BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Africa
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Wednesday, 28 February, 2001, 09:22 GMT
On the buses in Lagos
Molues and Danfos
There are about 1,000 yellow buses in Lagos
As part of a series of features on how transport problems affect the everyday lives of Africans, Eniwoke Ibagare looks at bus travel in Lagos

Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, one of Africa's biggest cities with 10 million inhabitants, is famous for three things:

There's the sprawling filth, the squalid congestion and its distinctive yellow commercial buses.

The big buses are called molues and the minibuses, which first appeared in the 1970s, are called danfos.


Many of us know most of the buses are death traps but since we can't afford the expensive taxi fares, we have no choice but to use the buses

Ojo Iwonseyin
Best estimates as to the number of buses in Lagos are 1,000, but no-one really knows and for even the toughest city survivor travelling on them can be a nightmare.

Journeys constantly stop-start, seating is uncomfortable, the horns are constant and loud and the buses accelerate aggressively.

But fares are cheap, even though they can increase drastically during petrol shortages, riots or even on the whim of a bus driver.

Hand up

At bus stops, the rule is: "Keep moving!"

And it is common for bus conductors, hanging out from the doors, to use one hand to lift a running passenger onto a moving molue. They always take on board more than the recommended 44 passengers.

Molue in Lagos
Molues: "44 sitting, 99 standing"
Many are squashed inside and those without seats are packed into the aisle or hang from the doorway.

Passenger crowding into molues triggered the song, "Suffering and Smiling", from late Nigerian Afrobeat musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

"44 (passengers) sitting, 99 standing; suffering and smiling...", sang Fela, as he lambasted the Lagos authorities for the lack of a proper transport policy.

The danfos have seats for 12 passengers.

Death traps

Most buses, with the accelerator pedal at the mercy of alcohol-fuelled or madness-filled drivers, are not roadworthy.

The bodywork is battered; tyres are as bald as the pate of a 90-year old; plumes of thick, black smoke are emitted from silencers as the buses chug on with barely functioning brakes.

Layi Ojo, an officer with the Lagos state Vehicle Inspection Unit, says that bus drivers seldom obey traffic rules.

"You wonder how most of the buses secured roadworthiness certificates in the first place. And when you ban the buses from the roads, they still find a way of returning to the roads."


In Lagos, making money is the name of the game. If you don't hurry up, the money will leave you behin

Danfo driver Ismaila Ojo
Ojo Iwonseyin, who has commuted on the buses for the past 10 years, said: "Many of us know most of the buses are death traps but since we can't afford the expensive taxi fares, we have no choice but to use the buses."

The regular involvement of the buses in accidents has made commuters label molues as moving morgues and danfos as flying coffins.

The local media is often full of horrific stories of bloody road crashes involving buses.

In November, Lagos papers carried a heart-rending story of a road accident involving a danfo. The papers said the danfo, with 14 passengers inside, was travelling to the city centre in the morning hours.

There was a traffic snarl-up in its lane and the danfo driver, in a fit of madness, defied the simplest of traffic rules, swinging the bus onto the opposing lane and facing on-coming vehicles. It ran headlong into an articulated truck, was flung into the Lagos lagoon and all the bus occupants drowned.

Blame

Drivers of molue and danfo buses blame the fast pace of life in Lagos for their driving style.

Danfos in Lagos
Danfos contribute to the fast pace of life in Lagos
Kafaya Alafa, with 12 years experience as a molue driver, said: "Everyone is in a hurry. Some passengers are very impatient and hate the delays caused by the traffic jams, so we always move on to please them."

Ismaila Ojo, a danfo driver, said: "In Lagos, making money is the name of the game. If you don't hurry up, the money will leave you behind."

Petty thefts, pick-pocketing and occasional muggings are also common. But entertainment is usually also on the menu.

Selling

"Praise God... praise god! one passenger yells, a bible in one hand and Christian pamphlets in the other.

His fellow danfo commuters give an "Hallelujah" reply.


They may have their potential dangers but my day won't be complete if I don't travel in one

Lawyer Gabriel Odefe
A ride in a molue will also enable you to experience the sales gimmicks of vendors and wit of comedians.

Household products are also sold and before the bus reaches its destination, a few passengers exchange their money for goods.

Lagos commuters have, however, come to accept their buses with a love-hate relationship.

"They may have their potential dangers but my day won't be complete if I don't travel in one," says lawyer Gabriel Odefe.

"Through them, I'm able to catch up with the latest gossips in town."

Despite the dangers and discomfort, the buses have one compensation - their entertainment value.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories