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New Lagos Traffic Law: Whose Interest? Part 1

27 September 2012, 09:41

This country, Nigeria is largely an unregulated society where many people feel that resistance to positive change is a normal way of life as seen with many laws both past and present. While some states make laws and execute policies and programmes to curb varying degrees of lawlessness, many others are indifferent and lack the political will to act, particularly those who use thugs to rig their ways into office.

To anybody who has lived in the disordered city of Lagos for a period of time, the Lagos State Government could not have been wrong in the idea behind the new traffic law, which came into effect on August 2, 2012. It is in fact long overdue for a city that is making a difference and showing the way to go in Nigeria. However slow the process might be, if Lagos State must metamorphose into a megacity and remain the centre of excellence and flagship state in Nigeria, the government and people of Lagos State must take certain harsh decisions even though they may not sound very sweet in the ears of those who don’t want change for the benefit and progress of the state and Nigeria at large.

According to the Governor, Fashola, the new law, among other things, seeks to “eradicate the diverse, anti-social, abnormal and dangerous practices associated with traffic operations in the state; and foresees a condition of free flow of traffic and orderly transportation as part of its mega city blueprint project.

"Road transportation must concern Nigerians because it is in truth the only existing means of intra transportation except for a little percentage of marine and rail transportation. It is for this reason that everything good, bad and ugly happen on the roads and for a congested city like Lagos, effective traffic control measures cannot be over-emphasized. All over the world, traffic laws are made to primarily ensure order and free flow of traffic for the safety of all road users, including the erring drivers. Therefore, penal provisions in such laws merely serve to ensure compliance with the traffic laws. We dare say they should not be generally intended to harass, intimidate and extort money from motorists. However, there are some realities the new law and its implementation must address.

This is so because the Lagos State Government cannot afford to be seen first as barking without biting and secondly as a wicked and unresponsive government. Therefore, a balance must be struck. An analysis of some of the reasons why motorists break traffic rules in Lagos or other parts of the country will show that in some cases, the government has not done all that is needed of it in terms of provision of infrastructures like pedestrian bridges or road repairs, posting effective and bold road signs in appropriate places, enlightenment, etc.

This will help to streamline compliance and help traffic flow rather than waiting for offenders and collecting fines. Where a road is under construction, the contractor and LASTMA should be duty bound to place bold road signs showing new directions of traffic flow, diversions and distortions or creation of ad-hoc routes, etc. This is because, although ignorance of the law is not an excuse, ignorance of the facts can be in some cases. The government must be satisfied that the erring motorist has every reason to know the facts constituting his offence. If therefore, he chooses otherwise, then he has himself to blame.

The traffic control measures have generated employment for a good number of youths and we must commend the Lagos State government for the bold step in removing idle hands from the street. However, this does not make unnecessary the fact that these are Nigerians and they possess all the good and the bad about us-The Nigerian ‘DNA make up’. It includes the get rich quick syndrome, inability to handle tasks efficiently without close monitoring, corruption and impoliteness in their relationship with others. The average Nigerian is angry, bitter and hostile in many respects, though I stand to be corrected on this.

Therefore, the first reality LASG must face is the training and orientating of all traffic operatives to be people-friendly in order to add integrity to the new law.

Sometimes, on-the-spot enlightenment can help a lot than just setting traps for innocent motorists. There are situations where certain road junctions, roundabouts and spots are not clearly marked by road signs to guide innocent motorists, and this leaves the driver confused, especially if he is not used to those routes.

On the contrary, what you see in some places where such difficulties do exist is that the traffic operatives, rather than help out, hide somewhere nearby in wait for anybody to make the expected mistakes and they jump out to extort money or arrest the driver. There are cases where a driver may be confused or missing his way and would need the assistance of a LASTMA official to help him point to the right direction, but they will not be there. Is this supposed to be a death trap? Thanks for reading and expect the part 2 of this soon!

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