Why We Enacted New Traffic Law —Fashola


In continuation of his public enlightenment campaign on the new Lagos Traffic Law, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has again explained that his administration decided to promulgate the law in order to improve the safety, economic productivity and quality of life of Lagosians.

Governor Fashola, who spoke at an interactive session with news, political, and business editors at the Banquet Hall of the Lagos House, said compliance to the law would also enhance physical and mental health as well as life expectancy of citizens, adding that traffic is a major determinant of the economy of any society.

Citing the example of traffic in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2008 where a traffic police man’s daily requirement for duty included an umbilical cord clamp for delivering pregnant women held up for several hours on traffic, Governor Fashola declared, “We acted because that is the road which we are sure we may be dangerously heading to”, adding that the whole essence of the law is to avoid the Bangkok experience.

Governor Fashola said the new law had become expedient because of the increase in the population of the people and vehicular traffic, adding that some of the offences being committed on the roads today were not there when the population of the state was less than 10 million.

He illustrated the tremendous change in traffic that has taken place in the state from a picture of Carter Bridge which was displayed on the screen in the Hall, saying that even with an orderly traffic situation, the less than 500,000 population still complained of traffic hold up in the city then.

“Today, we are about 21 million people. They were not driving against traffic then; traffic was somewhat organised but people at that time were complaining. That was when go-slow started. Now if we continue the way we are going, we will get to the Bangkok experience. We do not want us to get there, that is why we passed this law”, the governor said.

Governor Fashola noted that his administration did not just get up one day to promulgate the law without due consultation, adding; “We did not just make the law. Two years ago we called together all these men, we gathered them, some of you were there, and appealed to them. At that time, some of our colleagues in other states had banned okada, but we did not ban them because we recognised the alternate use that compelled their existence”.

The Governor said the intention of his administration was to have a better means of transportation, pointing out that if the issue of non-compliance is removed from the traffic situation in the state, it is not different from what is obtainable on a daily basis in the so-called developed countries of the world.

“The same traffic that you see here in Lagos, if you remove the non-compliance, the drive against traffic and all that, it is the same traffic that you see in London in the morning and evening, it is the same traffic that you see in New York morning and evening. You see it in San Francisco in the morning and evening; it is called rush hour”, the Governor further explained.

Governor Fashola, however, said the difference between us and those other countries was that we seem to have stopped our efforts to improve our traffic situation even though we complain that we are held up in traffic everyday, adding; “But we are the one propagating it”.

Noting that traffic congestion is a global phenomenon, Governor Fashola said the Mayor of New York is imposing a congestion tax while London also has the same tax, noting; “But why should we have congestion tax here because there is no congestion. I don’t take taxi in New York because it is better to walk than to drive.”

“I know some of you think we have the worst traffic here but our own is not the worst. Now, those people have congestions in spite of an efficient rail system, an efficient water transportation system and so on. It speaks to superior transport managerial capacity here than there”, the Governor said.

He urged the media, “Let us turn this communication around and stop feeling sorry for ourselves. We have a job to do together, let us encourage ourselves, let us work together and shame the bad ones among us. Let us also encourage those who, in dignity, go out every day trying to keep the traffic going”.

The Governor, who cited some of the arguments against the law as the insufficiency of roads in the State declared, “You don’t build the road overnight and, indeed, if we build 20-lane highway, if you don’t value them, if you don’t use them properly, they won’t serve us well”.

Commenting on the question of awareness of the law among the populace, Governor Fashola said the Government has been working assiduously to enlighten the public about all aspects of the law adding, “That is why although the law took effect from the 2nd of August, we have held on very deliberately to pursue awareness”.

“In the last two weeks we have installed over 15, 000 road signs across the State showing that we mean well. It is all up to us now. This is what defines our prosperity and our civilization, transportation. It is what defines ultimately how we value ourselves. It determines everything that we do and hope to achieve. If we get it right, all of us will be better for it”, the Governor said.

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Noting that we are now in the last quarter of the year when businesses are being concluded for the end of the year, Governor Fashola said this is the right time to test the efficacy of the law, adding, “I don’t want to catch people, I want people to comply willingly”.

“We have changed our attitude to tax collection simply because we want people to comply willingly and we are better for it today”, the Governor said adding that in like manner it would be to the benefit of all if people comply to the new traffic law willingly and voluntarily.

Governor Fashola also cited other arguments against the law such as the complaint of sanctions against driving against traffic and eating while driving pointing out that if someone is killed by a vehicle due to the carelessness of the driver, there is no sanction too great against such a person.

“Accidents don’t take hours before they happen. A second’s loss of concentration on the road is enough to cause accident and the damage could be irreversible. If a husband is killed, the woman becomes a widow and that is irreversible. So also if parents are killed, the children become orphans and that condition is irreversible”, the Governor said.

Throwing more light on his insistence on the non-use of siren by his administration, Governor Fashola explained, “We are entrusted with the responsibility to manage traffic. People contributed their money for us to go and clear the traffic for them; do we now escape from the traffic and leave them behind?”

Urging the media men to cooperate with the Government to publicize the law and ensure compliance, Governor Fashola declared, “I do not know why people are opposed to a law that is made to protect their lives. I do not know. Do we want the Bangkok experience? Keeping Lagos traffic going has been one of the hardest things we do and I am proud of the method we have adopted so far; but I need your help so that we can succeed”.

In his remarks earlier, Mr. Opeyemi Agbaje, a Public Policy Analyst, and rappauteur at the event, said the Lagos Road Traffic Law in addition to enhancing the quality of life of citizens, represents a way of life in every civilized society adding that it would not only improve the safety and security of Lagosians but would also improve prospects for Tourism in the State.

“More importantly, it is about the civilization and the culture and the type of society we want to build in Lagos State”, Agbaje said adding that what impressed him most about the law was the provision in Section 36(3) which allows Magistrates the discretion to decide the kind of deterrent measure to impose on offenders in spite of the sanctions and penalties provided in the law.

Earlier, in his presentation on the law, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaiye, said the whole essence of the law was to establish sanity and decorum in traffic on Lagos roads pointing out that all the reasons being advanced by the people to justify the use of alternative means of transport like “okada” and “keke Marwa” would be eradicated if people comply to the law.

Debunking the notion that the State Government wants to ban the operation of commercial motorcycles in the State, the Attorney General said, “Where there is necessity for okada, we have allowed them to operate. But it is unsafe for them to operate on Third Mainland Bridge for instance”.

“The whole excuse for using okada is traffic hold-up so why not let us fight the holdup instead of engaging in a suicidal mission. If you want to have a feel of the damage being caused by okada, visit the Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi. Traffic holdup will go and okada will go if everybody obeys the traffic law”, Ipaiye said.

He appealed to the media to cooperate with the State Government to propagate the law adding, “I am not asking you to support the law blindly. Take a closer look at it and if there is any part of it to criticize please do so but, if you find it necessary for our society, please help us to propagate its true essence”.

In his presentation, the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr. Femi Hamzat highlighted the inner city road projects being presently undertaken by the State Government across the State saying it was in fulfillment of the Government’s promise to concentrate on the inner roads during its second tenure.

Also in his welcome address earlier, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Aderemi Ibirogba, said the meeting was to sensitize the media on the essence of the new Lagos State Road Traffic Law as the main gateway to and conscience of the people adding that understanding to the media would impact positively on the efforts of the Government to elicit voluntary compliance by the people.

Also present at the occasion were the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Ben Akabueze, his Transportation counterpart, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello and his Physical Planning and Urban Development counterpart, Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde, the Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Raji and the National Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Alhaji Lai Mohammed among other top government functionaries.

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