The Lagos Traffic Situation: Implications on a Thriving Economy

“Go-slow” as traffic is popularly described as in Nigeria has almost become a norm. In fact, it is taken as a daily routine.
Traffic is more pronounced in certain states such as Lagos, which is economic hub of Nigeria and having a population of approximately 21 million. According to Forbes, Lagos is the 3rd worst city to drive in globally with about 60% congestion.

One would wonder if perhaps Lagosians have committed a grave and unforgivable sin and the ultimate punishment is traffic? The average Lagosian spends about 4 hours in traffic every day. Paul, who lives in Surulere leaves his house by 5:00am and gets to work in Victoria Island by 8:00am and Amaka who lives in Ajah leaves home by 6am and gets to work in Marina by 9am.

Now let’s analyse this. Someone traveling to Ghana would have arrived at their destination, taken a nap and probably eaten within that time. Amusing, right?.

The cause of this traffic congestion is due to simple facts, one of which is the number of cars compared to the available roads. In a recent article, we analysed Nigerians’ excessive love for cars, the bad roads and the lack of initial planning of the roads, lack of a good transport system among other details. A case study would be the Lekki-Epe expressway which does not have many alternative routes for vehicles trying to get to and from the mainland. Commuters go through a replica of hell on this route on a daily basis.
The implications of the traffic are:
• Stress
• Decreased productivity
• Increased vehicle operating costs
• Decreased annual revenue

Stress: Traffic induced stress could be responsible for several health issues such as high-blood pressure. Exhaust fumes from vehicles contain certain hydrocarbons particularly benzene which has dangerous consequences to our health both immediately and over the long term. As a well-known carcinogen, benzene is known to severely impact bone marrow, which could lead to a drop in the number of red blood cells, leading to anaemia.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), benzene can cause cancer of the blood-forming organs (or leukemia) if one is exposed over a long period of time.

Decreased productivity: The saying that time is money is very practical with the issues of time lost in traffic that could have been spent in doing work to gain money. The most up to date data available on the costs of congestion in Lagos is from a research study conducted by ROM Transportation Engineering between year 2007 and 2009. According to Olorunpomi (2010) the research estimated the costs of congestion to be $1 billion (about N160 billion) yearly. The research concludes further that Lagosians collectively lose 3 billion hours to traffic congestions yearly, and that if that time were reduced by 20 per cent, it would save the state at least $1 billion (about N150 billion) yearly. Since the time this report was released about 9 years ago, the situation has worsened by at least 50%.

Increased Vehicle Operating Cost: While your mechanic is smiling to the bank with increased visits to his/her work shop, your car is in a lot of pain and your bank account is crying. The increased number of hours vehicles spends on the road translates to a higher cost of wear and tear on the vehicles and higher cost of maintenance.

Decrease annual revenue: All the points above just translate to decreased annual revenue, from spending more to maintain the vehicle, fuel being wasted in traffic, in addition to cost health checks (hospital bills are not cheap).

Lagos State continues to be the beautiful bride of the nation and indeed in Africa, being Africa’s 5th largest economy.However, the State would do so much better if the traffic issues could be addressed. Every day, researchers come up with ideas on how this unpalatable trend could be addressed once and for all and while no permanent solution seems to be in sight, Lagosians have learnt to adjust to the situation and continually roll will the punches. The question however remains: For how long? Only time will tell.