Lagosians, yesterday, faced the reality of the new normal in commuting between the mainland and the island in the country’s commercial capital on the first working day since the partial six-month closure of the Third Mainland Bridge at the weekend.
It was a tough experience, better imagined than tasted for commuters, as traffic build-ups and stunted vehicular movements were recorded, not only on the bridge, but also on almost all the identified alternative routes across the metropolis.
And the lamentations are mounting from commuters over the gridlock, hike in fares, and dreadfully, a resurgence of traffic robberies.
There were reports of robberies on the alternative routes as motorists were attacked by hoodlums who smashed their vehicles to gain access and extort money and valuables.
A Twitter user, Laide Farawe Olayiwola, @LaideFarawe, narrated her ordeal: “Traffic robbers on Third Mainland Bridge. Some cars held in traffic were robbed shortly before getting to the Ring Road at 3:45p.m. The criminals were three. This is just the first traffic day on Third Mainland Bridge and the crime has begun.”
Another user, @SomtoSocial, said: “A robbery report on Third Mainland Bridge is currently true. Robbers are smashing windows and gaining access to cars, please stay safe, relevant authorities please take note.”
Also Victor, @ndulewe, said: “The traffic as a result of the third mainland bridge closure is absolutely insane. Awolowo Road, Obalende, Keffi, Sura, Osborne and all linking roads are blocked. No joy at all.”
A motorist, Solomon Abiodun said: “It is the same experience on the Mazamaza-Alakija section of the Lagos-Badagry expressway every night. There is usually traffic on both sides inward Alakija and outward Mile 2. These boys with cutlasses usually would demand you drop something for them or get your car vandalised. You are then forced to cooperate when you imagine that what you are parting with is a small fraction of what would be used to repair the car.”
A journalist with ThisDay newspapers, Raheem Akingbolu, gave a vivid account of his experience on Sunday night on his Facebook page. He wrote: “Yesterday was hell and I would live to remember it for a bad experience. Like myself, it was also the same for many Lagosians who were either robbed or thrown into anxiety for hours along Ojuelegba-Stadium-Barack Road en-route Apapa and Lagos Island. It was a flipside of the bridge closure and we all saw it coming.
“Perhaps an oversight on the part of the government was security of lives and properties of residents who would get trapped in traffic as a result of the pressure on Ikorodu Road and other alternative routes.
“I had expected my trip to Apapa from Ogba to take approximately 1hr.15 minutes. I left Ogba by 6.30p.m. and got to Fadeyi before 7p.m. I heaved a sigh of relief, not knowing that I had just begun a journey of trauma and apprehension. By the time I got to Ojuelegba, it had almost become a standstill and shortly after the bridge, it came into a total lockdown.
“Another relief came when I saw few armed mobile policemen jumping out of their vans to go and clear the road for their bosses. 30 minutes after, nothing changed and they returned without success. After spending about three hours, the convoy saw a small opportunity to turn. On escaping, one drove against traffic, the other discontinued the journey and turned back.
“Meanwhile, scores of bad boys were on the prowl, waiting for appropriate time to launch attack. It was barely 15 minutes after the convoy left and we were approaching Alaka. From the other side of the road, about 12 men marched towards the traffic. In a jiffy, they struck. They took on the vehicles randomly. They didn’t plead with motorists to wind down glasses or surrender keys. They helped themselves by smashing the glasses with hammer and their glittering cutlasses.
“The exercise lasted for few minutes, but they left many families in tears. A young couple was not so lucky. No, they were not killed but the operation left their one-and-half-year-old baby in distress. At a tender age, the baby girl saw gun pointed at her parents as she woke up with the noise of the smashed glasses. While other victims were counting their losses, a few of us moved towards the distressed family to help pick one after the other, particles of glasses on the body of the innocent girl. A young man who struggled with the bad boys escaped death by the whiskers. He struggled with the guys and escaped, leaving his ‘visitors’ in the car and the engine running.
“At the end, five vehicles were touched at our spot with many losing wrist watches, gold accessories, phones, wallets containing ATM and ID cards and cash.”
The Lagos State government has, however, commended commuters for the understanding displayed towards ensuring the free-flow of traffic through the observation of traffic guidelines issued on the partial closure and use of alternative routes since the closure of the bridge.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Works and Infrastructure, Aramide Adeyoye, gave the commendation while commenting on the state of alternative routes saying, “the traffic has been fair and smooth, this could be attributed to the support and understanding commuters have displayed through the observation of traffic guidelines and the use of alternative routes which are in top condition”.
Adeyoye gave assurance that the synergy and collaboration between officials of Federal and State agencies – the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), and the Nigeria Police, as well as other relevant government agencies would be sustained during the period of closure.