After a careful study of traffic congestion in 390 cities across 48 countries, a 2017 Index report by Tom Tom, a global leader in traffic management, reveals that Lagos is no longer among world’s worst cities in terms of traffic congestion.
According to the report, Africa recorded 15 per cent increase in traffic congestion between 2015 and 2016, while North America had five per cent, Europe nine per cent, Asia and Oceanic 12 per cent and South America seven per cent. When Africa traffic position is juxtaposed with the rest of the world, there was 15 per cent increase for Africa and 10 per cent for the rest of the world. The implication of the report is that many African cities are yet to imbibe positive driving culture and standard traffic laws with efficient and functional traffic management institutions as other countries of the world.
For Lagos State, the new position is a reflection of the huge resources that the state government, over the years, has invested into traffic management. Current positive traffic signals from across the state is not a feat achieved through miracles, but many a product of years of research, rigorous planning, human capacity and institutional building, massive investment in roads infrastructure, focused leadership and resolute political will to attain a gridlock free city.
The arrow head of this new traffic situation in Lagos is the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) which was established in 2000. Since inception, LASTMA has been working tirelessly to fulfill its mandate of managing the obviously tough task of managing traffic in the state. Though Lagos has the smallest landmass in the country, Lagos, no doubt, has the most challenging traffic situation in the country.
With over three million cars and 100,000 commercial vehicles on the roads (when the national average is 11 vehicles per kilometre), Lagos daily records an average of 227 vehicles per every kilometre of roads. This scenario makes it imperative for the administration in the state to vigorously pursue scientific transportation management, hence the creation of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA). According to the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), out of the 10.6 million vehicles registered in the country in 2016, over three million are in Lagos plying 9,100 roads. This huge vehicular presence is further complicated by the unregulated activities of over 200,000 minibuses, thousands of commercial motorcycles and tricycles coupled with influx of over 10, 000 people daily to the city for various reasons.
Since inception, LASTMA has been working tirelessly to promote sanity and safety on Lagos roads. However, while the methods being deployed by LASTMA have yielded results in certain areas, a few have not really achieved expected results. One of such is the enforcement approach which is almost counterproductive and as such yields limited results. It is in view of this perceived shortcoming that the current administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode began the comprehensive overhauling of traffic management system in the state with a view to repositioning LASTMA to embrace 21st century traffic control mechanism. With the new development, LASTMA has jettisoned the outdated approach to traffic management.
Consequently, LASTMA has developed a new traffic control and enforcement protocol which is firmly premised on civility. The result is that LATMA officials now deemphasise vehicle apprehension (except where extremely necessary), unwarranted rash decisions in towing of vehicles and indiscriminate imposition of fines. The introduction of Automated Booking Machine was also part of this new approach to traffic management in the state. To really ensure that LASTMA has the required human resources to function in this new direction, various training programmes and other incentives have been made available to its officials while a 24/7 telephone lines to accommodate public complaints and suggestions have also been provided.
At present, LASTMA is working on how to establish a mutually benefiting working relationship with members of the public. To re orientate and change public perception about the agency, it has re invigorated its Public Affairs and Enlightenment Departments. Additionally, the establishment of LASTMA Public Community Relation Committee is to create a platform for the public to make input and get involved in traffic control and management at the local level. It is also to enable the public interface with the agency at the grassroots level.
The introduction of documentation procedure, where recalcitrant motorists are booked and given a grace period of payment and defaulters apprehended at home through the information on the motor vehicle database is a civil method of bringing offenders to book. The logic is to cause minimum discomfort to the members of the public, not to deny motorists crucial use of their vehicles, reduce man-hours being expended on forceful enforcement and add human face to law enforcement in the state. As part of the holistic approach to decongesting traffic on the road, the state government is working untiringly to fix dilapidated roads across the state.
No doubt, traffic enforcement in any clime is a daunting and arduous task. Naturally, man abhors what would curtail and impede their freedom. This is more prevalent in our environment where impunity reigns. It is these un-checkmated freedom that incapacitates free flow of traffic, creates and degenerates into disorderliness, chaos and accidents on our roads. To sustain and build on current successes in traffic management in the state, motorists, commuters, pedestrians and, indeed, all stakeholders must cooperate with LASTMA officials and other traffic agencies. The public should desist from attacking, maiming and killing LASTMA officials. They are members of the society who have chosen in spite of the hazardous nature of the task, to keep traffic moving. We must encourage them!
Hassan is Head, Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department, LASTMA.