By Casmir Igbokwe
The robbers were about three in number. They flashed their torchlight inside cars as they moved from one vehicle to the other. It was on a Friday night on Isolo-Cele axis of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. There was heavy traffic. When they got to this particular brand new Rav 4, they saw a woman at the back. They also noticed some bags and phones. That was when problem started.
The boys knocked on the window where the woman was sitting. She was asleep. They rudely woke her up with a bang on her window. The glass splintered everywhere in the car. They tried to open her door. But she woke up suddenly and instinctively attempted to resist them. She had to soft-pedal when she saw someone holding her driver hostage with a gun. One of the boys beside her drew a long knife menacingly and drew a line on her arm with the knife. She was helpless. She shouted and shouted but other commuters appeared too frightened to intervene.
Within seconds, she lost her phones, laptop, and a bag containing debit cards and some other valuables. Before the woman could fathom what hit her, the criminals zoomed off on a bike.
To worsen matters, the victim could not block her accounts and phone lines because it was a weekend. Even when she went to the mobile phone operators the following day to block her lines, they asked her to provide police report and affidavit. I need not recount what transpired at the police station when she went there to make a report. As the bank and mobile phone operators dilly-dallied, the hoodlums succeeded in making some withdrawals from her accounts. She was traumatised to say the least.
This incident happened a few weeks ago. At the centre of it all is a senior manager (name withheld) of a multinational company in Lagos. She had left her office at Gbagada area of Lagos some minutes past 5pm but was trapped in traffic until about 9.30pm (over 4 hours) when the incident happened. Ordinarily, this is a journey of about 30 minutes or less.
The question is: Where are our security men? Immediate past governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, provided security at some construction sites like Oshodi in his time. The police used to patrol such major construction zones and some traffic flashpoints on bikes. Today, this security measure appears to have been relaxed even as Okada riders have a free rein on many of these roads.
Innocent Lagosians are the ones who suffer this anomaly. And the attacks happen almost every day. Some flashpoints in Lagos include Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway especially between the long bridge and Berger Bus stop, Mile Two-Badagry Expressway, Third Mainland Bridge, etc. The attacks usually occur early morning between 5.30 am and 6am and late evening between 7pm and 10pm.
The criminals usually take advantage of Lagos traffic jams occasioned sometimes by bad roads. From Agege to Ajao Estate; from Ikoyi to Victoria Island; from Isolo to Oshodi; from Apapa to Surulere, Ejigbo, Ikeja, Ogba and Okota, the potholes on many roads have turned to craters.
Some inner roads that should have served as alternative routes to commuters are also in a terrible state. For instance, Onitire Road which connects Ago Palace Way through Lateef Adegboyega Street to Amuwo Odofin Bridge is a no-go area. Even Ire Akari Estate which should serve as an alternative route to the deplorable sections of Cele Express to Oke Afa Road is itself in a sorry state.
Some of these roads have their drainage channels blocked such that whenever it rains or drizzles, flood takes over. Some parts of Lagos Island are like that. Ago Palace Way by Community Road junction is another typical example. Nobody bothers to check the flooding because we don’t have maintenance culture. That is how many of the roads degenerate.
Lagos was not like this before. In colonial and early independence era, the city was orderly and clean. Most of the streets were lined with trees. Then, planning and management were the hallmark of the city. Today, slums, garbage, congestion, traffic snarls, poor sanitation, bad roads have taken over. Many of the streetlights the previous administration restored in many parts of the state are no longer working.
It is too early to judge the state governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu. It is barely five months he took over from Ambode. But Lagosians are impatient lots. Many of them are angry and are already comparing the present regime with its predecessors.
You do not blame the people. He who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. Long hours on traffic inflict them with debilitating health challenges. They spend more on transport and repair of damaged vehicles. Manufacturers lose an estimated N20 billion annually as a result of bad roads.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) added some perspectives to the issue. It called the governor’s 100 days in office a charade and a celebration of failure and hopelessness. The best the party scored him was 35 per cent. “In struggling to mention achievements, the governor claimed the renovation of primary health centres and construction of 14 classrooms. These are indeed projects funded by NGO and Redeemed Church. The governor who claimed to have installed functional WiFi in Lagos, however, could not mention those areas; but only promised to do so,” the Lagos PDP stated.
Of course, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would not agree with this assessment. According to the party, the PDP is an attention seeker. It claimed the governor had fixed over 150 roads in 100 days and had also done very well in waste management and education sector.
Recall that last month, Sanwo-Olu declared a state of emergency on Lagos roads and ordered massive rehabilitation. A statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, indicated that the government had engaged eight construction companies to tackle the repair work. They are Julius Berger, Hitech, Arab Contractors, Metropolitan Construction, Slavabogu Construction, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), Rajaf Foundation Construction and RCF Nigeria Ltd. The Lagos State Public Works Corporation (LSPWC) will complement the efforts of these major contractors with repairs of 116 inner roads across the state.
Also, Sanwo-Olu restated the commitment of his administration to promoting ideas that will ensure Lagos remains what he calls “Africa’s model megacity and melting point of business and industrial activities in the sub-region.” He said so at the opening ceremony of the 2019 Lagos International Trade Fair last week.
Lagos cannot be a model megacity with filth and poor infrastructure. Since it boasts of also being the melting point of business and industrial activities, the state should provide some incentives to companies. It should justify the huge taxes it collects from them by providing the relevant amenities and security.
Governing the fifth largest economy in Africa is not a tea party. To succeed, Sanwo-Olu should understudy such ex-governors as Lateef Jakande. As the first civilian governor of Lagos State between 1979 and 1983, Jakande achieved so much that he was nicknamed Action Governor. His achievements cut across road construction and rehabilitation and mass housing estates.
The governor should also face repair of roads squarely. Even if it is the only thing he achieves in one year in office, 22 million Lagosians will love him for that. He should intensify efforts to reduce the pressure on these roads by developing rail and water transport.
We have not forgotten the third tier of government. Being closer to the people, the local governments should help out in road rehabilitation and maintenance. They should not just exist to pay only salaries. They should engage in developmental projects that impact on the lives of the people.
On their part, residents should help government by observing sanitation laws. Indiscriminate dumping of refuse into drainage channels, for instance, will lead to blockage and the consequent flooding and damage to the roads.
Residents should also help themselves by being security conscious. It is not possible for the police to be everywhere at the same time. The traffic robbers usually target areas where there is no police presence. Hence, citizens should devise extra security measures to protect themselves.
Part of these measures is to keep some valuables like laptops and phones out of the prying eyes of robbers. Instead, keep an old or non-functional phone close by as a decoy. Hand that one over to them when they come knocking on your window. Finally, put every other valuable like bags inside the booth while driving. And try to avoid the flashpoints of attacks and use alternative routes if available.
Re: Nigeria Customs offensive against car dealers
It is only in Nigeria that government kills business with harsh policies and draconian laws, and complains of insecurity, unemployment, cyber-crime, etc. In better climes, government encourages business but reverse is the case in Nigeria. Most of the problems bedeviling this country are self-created. A responsible government always considers the effects of its policies on the masses, but that has eluded us. Or is it deliberate or targeted on a particular region? There was a country.
- Smart, Abakaliki, +2348134774884
The Customs boss is going too far. Some Customs crackdowns are always targeted at one particular tribe (Igbo) businesses which is a very bad omen to the nation.
- Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535
- First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, November 4, 2019.