Vehicular emissions, Mental health and the Lives of Lagosians.

Everyone wants to come to Lagos. It is perceived that the grass is greener here, at least by the people living in a handful of other states of the country. Growing up in Lagos, I have lived in Magodo/Shangisha and Ikorodu respectively. Traffic congestion is something that Lagos State is known for but the intensity differs from area to area and the time of travel.

Who’s got the magic wand?

Last week, just ahead of the President’s arrival in Lagos, the traffic hotspots became suddenly free. A good friend called our attention to it via Instagram and we all wondered where the solution suddenly came from.

My 3am – 10pm life

Living in Ikorodu and working in Victoria Island for a couple of months in 2017, the time management lessons I learned could not help me out of the stress. Waking up at 3 am, leaving the house at 5 am in order to get to work in good time and getting back home between 8 and 9 pm. This is not the main reason for this post as we shall see soon.

The Centre of Traffic

I would not bore you with statistics of vehicular emissions globally because we already know how uncomfortable we feel when exposed to these gases in traffic. We are exposed to carbon monoxide especially every day from different sources – road travel in non-air-conditioned vehicles, walking, gas stoves, etc. In all of these, the duration of exposure is a major factor that determines the level of harm that will be caused.

When going on a 42-km journey at an average speed of 80 km per hour, you should spend about 35 minutes on the road but when there is traffic congestion especially in a place like Lagos, you can end up spending 6 hours (My husband has gone through this before). I have spent 4 hours from MKO Abiola Gardens to Magodo Phase 2 – a journey that would not take me 15 minutes ordinarily. The last time I traveled to Ilorin for the holidays, I did not want to come back.

Mental health is underrated

When people hear “mental”, the first thing that comes to mind is madness or insanity as in “were” in Yoruba language. Without sound mental health, a lot of us would keep spending all of our time on a little portion of ourselves (I love this line I learned from Exponential Living by Sheri Riley). While working in Victoria Island, I was always sleepy at work, could not add value at the rate I would have if I spent less time commuting to work. I could not do other things in the remaining facets of my life. I rarely saw my kids or had time for family. This time did not pass without having serious adverse effects on my marriage and other relationships. I gained weight too because I was constantly stressed. Did I mention that the gases in vehicular emissions have their ways of messing up with our brains?

Our systemic problems

Someone asked a question about who should pay for the time employees spend in traffic. In my opinion, deliberating on who should pay for time spent in traffic is like constantly taking painkillers for headaches instead of seeking to address the cause of the headaches. Everyone is paying for time spent in traffic but in different currencies. As a risk management expert in training (clap for me), the first step in creating long term solutions is to address the root cause of any problem. What exactly causes traffic congestion on Lagos roads? The answer is not one or two, but a web of issues linked to one another.

  • Population explosion: With over 5 million cars and 200,000 commercial vehicles on the roads (when the national average is 11 vehicles per kilometer), Lagos daily records an average of 227 vehicles per every kilometer of road. Lagos is home to over 21 million people struggling to thrive on very limited and mismanaged infrastructure. Sweden is on 450,295 km² and is said to be home to 9.995 million people as of 2017. Lagos, on the other hand, is 1,171 km² and is home over 21 million people, Kilode?
  • Inefficient parastatals: Sorry but not also sorry, the agencies in Lagos need to brace up. Someone came up with the argument that they are not well paid. Another came up with a counter-argument that they knew about the pay before taking the job. In my opinion, everyone should strive for excellence no matter what but an old Yoruba adage says that “Money is the vehicle of good conduct”. A Level 9 officer in Lagos State, takes home a little less than 60k monthly. There is no excuse for inefficiency but tell me how such an officer would not engage in corrupt practices when the opportunity arises. These guys just go to work. Especially the ones on Ikorodu road when approaching Ketu from Mile 12. The yellow and black buses would stop to pick up passengers while the traffic officials hit the buses with their rods.
  • Terrible roads: Another big issue is the state of roads in Lagos. For every 5 seconds you spend trying to manoeuver a pothole, there is a 10 seconds delay. Now try to multiply this by the countless potholes we meet on every road. I will not talk about vehicular wear and tear yet.
  • Lawless and impatient road users: There are situations that we all know that a bad spot on the road is the cause of the traffic. This is when some people who think they can outsmart others start to create more lanes on the little spaces left for pedestrians. A lot of times, this leads to gridlock and we all end up spending more time in traffic than we would have if we just stayed in a lane.

Way forward

On the part of the government, there is very little to do about the population of Lagosians however, our parastatals need to be strengthened because most of the highlighted issues have agencies that have been charged with responsibilities of ensuring that our roads are timely maintained, lawless road users apprehended and only roadworthy vehicles should ply the roads.

As citizens, we can start by getting familiar with the Goodlife goals, after all, who does not want a good life?

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