Lagos is the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria with a population of about 15 million people, according to Statista. Because of its rising population and housing deficit rate put at 2.5 million, people are leaving the overpopulated megacity to border communities in neighbouring Ogun state.
Sango-Ota in Ogun state is a border community with Lagos. Because of its closeness to Lagos many workers resident in Lagos are moving into the town. While some are moving into their own houses, others are moving to Sango-Ota to avoid the high cost of rent in Lagos. There are also people who are moving into the town to live in a quieter environment.
Tunde Aladegbemi works as a logistics agent at Murtala Muhamed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos. In 2016, Aladegbemi left his teaching job in Sango-Ota for a much lucrative offer he got from a logistics company at the airport. However, the new offer brought in new challenges like sleep deprivation as he has to wake up at odd hours to beat traffic, and stress associated with spending long hours almost daily on the road because of traffic.
“It has been challenging. I wake up by 4:00 am daily to beat traffic. I hardly get enough sleep and this, most of the time, breaks me down. But I’ve to continue working for the sake of my family. I’ve to provide for them,” he said.
Although Aladegbemi could save himself this stress by relocating to Lagos, he said that he prefers Sango-Ota to Lagos, because of the former’s serene environment.
“Lagos is too noisy. It’s because of its boisterous nature that I wouldn’t like to live there. After all the hustle and bustle in Lagos during the day, I’d prefer to return to a calm environment where I can relax my head. This is what Sango-Ota offers me,” he said.
Aladegbemi who recently became his own boss with the launch of his company, Amazing Travels & Tours, expressed happiness that he wouldn’t be frequenting the road like he used to under his former company. And will now have time to spend with his family.
“It’s not easy to run a new company. But with the help of the few people I’ve engaged in the business, I can work from home when I don’t feel comfortable going to my office at the airport,” he said. “This’s huge sigh of relief for me as I don’t have to worry too much about going to work everyday. Monday is my off day. I usually spend that day with my wife and children to create family bond,” the father of three told THE WHISTLER.
Another worker, Adeleke Adesina, identified bad state of the road infrastructure and high cost of transportation as major challenges he faces as a worker who resides in Sango-Ota and works in Lagos.
“The major challenge is the traffic as a result of bad road. So, if you’re going, you need to plan ahead, because you don’t know what you can meet on the road,” Adesina said.
He complained of stress associated with heavy traffic on the road, particularly Mondays and after public holidays inward Lagos, as well as traffic on Fridays inward Sango-Ota from Lagos.
“Cost is also a big challenge. The recent hike in price of petrol and high exchange rate has impacted negatively on the cost of transportation. Currently, it’s like double of what it was before,” he lamented.
Despite the current challenges he faces, having to shuttle between Sango-Ota and Lagos, Adesina who is a lecturer in the Department of Science and Technology Education at the University of Lagos, said he would not relocate permanently to Lagos for now, because of his business in Sango-Ota. He is the CEO of the Rock Empire Inc., a fast-rising conglomerate.
Shuttling between Sango-Ota and Lagos is hellish, said Ebere Ubani, a customer care executive at one of the top telecommunication companies in Lagos.
“Because of the nature of my job, we run shifts in my company. We run 7 hours shift. So, my shift can be in the morning or afternoon. When I’m on morning shift, I wake up by 4:00 am, so that I can get to work on time. And because of traffic, I sometimes get home past 12:00 am, when I’m on afternoon shift. It’s crazy and I don’t know when this will stop,” Ubani said.
Road In Bad State
While traffic is a common phenomenon in Lagos, Sango-Ota residents who work in the megacity spend more hours on the road daily because of the bad state of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
From the General Bus Stop (Abule Egba, Lagos) portion of the road down to Toll-Gate is in bad shape, causing more stress for these workers who shuttle between Ogun and Lagos to make ends meet.
The heavy vehicular movements on the Sango-Ota inward lane from 6:00 pm and sometimes up to 1:00 am, particularly on Fridays, are agonizing and usually overwhelm policemen and traffic control officers on duty.
Lagos workers who reside in Sango-Ota aren’t only confronted with heavy traffic on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, they’re also exposed to other risks associated with plying busy roads. A report by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in November 2021 said out of 1,254 persons involved in a total of 140 accidents, about 33 people lost their lives at the Toll-Gate portion of the road.
To ameliorate the suffering of commuters, the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, in June announced that the state government will be counter-funding the reconstruction of the road with the Federal Government.
“It is most unfortunate that the road has been under contract before this administration, otherwise, we would have reconstructed the road as soon as we assumed office. But, because the road had been awarded to Julius Berger, we had to find ways and means to work with the Federal Government. We are working very hard and very soon, you will see that that road will be reconstructed speedily,” Abiodun said.
“We have finally got the approval for the template that will allow us as a government to put some money into that construction as we have agreed to be part of the funding for the construction. We realized that there is a shortfall in the money that the government has approved in the 2022 budget.
“Our administration has, however, agreed to provide for that shortfall to allow for the full completion of the road from Ota to Abeokuta,” he added.
Although the intervention of the Ogun State government will provide little respite for the workers when the project is completed, that will not be the end of the workers’ everyday nightmare. This’s because there’s no sign of anything serious happening on the Lagos section of the road. According to Ogun State government, the state part of the road will be completed by December.
Traffic And Mental Health
Traffic congestion takes a huge toll on these workers’ mental and physical health. According to experts, prolonged stress affects our emotional well-being. Stress is any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain, and affects both the brain and body, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
To manage stress, WHO says, “Getting enough sleep at least 8 hours a night is good for both our body and mind. Sleep repairs, relaxes, rejuvenates our body, and reverses the effect of stress.” This is what Sango-Ota residents who work in Lagos are not privileged to do, as they’ve to wake up as early as 4:00 am daily to beat traffic.
A psychiatrist, Samson Ezea, who spoke to THE WHISTLER said that constant exposure to traffic congestion wreaks havoc on the mental health of people, and can lead to depression.
“Traffic also signals poor air quality due to the plethora of automobiles crowding roads, which further points to increased fuel consumption and depletion of natural resources. Underneath all of the obvious disadvantages of traffic, however, lurks another detriment- it wreaks absolute havoc on the mental health of those repeatedly stuck within. The population living in this area is expected to have symptoms of depression, which arose out of the unpredictability of traffic and the feeling of helplessness it invokes. Traffic triggers stress and anxiety reduces people’s tolerance thresholds, triggers family squabbles, and increases annoyance and boredom,” Ezea said.
“Traffic, and the stress caused by having to deal with it on a daily basis, is associated with poorer well-being of urban populations.”
A mental health campaigner and founder of Loveandlifeinternational (a mental health initiative), Obiageli Nnadi Osugo, said that living in a high population density city like Lagos can have some negative implications on one’s mental health, especially for those who live in traffic-prone areas.
Osugo noted that one of the most common risk factors for mental and physical health conditions is exposure to stress, adding that when stress is not properly managed, it can trigger poor mental health in people.
“Sitting in constant traffic can induce major stress,” she said. “Under environmental factors, traffic noise and countless hours spent sitting in gridlock are major stressors that can in turn lead to annoyance, poor sleep quality, and even cardiovascular illnesses.
“Studies have found that spending long hours in traffic frequently can trigger severe stress and anxiety. It also found that traffic stress reduces people’s tolerance thresholds and even triggers family squabbles. All these can trickle down to road rage as people set out for work the next day. The habit of sitting in traffic can take your mental health on a downward spiral.
“People living in areas with high road traffic are prone to more depressive symptoms which can occur as a function of the unpredictability of the traffic and the feelings of helplessness it can invoke.”
According to Osugo, traffic congestion can be linked to poorer well-being, depression, and severe anxiety. She suggested inhaling, exhaling, and repeating; curtailing angry reactions; quelling anxious thoughts; and accepting that you have no control over the situation as some of the ways traffic-induced stress can be managed.
“Curtail angry reactions- while we cannot curtail every single reaction that might occur from traffic stress, we definitely can control what we choose to react to. Thereby, limiting the negative energy we expend on road rage. If for instance, you feel a flash of annoyance when the driver in the next lane cuts you off, that’s okay. Notice and accept what you are feeling in the present moment and then move on to the next moment. This technique will help you stop yourself from fuming over the other driver’s behaviour for too long,” she said.
Is Remote Work A Panacea?
While business owners in Nigeria are yet to come to terms with remote work, it has come to stay in the developed world. The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic showed how technology can change the way we do things.
Although Ubani is grateful to her company for making provision for a shuttle bus that conveys workers to work and back, she’d prefer working from home as she did during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“Working from home during the pandemic was exhilarating. I wish the management of my company could reverse to working from home. All I needed was to have my laptop fully charged and I could work from my bedroom. I’d have been very happy if we had a structure that allows us to work from home, maybe for two weeks in a month,” she said.
Ubani is suffering from High Blood Pressure and would’ve loved to get a decent apartment closer to her office in the Mushin area, but she can’t afford it for now and will have to continue shuttling between Sango-Ota and Lagos until she raises enough money for that.
Tsedal Neeley, is a Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, and the author of “Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere (Harper Business, 2021)”. The award-winning scholar and expert on virtual and global work believes that technology is changing how people work, connect, and how workforces will be arranged.
“Many people are concerned about the change that remote work might bring to their culture. But the reality is that change has already happened by the sheer fact that we are now operating remotely. And culture means asking “What are our shared values” and “What are our shared norms”—meaning “What are the appropriate behaviors and attitudes that we espouse in our organization?,” she told Mckinsey & Company in an interview.
“Remote work and virtuality have shifted our norms of working and what’s appropriate: How do we make decisions? How do we connect? How do we problem-solve? It’s shifted all of that. So, the culture has already changed, and the thing to do now is think about how you will revise or update your culture so that people can thrive in a remote environment and adapt to this new world.
“Holding on to what was before is how people are going to get in trouble. We need to be forward-thinking, embrace the things that we love, change the things that we don’t, and accept the fact that our cultures as we know them have changed forever.”