LASTMA And The Limit Of Civility

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Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode

The administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode deserves the commendation of Lagos residents, particularly the motorists for injecting order and decorum in the style of enforcement currently adopted by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA). There is no gainsaying the fact that there is now a strong emphasis on civil approach and voluntary compliance in the administration of Road Traffic Management. This is a departure and paradigm shift from the military style enforcement of the past, which must have been a throw back from our past experience under military rule.

Any keen observer must have noticed a conspicuous change in the present conduct of LASTMA operatives, particularly the concentration of efforts on traffic control and removal of broken down vehicles from the road without impoundment and imposition of fines, which was more often the practice in the past.

The position of the present administration is that enforcement of the traffic rules and laws must be carried out with human face, without discountenance of the imperativeness of enforcement when some individuals choose to be recalcitrant.

Law and order are features of a civilized society, as upheld in Hobbesian theory on state of nature when Thomas Hobbes posited that man’s life will be solitary, short, nasty and brutish without law and its enforcement. It is the compelling need to prevent man from trampling on the rights of others that makes it imperative for law enforcement agents to intervene and ensure compliance with the law. One of the areas that always demand for the attention of road traffic or law enforcement agent is indiscriminate parking on the right of way of other law-abiding motorists.

The Lagos State Government, in a bold attempt to ensure free flow of traffic and safety on Lagos Roads, promote disciplined driving culture and reduce traffic congestion and gridlock, as well as to enthrone road users behavioural modification, enacted the Lagos Road Traffic Law, 2012. LASTMA happens to be one of the agencies of government saddled with the responsibility of ensuring compliance to standard.

We cannot but agree that the Agency has been doing a yeoman’s job in traffic management and swift intervention whenever there is any incident that could create congestion and gridlocks before it escalates into crisis.

The new marching order by Governor Ambode to LASTMA men and officers to observe civility while discharging their statutory duties is being internalized and appreciated by the operatives, to remodel the operational style to effect the Agency as machinery of government to ameliorable problems and render humanitarian service.

However, some recent happenings seem to suggest that the doctrine of civility espoused by the present administration is being abused by some Lagos motorists, most of whom cannot but flout the law.

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The persistent violent attacks on LASTMA officials, across the length and breadth of the state is making a mockery of Governor Ambode administration’s appeal for civility by LASTMA official. The gruesome murder of the Zonal Head of LASTMA Zone 13, Apapa on December 15, 2016, is one of such sad incidents. Also, on February 9, 2017, a commercial bus driver knocked down a LASTMA official, Mr.Nwangi Peter, dragged him on the road from MRS Filling Station/R.Jolad Hospital to Tantalizers junction at Gbagada. Thereafter, other bus drivers and conductors pounced on and ruthlessly dealt with him

Similarly, a tricycle operator, Mr Godfrey Fekoma violently attacked a LASTMA official, MrRasakOyekan at Acme road. The result was a deep cut on the head of the LASTMA official. We recall the recent experience of the General Manager of LASTMA, Mr. Olawale Musa, when he escaped death by a whisker in the process of making an erring driver Mr. David Agiri behave like a sane person. Unknown to him that the man sitting behind the steering wheel was mentally-deranged, he tried to apply civilty to discourage the flagrant violation of Road Traffic Law. But it seems the Nigerian society is not ripe for a civil approach to correcting recklessness and deviant dispositions on the highways.

Perhaps the most disturbing and worrisome setback to the State Government’s Policy on enforcement with civility happened on Monday March 6, 2017 on ASSBIFI Road, Alausa Central Business District (CBD) within the precints where indiscriminate parking of vehicles on the road by workers who have their offices in the area and other individuals was the prevailing situation before LASTMA officials decided to go and dislodge the vehicles that had made life so unbearable for others. While trying to carry out their statutory duties, which was as a result of complaints by members of the public, some owners of the illegally parked vehicles came to the scene with different types of lethal weapons to attack LASTMA officials.

In the ensuing melee two LASTMA officials were beaten, while others had their uniforms torn to shreds. Is civility not at a crossroad? Incidentally, a newspaper publication that reported the incident presented a biased, jaundiced and skewed account of what actually transpired at the scene. Subjective report like this is a sad commentary on our cravings for a civilized and egalitarian society.

While we are not advocating indecent approach to the enforcement of the law it is expected that if law enforcement agents are applying civility in the discharge of their statutory duties, the people they are paid to serve should appreciate same by demonstrating decorum when they have encounter with law enforcement agents, rather than recourse to self-help that could lead to anarchy.

Considering the spate of these unwarranted violent attacks on law enforcement officials of the State Government, it behoves on the Government itself to evaluate and rejig the new policy on enforcement of traffic law and regulations, by embarking on mass enlightenment campaign to reorientate the motoring public, before the great achievements and improvements in the traffic management system become eroded by uncivil mentality of some disgruntled motorists, especially the pathologically lawless commercial bus drivers.

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