Why Nigeria Switched The Driver’s Seat From Right To Left

Did you know that before 1972, Nigerian driver seats were on the right side of the vehicle?

However, in April 1972, under the leadership of Major-General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria made a dramatic shift in its transportation system, moving from right-hand to left-hand driving.

Factors Influencing Change:

1. Increased International Trade
As Nigeria’s trade with surrounding countries, especially former French colonies, grew, right-hand driving proved troublesome. Drivers from these countries, who are accustomed to driving on the left, struggled to navigate Nigerian roadways. Switching to a left-hand drive enabled more efficient cross-border mobility and trade.

2. Globalisation
Left-hand driving is more common, accounting for around one-sixth of the world’s surface and affecting a quarter of its road networks. Furthermore, many major car manufacturers operate in countries with left-hand drives, which may have an impact on vehicle supply in Nigeria.

3. Alignment with Regional Trends
Several West African nations had previously adopted the left-hand drive, and Nigeria’s move was consistent with this regional trend, perhaps leading to deeper regional integration.

Challenges of transition
Converting the whole fleet of vehicles, including buses, taxis, and personal automobiles, was an expensive endeavour. This financial burden landed disproportionately on regular residents, raising questions about affordability. The changeover also influenced the domestic auto industry, which was previously designed to produce right-hand-drive automobiles.

To address these difficulties, the government implemented the following measures:

Providing incentives for local manufacturers to switch to left-hand-drive vehicles.

Allowing for a transition time during which right-hand-drive automobiles might continue to be legally driven on roads.

30% of countries in the world, mostly in Europe, drive on the left (influenced mainly by historical factors) and 70% drive on the right (influenced by Napoleon, the US, and the practicality of waggons).

Ultimately, Nigeria’s transition to left-hand drive in 1972 was a momentous and challenging decision. Despite the limitations, it attempted to promote efficiency, safety, and regional connectivity

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