Story: Blessing Ehidiamen
I was surprised when the officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) stood in front our vehicle ordering it to be stopped one bright early morning. This was totally unprofessional to me because one; they are causing obstruction on the road and two (2); my benevolent friend, who was giving me a ride obviously didn’t overtake any car. We packed on one side of the road still confused on what is going on.
That was when something struck me, and I realized I was not wearing my seatbelt. One of the silliest things I have done though.
We pleaded and blamed it on ignorance, promising not to do it again and thanking them for the correction, but the officer was adamant, insisting that we surrender the car for impounding. My friend suggested that he should be given a receipt to pay whatever fine for the offence as he is quite familiar with the traffic laws hence he knows what to do if an offence is committed.
The LASTMA official requested for his driver’s license and my colleague gave him as instructed. The official told him to drive down to where their boss was in the car. This of course didn’t go down well with him as he knows that an offence was committed and he was ready to pay the consequences by paying a fine, and so he refused. The official concluded that we were stubborn, seized his driver’s license and ordered me to get to the backseat saying he is under arrest and he wants him to drive down to their office. In return, my friend who felt that his right is being infringed upon said “I am not going to allow any uniform man to enter my car.”
Years ago, the Lagos State government introduced the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) with the sole aim of controlling the prevalent traffic gridlock in Lagos. They pledged their dedication to duty and determination to maintain law and order, restore sanity and ensure free flow of traffic on Lagos roads at all times which is their primary responsibility.
But, a good number of the population has complained that what is seen today is quite different from their original mandate and responsibility. LASTMA officials are going against their way in performing the jobs of the police and equally of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
The government, it is believed, established LASTMA and FRSC to relief the tasking duties of the police force. The way it is today, the FRSC, whose primary duties are to prevent and minimize accidents on the highway, educating motorists and members of the public on the importance of discipline on the highway seems to be on holidays as LASTMA have automatically taken over their jobs.
“There is nothing wrong with LASTMA officials assisting other corps members in handling their jobs but it is high time these corps mind their own business following the way they are going about it unprofessionally,” said a road user who refused to give his name.
With the way LASTMA are behaving these days, one will begin to wonder what exactly their function is. The Authority, on daily basis, goes about arresting and persecuting road offenders, making one wonder if that is not the duty of the Police.
“LASTMA officials cannot say they possess such right as well. Their priority is not to arrest those who violate traffic laws but to keep the traffic moving. They have no right to inspect neither do they have the right to drive a motorist’s vehicle. What LASTMA officials are expected to do is to correct motorist when they break traffic laws. And if they feel that correction is not enough and the offender needs to be disciplined, then a receipt should be given for the offender to pay the specific fine for the committed offence which is done in designated banks. Motorists don’t need to be told as they were educated on the various traffic laws during their training in the driving school which they got their license from.,” Mrs. Christy Adebowale, a banker said.
Stakeholders have wonder why the existence of FRSC if they won’t be allowed to perform their jobs in a city like Lagos. Until recently, the presence of FRSC officials was becoming rarer and scarce on the roads of Lagos.
But the government has made it easier by given group its job description, it therefore, seem unusual that one agency should superimpose itself on another’s territory. LASTMA officials should beforehand be effective in the elimination of traffic in Lagos and then they can think of relieving the jobs of other corps members.
Deji Olanbajo, a residence of Ikeja told The Boss that the attitude of the group (LASTMA) is totally unacceptable.
“I personally think that one of the duties of the LASTMA officials is to correct people when they break traffic laws but this is no longer the case. In fact, the LASTMA official I see everywhere is always on standby or on the lookout for a car that makes the slightest mistake and jump right in front of the car thereby risking their own lives all in the name of hustling for their pockets”.
Another respondent, Anthony Pius said: “LASTMA officials are not performing their jobs effectively; there is traffic and you see them doing jobs that don’t concern them. These people are obviously fighting for their interest. They arrest motorist because of they want from them. They are out everywhere looking for offenders to collect money from which is not supposed to be; it’s not their job, they should face traffic and make it free flowing.”
Obviously, Lagosians do not appreciate the work of the LASTMA officials, they still feel that they have to stick to the purpose they were created for, which is to control traffic.
Mr. Babatunde Fashola, former Governor of Lagos state, during his tenure, readdressed the duties of the outfit, during a function at the Blueroof Hall, LTV, Agidingbi, saying that the priority is not about arresting those who violate traffic laws but to keep the traffic moving. He emphasized that if any LASTMA official realizes that in the process of correcting a traffic offender, there is every likelihood of creating more traffic bottleneck, such a traffic offender should be let off.
This only means that LASTMA officials can only intimidate motorists and road users if they don’t know their rights as the government that instituted it has not said that it has extended their job description and scope of performance.
However, despite the warnings given by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to the officials of LASTMA, that “I don’t want officers that will torture my citizens. They may be offenders but don’t torture them. Don’t jump into their cars to enforce arrest. This is where you have to be creative and use technology in the implementation of the law. For now, no harassment”, still they (LASTMA) put their interest first before anything.
Perhaps, Lagosians are getting the whole ideas of the functions of the LASTMA official wrongly, and the quest to find answers took The Boss to road corners where LASTMA officials function, and finally to their head office at Oshodi.
In response to the question; why are LASTMA officials doing the jobs of other agencies instead of facing their calling which is controlling of traffic, a LASTMA official who pleaded anonymity said: “LASTMA officials are authorized to punish anyone find guilty of the various traffic laws as well. It is stated in our website. We simply discipline offenders. FRSC is for the Federal Government; they are under the Federal Government and we barely see these people operate here in Lagos, hence Lagos State decided to establish their own agency to carry out the functions on the road effectively which is LASTMA.”
He added: “Quite alright, our calling is control traffic but in the process of doing that, we eliminate anything that is going to be an obstacle in carrying out our jobs effectively. Bad roads contribute to traffic congestion, we reach out to the Ministers of Works and Labour in fixing of the roads. Same goes to when people break traffic laws which may likely cause an accident; accident on highways destruct the free movement of vehicles. This is one of the major causes of traffic congestion. That is why we perform the duties of the FRSC to ensuring the free flow of traffic.”
He furthered stated that LASTMA officials operate with the 4E, which are; educate/enlightenment, establishment, enforcement and evaluation. They educate the masses through radio stations, like the Traffic radio and they have a body solely responsible for this function, they move around in educating and correcting people on the various traffic laws. Establishment is where the facilities and the necessary amenities are put in place in ensuring the free flow of traffic. A law has already been created, there is no offence when there is no law and a law is nothing when it is not enforced. This is where we charged people for the offence they have committed.
In response to the impounding of vehicles and the ceasing of driver’s license in spite of what the Governor said that no LASTMA official should drive offender’s vehicles, he said that “in some cases, a LASTMA official has to impound the vehicle of a motorist. When an offence is committed, the LASTMA official requests the motorist to take the vehicle to our station, and by doing so, we either instruct the motorist to drive the car to our office by sitting beside the motorist or we request for the keys to the vehicle and drive it down ourselves. We do this because when the vehicle is impounded, the offender will be determined to pay the fine for the offence and come back for his/her car. Even though we issued out receipt at the time the offence is committed we still have to impound the vehicle used in committing the offence. We are authorized to do so. We started requesting to drive an offender’s vehicle because of previous incidents where our members got taken to somewhere else entirely, beaten, wounded and even killed by the offenders. So many of our members have been victims of that”
With all of these, can Lagosians now say that LASTMA officials are just performing their jobs effectively and nothing more? It is a bit contradicting because the governor says one thing and the LASTMA official does the opposite. Probably, Lagosians are too hyperactive meaning they have to chill and let these people perform their jobs. More awareness needs to be pushed out there because a lot of Lagosians are obviously ignorant of the many duties of the LASTMA officials.