Written by the Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspaper
The desire to give Lagos a world-class transportation system apparently informed the recent disclosure by Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode that he intends to remove the yellow mini-buses popularly called Danfo from the city’s roads by the end of the year. The Danfo experience in Lagos is a cocktail of sadness and joy. But there is no denying that the city deserves better and the government’s plan is in order.
Daily, commuters go through hell in the hands of miscreant Danfo drivers and their assistants who molest, assault and even rob at will. Ambode’s move should therefore be encouraged if only to curb hooliganism and touting, as well as sanitise intra-city transportation.
Although, Danfo has, over the years, become an integral part of Lagos city transport, phasing them out would create a more decent environment befitting of a modern city. But apart from the mini-buses, the menace of tricycles and motorcyclists should, at the same time, be looked into with a view to phasing them out too.
Governor Ambode made his disclosure while speaking at the 14th annual lecture of the Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL) held at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos, with the theme: ‘Living Well Together, Tomorrow: The Challenge of Africa’s Future Cities.’
He explained the significance of the infrastructural projects his administration had been executing in strategic sectors of Lagos economy, noting that they were directed at up-scaling the status of the state.
According to him, the establishment of massive lay-bys, rehabilitation of inner-city roads and construction of flyovers in different parts of the state were designed to end the challenges of urbanisation.
He said the main objective of his administration is to make Lagos the third largest economy in Africa from the current fifth position. To realise this prime goal, he insisted that the yellow buses would be removed for a more efficient and well-structured world-class mass transportation system that would facilitate movement.
He decried the present connectivity mode in the state, which he said is not acceptable and befitting for a modern city of Lagos’ status. The solution, he stressed, is to banish yellow buses this year.
There is no doubt that for decades, Lagos has been battling with a chaotic transport system in which all manners of rickety vehicles operate. There are few cities in the world where such chaos exists as it does in Lagos.
But the state government wants to turn things around by modernising the transportation system and infrastructure. The bus-stops are being modernised. Roads are widened, among others. These are commendable efforts that should be stepped up.
From the colonial times up to the 60s, train services operated efficiently and movement was hassle-free in Lagos due to low population. But the situation has been chaotic since the 70s, when mini-lorries popularly called Bolekeja and Molue dominated intra-city transportation amid high influx of people into the city. Efforts to improve the situation have been on but hardly enough to catch up with an ever growing population.
Interestingly, while the old rickety Bolekeja has totally been phased out, Molue is also on the verge of extinction, having been banned from commuting into Lagos Island.
Over the time, the Lagos Municipal transport, which operated in the 70s and 80s, has been replaced with the Bus Rapid Transfer System with modern, clean buses which started in 2007.
The train service that practically came to a stop for some time is being revived. The Lagos Monorail track lines are being constructed in order to integrate train services the overall city’s overall mode of transport. The situation will definitely change when these plans are accomplished.
The focus at the moment is on the infrastructure. The infrastructure facilities in Lagos need up-grading given the teeming population in the city. Hopefully, the plan is part of the Lagos Master Plan to make for integrated urban re-development framework.
Ambode is working very hard. But a lot still needs to be done. The endemic traffic gridlock in Lagos shows the fundamental defects inherent in the city’s transportation system due to planlessness. Dilapidated inner city roads in particular. Lack of effective mass transit system in form of rail and water transport has contributed to making movement in Lagos a nightmare.
One critical mode of transportation that has not been fully explored is water transportation. Interestingly, Lagos is surrounded by water but unlike other cities around the world with the same advantage, where water transportation is fully integrated into the mode of transport, water transportation is neglected in Lagos.
At the moment, some private operators are involved in water transportation with rickety and sub-standard boats that expose users to risk. That explains the frequent accidents on Lagos waterways. The state government should therefore integrate water transportation into its overall transport plan and private investors should be encouraged to come in.
Lagos is the fastest growing city in Africa with a growth spurt of 77 people per hour. That calls for long term planning which, happily, the current leadership seems to appreciate.