Life in the slow lane: the massive cost of Lagos congestion

Thu Dec 17, 2015 10:38am EST
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By Ulf Laessing

LAGOS (Reuters) - When Nigerian driver Ossy Okafor gets in his beat-up minibus and begins another battle on the congested roads of Lagos, he sees everything wrong with Africa's biggest economy.

By 7 a.m., several million people are trying to get to work. No public rail network exists and not enough highways link the residential and commercial quarters.

Okafor charges about 200 naira, or $1, to drive some of them, navigating through a labyrinth of narrow, pot-holed roads. On this day, he's crammed 17 people - two or three more than the maximum capacity - into his 20-year old VW, one of thousands of so-called 'Danfo' minibuses.

"The type of suffering we meet on the road is terrible," 55-year-old Okafor said.

President Muhammadu Buhari wants a third of next year's budget to go for capital expenditure - building roads and hospitals - in a bid to break a decades-long pattern in Africa's top oil producer: revenues from crude enriching just a small elite.

One morning with Okafor, ferrying commuters across Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital and the continent's largest city, shows how hard that will be.

Most of Lagos' 20 million people live in modest residential quarters on the mainland or endless slums around the city's main lagoon, far from the business districts of Victoria or Lagos island.

Many get out of bed before dawn to catch a bus over the 12-km (seven mile) Third Mainland bridge, the main causeway linking the mainland to Lagos Island. Crossing can take as long as three hours in rush hour.   Continued...

People queue as they wait for a commercial bus during the morning rush hour in Ojota district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos November 23, 2015. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye