation in Lagos. Pending the resolution, the Lagos Ferry Services Company and its franchisees may increase its fleet around Apapa to relieve the road sector.

To bridge the huge transport infrastructure gap in the city, it is imperative that the government considered massive and transparent investment in infrastructure. It will be wrong to conclude that LAMATA alone can provide transport infrastructure in a city of more than 23 million people and large scale transport infrastructure deficit. Hence, it will require extensive collaboration with both local and international stakeholders especially the local administrations, private infrastructure investors through transparent and accountable Public Private Partnership, development partners and organized private sector transport operators.

In the last public statement by the new Governor of Lagos State in June 2016, he affirmed that the part of Lagos Urban Rail Network, Blue Line (Okokomaiko to Marina) will commence operation in 2016. As at date, there is no clear information to members of the public on the operational framework for the system. It is incumbent on LAMATA to take urgent steps in realizing the following or making the information on them available, if the rail operation is commencing in 2016.

(i) The identity, board and managerial framework, capacity and mandate of the institution that will drive the operation of the rail system; LAMATA, Eko Rail Network or Lagos Rail (a newly proposed name in this study)

(ii) Types of train and schedule of operation (movement timetable to be printed and circulated in Lagos) and types of services that will be available

(iii) Price schedule, types of tickets, terms and conditions for buying tickets, modes of payments and locations to purchase tickets,

(iv) Safety information

(v) Consumer protection and feedback mechanism

(vi) Stations’ operation schedule

As transport remain a vital factor for driving social and economic growth of the city, the current infrastructure and equipment maintenance framework cannot support the system. With the emerging new initiatives and expansion in the sector, it is expedient to reposition the maintenance component to be able to play vibrant supportive roles in the sector.

This can be achieved by providing comprehensive training programs focusing on the bottom of the ladder maintenance personnel. Such personnel will include existing artisans from different mechanic workshops across the city, converting Danfo Drivers and Conductors, Okada and Keke Marwa Operators among other personnel. Also, there is need to upgrade the existing mechanic workshops with a view to repositioning them for emerging opportunities in the sector. Upgrading can be achieved in phases with categorization of workshops as training and upgrading can be supported through Transport Fund.

Specific details, processes and procedures are expected to be captured in the suggested Lagos State Transport Policy.

The face of transportation is changing in Lagos since the intervention of LAMATA in 2002, but significant milestones are still required to be covered in providing adequate and effective transportation for the city of Lagos. One major factor that will sustain the relevancy and operations of LAMATA is for the agency to be completely insulated from nepotism and strengthen its meritocracy principle of recruiting its personnel.

The recently signed Public Private Partnership to delivering fourth mainland bridge is a right step, but efforts must be made to ensure that the project becomes platform for wealth creation for Project Affected Persons (PAP) especially people that hold informal assets along the bridge right of way. The project should not translate to the story of miseries and woes for people living in precarious condition as witnessed under previous administration during the implementation of similar projects in the past.

Also, the attempt to introduce well fitted Medium Occupancy Buses to replace over 145,000 Low Occupancy Buses (Danfos) is a welcome development. However, this can be achieved in phases considering the huge number involved, status of many feeder roads and the impact on the commuters.

The initial non-combatant characteristic of the current administration at the beginning of term in May 2015 is a great asset which the city can build upon to begin the redefinition of how transportation and other services will be delivered to the residents of the city.

The research project on transportation, housing and other urban development processes was fully funded by Heinrich Boll Stiftung, Nigeria. The author works with Dr. Taofik Salau, Richard Unuigboje and Mayowa Oluwaseun of the University of Lagos. The research was coordinated by Fabienne Hoelzel while LAMATA offered technical support.

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