ASWANI market, situated in Isolo Local Council Area of Lagos State, largely holds every Tuesday. It is certainly not the biggest market in the state but prides itself as a major point of sales of fairly used items and at very cheap prices. The market equally holds great prospects for the council, the state and the nation at large, in terms of revenue generation. However, commercial activities are not limited to the approved location of the market. Some sides of the major road, leading to it and even adjoining ones, are usually turned to mobile shops. In short, some of the traders preferred making their fortunes on the road rather than securing and trading at convenient and very safe spaces within the market. The commercial abuses, especially the cited illegal mobile shops, are just one side of the growing ugly scenarios at Aswani market as well as its connecting road. Some of the adjourning routes have been converted to illegal truck parks. The worst hit part is the highly dilapidated route, connecting commuters to the popular 5-Star Junction located along the ever busy Oshodi/Apapa Expressway.
Lagos is the commercial nerve of West Africa and practically, must witness every form of economic activity. In short, the truck drivers, on a daily basis, move million tonnes of goods into and out of the state. Available reports, buttressed by some trusted experts, however indicate that there is nothing that could be described as modern and befitting parking lots for trucks in the state. Interestingly, while Lagos is obviously not making provision for parking lots or alternatives for commercial trucks, the void is turning to blessing in disguise for both the government and even private investors in neighbouring Ogun State. The latter’s owned parks are reportedly raking in N120 million, monthly, as truck parking fees. It is also projected that Oyo State might take advantage of the same opportunity in raising her revenue base. The indiscriminate parking of trucks on Aswani market road and adjoining roads is possibly what is fueling the unchecked activities of commercial motorcycle and tricycle riders on the cited routes.
The riders have equally taken over the ever busy 7 & 8 Bus-stop along Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road. The same ugly scenario is further witnessed along Canoe Road, leading to NNPC Road in Ejigbo as well as Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road. It is also very clear that some of the dilapidated portions on Aswani Market Road and adjoining routes serves as the best strategic point for policemen to mount illegal checkpoints and extort commercial drivers, under the guise of checking relevant details of vehicles. It is alleged that every commercial driver plying the route must pay five hundred naira on Fridays. On other days, the price, allegedly, ranges from one hundred naira to three hundred naira, depending on the bargaining power of the affected driver.
The leadership of Isolo local government has clearly turned blind eyes to the excesses of the motorcycle and tricycle riders. It is obvious that it is mostly concerned about raising revenue, especially using task-force in arresting and fining commercial motorists abruptly stopping, dropping off or picking up passengers. The enforcement team is also impounding and imposing heavy fines on private vehicles parked at so-called non-designated areas. It is further very clear that the council’s approved ticket issuers and revenue collectors are clearly more concerned about meeting targets through the motorcycle and tricycle riders. It therefore stands that other commuters must either patiently navigate through the “traffic mess” or commute through alternative routes.
It cannot equally be overstressed that the indiscriminate parking of trucks coupled with unchecked activities of commercial motorcycle and tricycle riders have aggravated the usual life-choking traffic situation on Aswani Market Road. The gridlock also spilled to adjoining roads and ultimately negatively impacted on the state’s revenue drive. It is estimated that Lagos loses billions of naira due the unaddressed hydra-headed traffic congestion while the nation at large is said to be losing trillions of revenue, annually. Furthermore, the traffic gridlock on Aswani Market Road and other roads across the state is not only leading to economic, environmental and man-hour loss. Countless accidents and loss of lives have been recorded. It would be recalled that some lives and property were lost when a trailer recently fell off Ojuelegba Bridge. Some residents of Lagos State that managed to escape the torment of spending hours on traffic equally have agonising tales to tell about traffic robberies and extortions. Unsurprisingly, recent data, credited to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, revealed that road accidents are the second highest source of violent death in Nigeria.
Regrettably, the state government’s interventions such as using the Lagos State Environmental Task-Force in checking abuses on roads, including Aswani Market Road, seem not to be yielding desired results. The enforcement team appeared to be more interested in “forcefully” dislodging perceived offenders. There are equally reported cases of violent clashes between the task-force and commercial drivers as well as cyclists, resulting in countless number of casualties. There are further reported cases of the enforcement team enriching themselves by extorting commercial truckers, private cars drivers as well as motorcycle and tricycle riders. Meanwhile, it is thoughtful and commendable that the incumbent leadership of Lagos State is rolling up its sleeves to restore sanity to roads across the state and ultimately guarantee a “Working Lagos.” It is however very obvious that some of its tough choices such as setting up the Lagos State Environmental Task-Force are increasing the pains and cries of road users rather than adding values. The leadership of Isolo Local Government equally needs to look beyond revenue generation and rise to its responsibilities. It urgently needs to improve roads under its jurisdiction as well as mobilise its personnel to direct and ensure that traffic moves smoothly. The police authorities must equally devise means of arresting and prosecuting bad eggs with its ranks and files, mounting illegal roadblocks.
- Odiaka, a media practitioner, lives in Lagos.
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