Recently, there was chaos along Ikorodu Road, following the mayhem reportedly orchestrated by two policemen attached to a bank in the neighbourhood. According to reports, the two policemen unleashed maximum terror on two officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA.
The whole sad episode began when a mobile policeman who allegedly drove through the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) lane was blocked by the ill-fated LASTMA officials. In the resultant squabble, the two policemen purportedly beat up the LASTMA officials, vandalized their vehicle and assisted the erring mobile policeman to escape.
Characteristically, images of the unfortunate incident went viral on the social media, particularly the part in which the armed policemen were pouncing mercilessly on the LASTMA officers.
In response to the distressing happening, the Lagos State Government has declared a zero tolerance for such uncivilized conduct by members of the public against LASTMA officers while on duty.
According to Mr Ladi Lawanson, the State Commissioner for Transport, 18 LASTMA officials have so far been killed in 2018 alone; while 24 were debilitated by ‘hit-and-run’ vehicles and violent attacks. This has become a recurring evil.
For instance, on December 15th, 2016, a LASTMA official in charge of Apapa area, Mr. Olatunji Suraju Bakare, was openly killed in broad daylight. He was gruesomely murdered by irate mob that undressed and dropped him inside the drain, before lynching him to death.
In an emotion ladden voice, the Honourable Commissioner for Transport cited another case involving Late Rotimi Adeyemo, the LASTMA officer, who was recently killed by a triggered happy police officer. Mr. Lawanson revealed that the Late LASTMA officer, who was born in 1977, had a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) Degree in Economics and left behind a 105-year-old father, an 88-year-old mother, a wife, Eniola Adeyemo and three children, including a set of twins.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Police has disclosed that the F-SARS officer, Olukunle Olonade, who allegedly shot and killed Rotimi Adeyemo, also died hours later while been rushed to the hospital. It was learned that Olonade, an Inspector of Police, was mistaken for robber and attacked by irate mob at the scene and beaten to stupor.
It is, indeed, ironical that LASTMA officials, who are employed to ensure Lagos residents have a pleasant motoring experience, have suddenly become objects of undue assaults and barbaric attacks by same people whom they are being paid to serve.
With over 3 million cars and 100,000 commercial vehicles on the roads, Lagos daily records an average of 227 vehicles per every kilometer of roads. This makes it imperative for the State government to establish LASTMA in 2000.
In-spite of the difficult environment it operates, Lagos residents have continued to feel the impact of LASTMA’s good job as areas hitherto notorious for traffic gridlocks during peak periods now relatively experience free flow traffic. Such areas that clearly manifest the good works of LASTMA include Mile 2, Ojuelegba, Oshodi, Tollgate, Agidingbi, Mile 12, Iyana Ipaja, Adeniji- Adele, Apongbon,Ozumba Mbadiwe, Awolowo road, Oyingbo, Falomo, Kingsway Road etc. The usually chaotic traffic situation in these areas has tremendously being ameliorated with the help of LASTMA officials
However, regardless of doing its utmost to ensure sanity exist on Lagos’ roads, no other government agency has been most vilified, maligned and mis-understood like LASTMA. The war of attrition between motorists, security operatives and LASTMA officials have been so heightened in recent times, culminating in brutal attacks, unwarranted hostility and needless deaths of LASTMA officials.
Always ignore, however, is the fact that failure of motorists, most especially commercial drivers, to obey simple traffic rules and regulations often lead to traffic snarl that gives room for social miscreants to rob motorists of valuable items and vandalisation of cars. It is no longer news that, in Lagos, some motorists are fond of contravening traffic laws. For instance, the BRT lanes are strictly meant for BRT buses, but others motorists prohibited from using the lane flout the rule with impunity.
Aside this, some commercial bus drivers are quite lawless. They not only drive against traffic, they usually carry more than the required number of passengers, stop to pick passengers at un-designated places and over speed among many others dangerous acts. Whenever they are apprehended by LASTMA officials, they resort to harassing, and even beating them up.
Meanwhile, the State government has continued to ensure that LASTMA is abreast of the latest and best global trends in traffic management. Consequently, it had organized series of training for LASTMA personnel in order to serve as a role model to other States in the country. It is important to state that some States in the country have established their own traffic management outfit tailored after LASTMA.
Currently, LASTMA officials are being trained on incident management, traffic management and modern road traffic arts among others. The state government is desirous of creating an attitudinal change and rebranding LASTMA officials. Part of the training objective is to provide the basic knowledge and skills necessary to accurately monitor and manage the road in order to reduce travel time and ensure effective traffic control plan for the safe movement of people and goods.
Nevertheless, as with other regulatory and enforcement agencies across the country, it may not be unusual to find a few bad eggs in LASTMA, since they are products of the society. Some may truly be culpable of the some allegations usually leveled against LASTMA officials. Government, on its own, is not unaware of this as it has continually been making efforts geared towards solving the problem of black sheep in LASTMA. Sometimes ago, a corrupt LASTMA official who was caught in the act was not only dismissed but prosecuted by the government and eventually jailed.
Equally, over the years, a few LASTMA officials have been sacked for various acts of misconduct while various disciplinary measures have been meted out to others who have been found culpable of various acts of misconduct. All these form part of the measures to maintain discipline among officers and also to sanitize the rank and file of the traffic control authority.
It is, thus, important to stress that rather than vilify LASTMA, members of the public should come up with collaborative ideas that could make the agency work better for the good of the society. Those who have genuine contributions to make to governance in the state should avail themselves of the novel opportunity provided through the various e-mail addresses and phone numbers of members of the State Executive Council which are now public properties. LASTMA officials are our brothers and sisters; we should respect their right to life.
Finally, the case involving the two policemen, and, indeed, other such unruly individuals, must be seen through to a logical end and all persons involved made to face the full wrath of the law. Anything short of that would only empower criminals to continue to be more audacious and malicious. This, of course, is not in the best interest of the society.
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.