The Danfos of Lagos

Run a search for photos of Lagos, Nigeria and chances are you will find Danfo commercial buses among the results. These orange vans are iconic, so much so that they have come to represent Lagos and every other home I’ve visited have paintings depicting scenes of crowded terminals. They’re like the jingle trucks in Pakistan and jeepneys in the Philippines, which are sometimes called the king of the road. The same goes for Danfos, and it is because the drivers go around recklessly like they own the roads. And no wonder, in September 2012 the commissioner for health reported that of 2,000 commercial drivers tested over 700 were found to be driving under the influence of alcohol and about 400 tested positive for cocaine and marijuana. It comes as no surprise that the Lagos State Government wants to replace these with high capacity buses, as that would also alleviate congestion and traffic accidents. As of December stakeholders were still lobbying against the ban. Lagos has 70,000 Danfos that will be affected — the impact on people whose livelihood depend on these can not be underestimated. When the government banned okadas (motorcycle taxis) in October it added one-two hours each way of commute time and nearly doubled the transpo expenses of our nanny and driver. And Danfos are the cheapest mode of public transportation, charging only half of what okada drivers normally demand. It is hard to imagine how the government will be able to mitigate the negative impact when it is relying on private operators to run mass transit buses under the ongoing Bus Rapid Transit scheme.

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