Lekki Toll Gate: From Greed to Gridlock

On Sunday 18th December 2011 whilst I was reading the news alerts on my phone, I learnt that the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos island had finally become functional and that there was also a peaceful-turned-violent protest going on at the same location. I’m not 100 percent certain but I  strongly believe that the protesters consisted of two groups, namely:

– Those who didn’t want to pay up to N120 each way because it was ‘expensive’, and;
– Those who didn’t want to pay…period

Despite not being a protester myself, I also have my own reservations about this mammoth project undertaken by the LCC (Lekki Concession Company) and supported by the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola.

It is taking a toll on my health. I should know better because I work at the tail end of Lekki. Already, I have to drag myself out of bed at 5am. Now I’ve been blessed with the unwanted privilege of having to wake up even earlier for my Ikeja-Lekki journey…say around 4.45am. Whilst I bang my big toe around my flat as I fight the invisible Sleep Demons, I must attempt to locate and put on matching socks and a matching suit (i.e. not a black jacket with grey trousers as I’ve done after losing to the Sleep Demons once). The best part is trying to drive at 80kmh to work whilst fighting Sleep Demons at the same time (eat your heart out Vin Diesel!). The strain and the stress kicks in when I enter the 1st phase of traffic on Apongbo. Blood pressure gradually begins to rise as you enter the 2nd phase of traffic at the link between Marina and Ikoyi/Bonny Camp route. The 3rd and latest addition to the ‘traffic franchise’ is the Lekki phase 1 roundabout – brought to you by the LCC. By the time I reach my destination I frantically look everywhere in my car for my misplaced happy-face.

It is restricting my movement during working hours. The moment I get into my office I barely have enough time to celebrate my punctuality before having to jump right back into the traffic to meet clients. Since I suffer from car-sickness I’m without the luxury of being able to read and respond to emails or text messages whilst in the passenger seat. I make more phone calls instead and that equates to much higher phone bills. I have to leave much earlier for appointments now just so the traffic build-up doesn’t embarrass me. What can I say? If P.Diddy invented the Remix then Lagosians invented Traffic (and subsequently invented the word ‘trafficate’ which is locally used and is not in any dictionary). I’ve also had to learn new shortcuts that would replace the once-discreet shortcuts that have suddenly become widely known overnight. After work you can expect that I would have to leave later than I usually do in order to avoid wasting my time, my petrol and my Blackberry’s wack battery life.

Last but not least, the timing is completely wrong. There is a bridge that is supposedly being built within Lekki Phase 1 which is meant to link Lekki to Ikoyi. If only this bridge was ready before the launch of the toll gate then traffic would ease up a notch. The Lekki toll gate collection had already been delayed for over a year so I don’t think waiting another year would have seriously hurt the State government’s pocket. We barely have enough road networks (or efficient ones at that) and the current state of traffic from the Lekki Phase 1 all the way past Law School on my way back home begs the question, ‘Is the Lekki Toll Gate really necessary?’ I thought of adding some pictures to cement my point but on second thoughts some readers may have found these images disturbing and unsuitable for drivers plying the Lekki axis, especially the ones already suffering from high BP (both high Blood Pressure and high Bill Payments).

My stance on the whole toll gate project has been to only support it if the fee is reasonably priced and if it reduces traffic. Since it appears that I’ve observed neither (at least for now) I guess you don’t have to be a pro to be able to guess that I’m anti 😉

So, you have been warned. Proceed at your peril and pay the toll…literally.

Cloudy with a chance of Molotov cocktails

I have to be brutally honest (with the risk of looking like a complete dunce in my own blog) – The first time I heard of a Molotov cocktail I was watching Big Brother Africa 5, which is arguably the best reality TV show around with a decent money prize ($100,000) for 91 days of tolerating the antics of 13 other housemates from different African countries. After a housemate is evicted from the Big Brother house, the presenter of the show would give him/her a chance to take revenge on those responsible for their exit. The ‘Molotov cocktail’ could range anywhere from having to make all the other housemates’ beds to doing a striptease for all the other housemates after breakfast, lunch and dinner…that’s on a lighter note.

The real Molotov cocktail as we all know is nothing to mess with. The name “Molotov cocktail” was coined by the Finns during Winter War to mock Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union (i.e. Soviet Prime Minister) and the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs at the time (Wikipedia.org). So you can imagine my surprise when I switched over to Sky News to Molotov cocktails being thrown from buildings by protesters to other protesters – therein lies the enigma. The police/military are having a hard time trying to figure out which group of protesters are Pro-Mubarak and those whom are Anti-Mubarak. Even harder for these ‘peacekeepers’ is trying not to appear like they are taking sides with any of the two groups of protesters.

Mubarak is rumoured to step down as the President of Egypt but I personally don’t think this gesture will solve all of the country’s problems. The people are fed up with the rise in commodity prices and the widening gap between the rich and the poor.  

Back here in Nigeria the government is still clamouring for people to get out and register for the upcoming presidential elections. I can only hope that it will be free and fair because any foul play would probably not going down too well…kinda like a Molotov cocktail.

But you’ve got to give human beings credit for taking advantage of just about any opportunity to make some money. Take a look at some of these collectibles I found whilst surfing the web. Would you buy one? 🙂

The Getaway: starring Prince Charles, Lady Camilla & Angry Mob

I decided to surf the Net for the latest news (my favorite news channel) and I was shocked to learn about the attack in Central London experienced by Lady Camilla and the Plant Whisperer aka Prince Charles.

Thankfully neither of the couple was hurt but the car took quite a kicking from angry young protesters. Why did they decide to vent their anger on the unlucky pair? Sources reported that the British government had approved plans to spike up tuition fees. I can see why students would get a little pissed off. They’re already up to their knees in debt and this bold move by the coalition government would bring the debt level up to their necks! Imagine working a 9 to 5 job and spending a third of your working life paying off all the debt you accumulated during university. I don’t think Prince Charles is to blame, nor is Camilla, but perhaps the protesters feel the Royals are just passive about the whole thing. Silence or ‘doing nothing’ could be seen as support for whatever the British government decide to impose on its economy.

The other key thing to remember is that the protesters are well aware that Prince Charles is exempt from paying taxes…because the royal family do not pay taxes – that’s for the ‘commoners’.

The coalition government, like any other government, is obviously under pressure to find a way to boost the funds in the country’s piggy bank so fiscal policies involving Taxation would seem a good way to go. However I’ll be sitting with my bag of popcorn as I watch how on earth the British Parliament is going to wriggle itself out of this mess. If arresting all the protesters is their grand solution then they’d better start building more prison facilities pronto! 

Sources: Sky News, USAtoday