Achieving Law And Order In Our Society



Order, as the old adage says, is the first law in heaven. The truth is that without orderliness, everything  will be in chaos; driving on the roads, flying in the air, navigating on the high seas, all involve  orderliness. Law is the blood without which order is bound to collapse. Order comes alive and becomes  entrenched when there is law to back it up. For example in Nigeria every driver keeps to the right hand side  of the road. But Government did not assume that every driver would conform to this orderliness so it places a  sanction on defaulters. Without the sanction, you can be sure compliance will be difficult. It runs through  the gamut of all human activities. As a matter of fact, law and order constitute the life blood of good  governance.

When law is mentioned, of course the mind runs to enforcement without which a law becomes a toothless bull  dog. Take for instance the traffic regulation not to drive or ride against traffic. The law in Lagos is that  anyone caught flouting this regulation will not only be fined, he or she will be required to get a  certification from a Psychiatrist that he/she is not mentally unfit. However, the defaulter must be arrested  first before being charged and fined accordingly. This brings us to the law enforcement agents; the Police,  the Armed Forces and other paramilitary organisations charged with maintaining law and order in the country.  In Lagos, aside from the police, there are members of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA), the  Lagos State Task Force on the Environment and others who constitute the first responders to any breach of law  and order.

These agencies are expected, for example, to enforce the law banning driving against traffic for all vehicles  including motorcycles (okada). They are expected to arrest and prosecute commercial drivers who stop in  places other than the bus stops to pick passengers on the roads. They are expected to arrest persons at bus  stops or on the roads stopping and extorting money from vehicle owners including okada riders during which  traffic flow is often impeded. They are expected to arrest commercial motorcyclists plying the various major  highways, such as Ikorodu Road, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Third Mainland Bridge and restricted areas.

Unfortunately, these agencies seem to have failed in these functions. In fact,   the ways some of these  offences are  committed right before these agencies gives the impression that the perpetrators have their  express backing. At major bus stops such as Ojota, Mile 2, Mile 12, Palmgrove, Ojuelegba, Oshodi, Iyana- Ipaja, Agege etc., commuter buses stop and discharge passengers in the middle of the road. They drive against  traffic and make u-turns sometimes at the most unusual places. They practically break all the traffic rules  in the book while the police and these other agencies just watch.

At the Ojota bus stop, commuter bus driver drivers drive across the road divide to change direction from  Ojota-Yaba to Ojota-Ketu, the police look on.     Okada riders execute all kinds of gymnastics right there on  the roads. Aside from hawking for passengers while taking up part of the expressway, they also jump the road  divide to change direction.  There is also the case of touts erecting check-points at street corners to  extort money from both commuter buses and motorcycles apparently with the connivance of the traffic offers  who often stand some distance away from the scene. Then, there is the issue of the flagrant disobedience of  the law that bans Okada riders from plying the major highways such as Ikorodu Road, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.  The lawe also restricts Okada and commuter buses to the service lanes on Ikorodu road. Today, Okada not only  compete with cars and lorries on the expressways, they take more than one passenger and they go without  helmet either for themselves or their passengers. They meander through traffic at top speed and with their  horns blaring threateningly. They do not respect traffic signs.  Recently, also, the State Commissioner of  Police, Mr. Umar Abubakar Manko, said cart pushers would no longer be allowed to ply the major roads with  loads of yams and other items. But again, this is not enforced just as the law banning cart pushers  evacuating refuse is not enforced. One needs to ply the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway between Old Toll Gate and  Ibafor in Ogun State or Ikorodu Road right up to Ikorodu to see scores of these cart pushers claiming part of  the major road as vehicles speed past.

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Now, the State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has consistently shown his abhorrence of flagrant  non-compliance with law and order and if there is any one traffic offence that he seems to hate most, it is  driving or riding against traffic. Aside from causing the law to be passed against it at the House of  Assembly, the governor has included a taskforce team in his convoy to arrest offenders and this happens each  time he goes on any assignment around the metropolis because he does not use siren.

Commercial motorcyclists do not even wait for traffic to slow down to use the lane. Sometimes, they cause  real obstruction to the BRT buses.

Yet, there are traffic officers posted to enforce compliance with that regulation. Watching from, probably,  a traffic hold-up, it is easy to understand the situation. The average Nigerian is thrilled to try out the  efficacy of any new law. When the Ministry of Transportation placed restrictions on certain roads, including  the expressways, for okada riders, that law did not last more than three months before, gradually but  steadily the okada riders flouted it. Today, they not only ride with impunity on those restricted areas, they  take more than one passenger with them, including pregnant women and school children and without helmet. So  also the illegal use of the BRT lane began gradually; but today, it has become almost routine. Now that  governor has arrested and reprimanded a colonel, probably the jamboree may stop for some few days in Central  Lagos. The Governor, of course, cannot be there all the time. So, the non-compliance will continue; unless,  of course, the law enforcement agencies do their duty.

Admittedly, it could be quite frustrating to see people taking pleasure in flouting rules and regulations.  For, instance, watching people forcing traffic to slow down for them to cross the expressway right under a  pedestrian bridge; or vehicle drivers disregarding traffic light and other such things. But the traffic  officers have a duty to insist on compliance with those laws. It all has to do with urbanization. There is  still a thin line between rural and urban life. People who have lived in the villages all their teenage and  adolescent life, practically transfer such rural behaviours to the urban area. Such people may not even know  how to live in a modern flat. They may, most probably, be more comfortable defecating in the open than using  the closet. But while we use advocacy to bring them to standard, the traffic must move and law and order must  be maintained. Unless, of course, we prefer to live in a chaotic society.

•DURUGBO is Personal Assistant on Print Media to the Governor of Lagos State.

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