Security personnel have become the greatest abusers of the Lagos Road Traffic Law they are supposed to enforce
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Sep. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
INDISCIPLINE and disregard for the rule of law are undermining the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, one year after Babatunde Fashola, Lagos State governor, signed the bill into a law. The attitude of some security personnel like the police, the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, NSCDC, and Nigeria Customs, towards the law have undermined its enforcement by the state government.
On June 23, a police vehicle drove against the traffic on the Oshodi-Apapa expressway and knocked down Taskirat Anjolaiya and Ammarah, her baby. The police driver, a corporal whose first name was given as Friday, at the command of Ibrahim Zango, divisional police officer, FESTAC police division, was conveying a female guest of his boss to the airport to catch a flight. The victims, who sustained life-threatening injuries, were alighting from a bus. While the woman suffered pelvic fracture, brain injury and facial bruises, her baby had a broken jaw and deep facial cuts.
Sulaiman Anjolaiya, the victim’s husband, said the policeman claimed he was running an errand for Zango. “The accident occurred on June 23, 2013. My wife was on her way to a religious programme when a police driver drove recklessly on Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. He was driving against traffic and shouting at drivers on the right side of the road to clear out. He eventually knocked down my wife and baby while they were alighting from a bus. The policeman’s first concern at the scene of the accident was to immediately get a cab to convey the woman in his vehicle to her destination,” he said.
Umar Manko, state commissioner of police, said the police driver was not on an official assignment; and that any financial assistance to the family would only be on compassionate grounds. Besides the Anjolaiya incident, it is a routine sight in Lagos to see the police, customs and LASTMA on patrol drive against traffic or direct bullion vans to commit such a breach. Also, when they escort the so-called influential figures, the same madness is on display. Even when commercial motorcycles have been outlawed on most Lagos roads, security personnel remain defiant; their boldness, as it could be seen, is becoming contagious.
Most worrisome is how security personnel especially LASTMA impound people’s vehicles that break down on the roads. Many Lagos residents have criticised this action following the series of complaints that LASTMA now enter streets to tow vehicles. Kingsley Azubuike, a commercial driver, told Realnews, that he had a punctured tyre which compelled him to park at Ojo military barracks to change it, but surprising to him, LASTMA came from nowhere and towed his bus. “It surprises me the way LASTMA works. Just for me to change a tyre, a process that lasted not more than five minutes, they came and towed my bus. I am now convinced that they work with agents. Most of the people you see standing at some bus stops are agents and they work with LASTMA,” he said.
Uche Okafor, a driver, said the new traffic law has given the security agents the opportunity to feed fat on motorists and it is the fault of the government because it is not monitoring its men. The police are not enforcing the law; they are only extorting money from commuters. “The flouting of the traffic law has persisted among uniformed men because the state government has not been able to match its words with action,” he said.
Kayode Odunsanya, a resident of the state, described the law as a welcome development but accused the government of lacking the political will to fully implement all aspects of the law.“Don’t forget the government also said that the new traffic law will address touting on major roads. It restricted the activities of the National Union of Road Transport Workers to their parks. But today, are they not still on our roads? Why is the government deceiving us? The government is making it look as if the traffic law was only designed to chase away Okada operators from the road,” he said.
Margeret Adewale, director, legal services, LASTMA, said that traffic law in the state is difficult to enforce. She said in the course of trying to enforce the law, both motorists and enforcement agents had sustained varying degrees of injuries. “Enforcement has been difficult. Both motorists and LASTMA officials have been injured in the course of enforcing the law and there are many of such cases in court right now. Even when we make arrests, after sometimes, offenders go back to their old ways,” she said.
She denied the idea that LASTMA was working with agents. She said that motorists should report to the relevant authorities when their rights are being breached by LASTMA officials. According to her, those that always call LASTMA are well-meaning individuals that understand the role of LASTMA in the state. “We are largely uncivilised in this country in the sense that we do not have regard for our neighbours. The law states that only BRT buses should use the designated lane and that you should not park where you will obstruct the movement of vehicles, when we try to enforce this, some motorists become violent. Some even use dangerous weapons on our men.”
Kayode Opeifa, commissioner for transportation, said that the state government is working to address attempts by security agents in the state to ridicule the law. “Security personnel are still the people you usually find on the roads violating the law. And we will be appealing to those uniformed personnel and some people who have recently migrated into the state to comply with the law in their own interest. We have seen in some areas where some members of the Community Development Associations, CDA, and Community Development Committee CDC, on their own personal efforts, have encouraged the business and collecting money to cater for their personal needs. On making phone calls while driving, there are still recalcitrant drivers receiving calls while on the wheels. We have seen a considerable high level of compliance in Lagos State,” he said.