Living Far Away, Working in Apapa

Until some weeks ago, there were two places in Lagos I never wished my office would ever be located; Lagos Island and Apapa. They are both TRAFFIC-prone.

While that of Lagos Island is due to the expected huge vehicular traffic that is associated with commercial city centres, Apapa is notorious for terribly-bad roads and the unwholesome activities of tanker and truck drivers, who lift products and goods at ports and tank farms located in the area.

I can’t count the number of times I had been trapped in traffic in both locations over the years. I actually boasted to people that working in Apapa and Lagos Island wasn’t for me, except I live in an adjoining neighbourhood.

As someone who had worked around the Ikeja axis in the last 10 years, picking up a job in Apapa is a whole new experience, considering that I live many kilometers away.

Based on the experience of friends who work around there, the first thing I ditch was my car. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to survive driving daily in that traffic-congested area. I thought the combination of ‘Keke Marwa’, ‘okada’ and public transport would deliver a faster journey. While this option looks attractive, the discomfort that one experiences in Lagos rickety buses, particularly when one is trapped in “wicked” traffic, is better unbearable. Imagine a well-suited young man sweating in a bus with traffic at a standstill.

One of my new colleagues, who lives not too far away from me, also suggested an option that is popular with him: TRAIN. Prior to this year, I had never boarded a train in Nigeria, though I was privileged to ride in one few years ago in Dubai. He assured that with the train I would be saved the agony of traffic congestion.

Despite my misgivings about the train, I decided to give it a try. The first sign that it won’t be a good option hit me at the ticketing point at the Apapa Terminus on my first trip. Passengers had to practically push and shove just to buy boarding tickets. The attitude of the ticketing officers is one of the worst I have ever seen. To them, selling tickets to passengers amounts to doing them a favour. Asking for a change is a capital offence. By the way, the terminus hall is one of the worst public buildings I have ever seen.

Though I had a mental picture of how bad the interior of the train could look like based on its rickety exterior that I saw almost every time, but I never imagined that it would be far worse. The chairs (or what is left of them) are in a sorry state; the windows are long gone (imagine what happens when rain falls!), there are gaping holes on the floor; the electrical fittings are all hanging dangerously out of their sockets. In fact, using the train to convey even animals would amount to cruelty to them.

The major putdown of the train, as far as I am concerned, is the unbelievable congestion. Passengers are picked at every terminus, even when it has exceeded its capacity by as much as 100%. Every single space in the train is occupied including doorway and aisle, thereby generating unbearable heat and sweat. The most unfortunate passengers are those who are unlucky enough to get the aisle seats, which are termed “sorry seats”. They are the primary victims of the uncontrollable overcrowding in the aisle.

Alighting from the train is also a big problem. Because of the crazy congestion in the aisle and doorway, disembarking passengers have to battle their way out of the train.

Whatever one gains in avoiding traffic congestion, would be lost in the unbearable inconvenience and discomfort that come with the train ride.

As for me, the search for the best option to “conquer” Apapa traffic continues.