I was at the bus stop on this particular day hoping to catch a bus to my house after close of business when I suddenly heard the screeching of tyres. I looked in the direction of the sound and the sight before me was that of a bruised commercial motorcyclist and his passenger who had obviously fell from a bike.
According to what I gathered, the motorcyclist was trying to run away from an officer of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), who was trying to confiscate his bike, when he lost balance and came crashing down with his passenger.
There has been a lot of complaints from road users about the manner in which the LASTMA officers conduct themselves while discharging their duties. I have always cut them a slack but what I witnessed that day totally erased any benefit of doubt I had for them. While the accident victims were down and struggling to get up after sustaining various degrees of injuries, the LASTMA officer surprisingly ran towards the fallen bike in a bid to impound it. This angered passers-by and they almost lynched him save for the timely intervention of his colleagues.
LASTMA which was established by the Bola Tinubu administration in 1999 has deviated from its sole responsibility of maintaining free flow of vehicular traffic in Lagos State. The agency is now a shadow of its old self. There has been several cases of the officers collecting bribe from traffic defaulters, unjustified arrest of road users and extortion of money from commercial bus drivers (Danfo).
There was another case of a LASTMA officer knocked down by a commercial bus after getting in front of the speeding bus to make an arrest. The officer was said to have been dragged along the road by the bus before he finally died.
Another incident in which a female banker with Stanbic IBTC, Yinka Johnson, was unlawfully detained for allegedly crushing a LASTMA officer to death made the headlines recently. Mrs Johnson was alleged to have resisted arrest and consequently crushed the LASTMA officer who was making the arrest to death. But another twist was added to the story when it was discovered that Mrs Johnson was being framed. The news went viral on various social media platforms and she was eventually let off the hook all thanks to the numerous comments and criticism from all and sundry.
Not every arrested road user gets lucky like Mrs Johnson. Some have been arrested, dumped and are rotting in jail without trial. The officer-road user inter-relational skills exhibited by some of these officers are very poor. A case where a motorist breaks a traffic rule and the first thing these officers do is to jump into his car and forcefully halt the car is highly condemnable.
A friend who was driving on Lagos road for the first time said he was made to part with his N5000 after taking a one-way traffic road. He said that there was no sign to indicate that the road is a one way road. He tried explaining to the officers but all his explanations fell on deaf ears. The officers were bent on impounding his car or he ‘settles’ them. He stated that they were willing to accompany him to the ATM when he told them he didn’t have enough cash on him.
The motive behind establishing LASTMA is a welcome one but the government ought to put measures in place to check the excesses of the officers. The officers should always conduct themselves professionally and politely. The traffic rules are made for the road users and not vice versa. Caution should be extremely taken on the part of LASTMA officials.
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