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Traffic jams UNILAG to a snarl

Posted by By Regina Akpabio and Seye Olumide on 2005/05/13 | Views: 525 |

Traffic jams UNILAG to a snarl


THERE are long faces everywhere with each of the owners ready to reel off a long catalogue of complaints.

THERE are long faces everywhere with each of the owners ready to reel off a long catalogue of complaints.

This prevailing discontent has been the situation in the academic environment of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Akoka, following the off-campus system the school reverted to recently.

The journey starts as early as 5.30 a.m. for the not-so-wealthy students who have to leave home in good time if they must get to school early to attend their lectures. Besides the usual hold-ups in the Lagos metropolis, the on-campus traffic has added to their problems.

From Yaba and Bariga bus stops, their problem grows. An early morning long winding queue welcomes them as they alight from the buses.

Then the students have to spend at least an hour waiting for the "campus shuttle" buses, which have to manoeuvre through various traffic snarls before they can return. As everybody now comes from off-campus, the number of students has increased tremendously since the school resumed lectures on April 20.

Life for UNILAG students had not been easy anytime in the past but has recenty become worse.

Their present travails started in January this year when a student union leader died and the students showed their anger by setting ablaze the Vice Chancellor and the Dean, Students' Affairs lodges and vehicles, leading to temporary shut-down of the school. The students were ordered out of the campus.

When the school re-opened in April, the students were made to pay a levy of N10,000 each and apply for re-admission into the school while the on-campus accommodation was temporary phased off and the Students Union Government (SUG) dissolved.

For now, the number of students competing for a ride on the "campus shuttle" has out-numbered the buses. To beat the human traffic, some students who live very far away have to terminate their sleep at the sound of the cockcrow to join the queue either at Yaba or Bariga bus stops.

Even when they make it early enough to the bus stops, the hold-ups on the access roads and the checkpoint, at the First Roundabout within the campus is another thing they are not ever able to cross in good enough time.

While the motorists are sweating out in the hold-ups, the students who are already stressed up for standing for hours at the bus stops heave sighs, groan and wipe their faces in frustration.

One of the students, Helen Imoke whose first lecture starts at 9.00 a.m. and was still waiting for a bus at Yaba Bus Stop by 10.00 a.m. last week said:

"UNILAG is no longer a centre of academic excellence but a citadel of suffering. It is not worth the trouble. I wouldn't advise any of my younger ones to come in here for anything. The school authorities can do anything they like because there is no SUG to speak for us again. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the school authorities say we are starting examinations tomorrow. It is as bad as that", she said.

Other commuter motorists are fast turning the students into a "gold mine", as many of them charge as high as N30 from Yaba Bus Stop to Abule-Oja-Gate. Even at such cost, the students still rush, hoping to complete the rest of their journey with the big buses on campus in which the operators have also increased the fare from N5 to N10 even for the passengers standing on the aisle.

A post-graduate student, Femi Adeyemi, who lives very close to the school said it pains him most for not being able to attend the lectures after paying the N10,000 levy.

"It pains me more to see that I can no longer meet up for lectures at 9.00 a.m. when I am living here in Bariga. If it can happen like this, what about those who live so far away from the school? In fact, the school will see the number of failures it will have this semester", he said.

Many students who have nowhere to live to take lectures have stopped coming while others hang around with some friends. Such students are seen going about with travelling bags containing their immediate needs, as they cannot afford the exorbitant rent charged by Lagos landlords. Now, a room in Yaba and Bariga areas goes for N5,000 a month.

Last week, a student who had been hanging around with a family friend complained bitterly of the trauma she has gone through since the family, which offered her accommodation, has relocated.

"I am totally demoralised since the family friend I used to live with was given quit notice and they have relocated to Okokomaiko. Everyday, after lectures, I think of the next place to go and spend the night. In the class, I can no longer concentrate when the lectures are on", Nelly Okonkwo, whose parents live in Enugu, said.

The vehicular traffic within the campus, which the students tagged: "Ibidapo Obe's traffic" that starts from the First Roundabout by the African Petroleum Filling Station (AP), is so biting that students spend not less than 20 minutes to get to their lecture rooms. In a bid to prevent the students' vehicles without the school sticker from going beyond the AP Filling Station, the UNILAG authorities have posted a team of security officials to turn back all students' vehicles, forcing them to obey the new law. They have to park their vehicles at any available space and trek to their lecture halls.

Even in the cafeteria, the stress of waiting in a long queue to be served is one that can make a famished student collapse.

For the students, series of questions are waiting to be answered: How long will they continue to suffer in silence? What will become of their future? What kind of education is being offered in the name of learning? Is it worth the trouble? Who will fight for us?

The Acting Deputy Registrar (Information), Mr. Segun Ogunsola in reaction to the situation, said the university authorities are aware of the traffic situation on campus and are doing everything possible to control it.

According to him: "The university authorities have little or no control over how students transport themselves to campus. However, we are looking seriously into solving the intra-campus transportation. The whole thing was as a result of the January 19 attack by some group of students on the Vice Chancellor's residence where lot of property was destroyed.

"But the authorities are not in anyway oblivious of the traffic problems faced by students and other members of the campus community at present. Measures are being put in place to address the issues as soon as possible."

Some members of the campus community who spoke to The Guardian described the traffic chaos as a result of the authorities' refusal to admit students back to halls of residence.

According to an anonymous student, "the fact that all the students are coming from their homes to campus is the major factor responsible for the traffic jam everyday."

He, however, pleaded that the authorities should reconsider their stand on students' hall of residence in order to ease the traffic bottleneck on campus.

Ogunsolu, however, said the decision to re-open students' halls of residence only lies with the Senate.

He said: "It is the Senate that can decide on when the halls of residence will be opened".

He appealed to all members of the campus communities and the public to bear with the school authorities.

"In the nearest time possible, the whole thing will be over and everybody would enjoy peace on the campus. What we are doing is to put measures in place to prevent the re-occurrence of the unfortunate incident that happened in January.

"Let everybody continue to be law-abiding and sustain the peace on campus. We must all make some sacrifice at present. In the long run, everybody will benefit," he said.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.