Nigeria: Relieving Traffic in Lagos – Spatial Reorganization Needed

The Hon. Commissioner for Transport in Lagos, who is a transportation sector professional, should strive to bring greater, more rapid improvements to the whole traffic situation across Lagos. This will help solidify the impressive successes so-far recorded at the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA).

– Government should ensure the completion and sustainability of the proposed fourth mainland bridge by ensuring that the project is properly backed up by relevant laws and all stakeholders are carried along in the process.

– Government should embark on civic education to create awareness about roles and duties of the citizens in ensuring free-flowing traffic.

– Government should strengthen the existing support mechanism for road maintenance and quick response to traffic de-congestion efforts.


Traffic congestion in Lagos is widely viewed as a growing problem. This is a challenge for many cities across the world because vehicular traffic in urban areas grows faster than the capacity of the transportation system. Congestion is expected at certain periods but beyond a certain level, the attendant costs to social and economic activities could threaten a city’s viability as a decent place to live, visit and conduct business.

Lagos, like other megacities around the world confronts other urban challenges including crime, inadequate service provisions in health, education and water, etc. Unlike many other well managed cities, however, recent efforts to improve traffic management in Lagos have delivered only some results, leaving much room for improvement in the years ahead.

In recent times, successive governments in Lagos have devised means to relieve traffic congestion within the metropolis. These include the highly successful mass transit or Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system from mile 12 to TBS. This has now been extended from Ikorodu to TBS. Also, the water ways have been opened up for private boat operators especially in the Ikorodu-Lekki-Victoria Island and Marina-Apapa axes. In addition, the Lagos rail mass transit system, which is 35km-long with seven colour-coded lines, is being developed.

The Blue line is already under construction with six more planned (Red, Green, Yellow, Purple, Brown and Orange lines). More ambitious is the recently unveiled plan for a Fourth Mainland Bridge, with an MoU involving the Lagos state government and operating and financing partners being signed in early June 2016. The primary goal of these massive investments in the transport sector is to ensure free flow of traffic, road safety and support to social and economic development.

Micro and macro challenges

The macro level factors causing traffic grid in Lagos include land-use patterns, employment patterns, income levels, car ownership trends, infrastructure investment, regional economic dynamics, and other factors. The micro level factors include large numbers of people and freight wanting to move at the same time, and too many vehicles plying limited roads.

The micro level factors are easily dealt with because they are mostly human factors and possible to address through discipline and effective enforcement. Dealing with the macro level factors require more critical thinking and involvement of all stakeholders. It may call for huge investments in new infrastructure and transport technologies, enacting appropriate laws and reviewing long-term strategies that are geared toward making commuting better for all.

Besides the welcomed introduction of the BRT system and opening up of the water ways, another strategy employed by the Lagos state government is the relocation of all congested bus stops in the state, particularly those located close to markets. It is the view of the state government that bus stops located near markets aggravate traffic congestion as witnessed in many areas experiencing traffic jam in the metropolis, examples include Mile 12, Oshodi, Ketu and Iyana-Ipaja areas of Lagos, among others.

Optimising security keypoints

Based on careful observation over the years, one major factor that seemingly contributes to traffic gridlock is the location of certain public and private facilities like barracks, banks, petrol stations, eateries, schools, police stations, markets, bus stops etc. An illustrative example is the Airforce Base on Agege Motor road, which seriously aggravates traffic gridlock along the large area it covers as it does not allow traffic to get through easily.

Another similar example is the military barracks on Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way in Ikeja. As part of the heightened security measures around such facilities, one section of the Mobolaji Bank Anthony way is condoned off in order to create a speed break and make room for thorough search of vehicles entering the barracks.

Owing to this, the road is narrowed down to just a single lane instead of the normal two. This creates a choke point, especially as the gate to the facility is also located right at the shoulder of the road. The result is serious delay and hardship faced by drivers and commuters using this major route.

Through engagement with the military authorities, it would be possible to pull in the entrance gate of this facility from the road setback that currently encroaches on the road. A similar spatial redesign was undertaken in the case of the military barracks in the Murtala Mohammed Road Yaba, Lagos. There, a portion of the barrack’s fence had to make way for the BRT lane.

This would have been impossible without engagement to secure the consent of the relevant authorities. Many such agreements should be explored while long term solutions are also being worked out.

While it is acknowledged that key point facilities like barracks were originally built outside the main city centres, the expansion overtime of civilian residential settlements reaching their vicinities have altered this reality, which should now be addressed head-on.

Another military barrack in Lagos that may become traffic chokepoints in the coming years is the Odongunyan army barrack in Ikorodu. If no corrective action is taken, especially in the form of a spatial redesign, the facility will in no time go the way of the likes of Bonny camp, Dodan barracks and other military cantonments currently impeding the free flow of traffic across Lagos.

Redesign of other public spaces

Many banks, schools, markets and petrol stations in and around the Lagos metropolis also block traffic flow and prevent road expansion and connectivity among routes due to their awkward locations. These will continue to be a challenge contributing to the difficulty of moving around Lagos. The state government must quickly come to terms with the realities on ground in relation to such facilities.

As a matter of policy, government should engage better with stakeholders to forge consensus on the best possible ways to re-site the facilities impeding traffic. There may be the need to redesign some whilst possibly relocating others in order to better respond to the growing challenges to people’s movement in a city that is rapidly expanding.

Some of the facilities essentially occupy spaces that could give room for expansion or construction of alternatives means of transport such as light rail and BRT. The planning and location of fuel stations for example need to be more clearly thought through in view of the recurrent fuel queues that have exacerbated traffic jams around Nigeria’s major cities in recent years.

The indiscriminate location of these stations on major highways and arteries without proper assessment of their impact on traffic should be stopped. The Lagos State government cannot afford to consider only the gains from approving developments like filling stations without considering the long term and broadly negative economic impact when they obstruct traffic. It will also be unwise to continue to underplay the disruptive potential of fuel off-loading and fire hazard posed to lives and properties in and around these facilities.


The Lagos state government cannot afford to shy away from any of its multiple responsibilities for addressing current and future transportation challenges in Lagos. The Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state is bigger than those of 31 other states in Nigeria combined. With regards to Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) coming into Nigeria, 90.1 percent of this berths in Lagos alone.

At $131bn, Lagos state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is bigger than those of the economies of 42 African countries put together, so much so that if Lagos State were a country, it would be the sixth largest economy in Africa. This is almost on par with Angola’s GDP of $131.401bn, an oil-producing country, and is well ahead of Morocco with a GDP of $107.005bn.

The proposed fourth mainland bridge project aimed at solving the perennial traffic gridlock faced daily by commuters on the existing third Mainland Bridge is a bold step by the government. The bridge transverses Ajah to cross the Lagos lagoon in a northwesterly direction, then connecting the Lagos-Ibadan expressway through Ikorodu.

At an approximate length of 37.9 kilometres (km), it is reckoned to be the longest bridge anywhere and allows thorough traffic at speeds of up to 140km per hour. The bridge would serve as an alternative route for many commuters in and around Victoria Island and Eti-Osa/Lekki-Epe corridor as well as help redistribute traffic more efficiently. It would further act as an outer ring road for conveying of goods from the Lagos Free Trade Zone, which hosts the fertilizer plant, deep seaport, the Dangote oil refinery now under construction, and a proposed airport (ostensibly suspended because of low interest from potential financiers).

While not constituting the silver bullet that will provide the ultimate answer to all of Lagos’s traffic problems, prioritising issues around spatial redesign and re-siting of key points and other public facilities can relieve a great deal of the pressure within the land transport system in Lagos. A radical spatial reorganisation of Lagos’s urban landscape is imperative and now is the time to do it.

The relevant ministries, including transport, works and housing and urban planning should work hands-on to lead this revolution, underpinned by cooperative engagements with affected institutions and other stakeholders.

Source: Africa In Fact.