By Kayode Solomon Ojewale
In year 2000, when the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) was established on July 15 by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, then Governor of Lagos State, no one had thought the Agency would come this far, given the relative orderliness and sanity Lagos roads have witnessed from inception of LASTMA till now, in view of the preexisting traffic bedlam. While there is still need for improvement, the inputs made by LASTMA personnel in ensuring hitch-free traffic flow cannot be discountenanced. The feat achieved by LASTMA is undoubtedly made possible by efforts of successive administrations who built on the foundation laid by the founder of LASTMA. Today, many states across Nigeria, southwest in particular, have followed suit in the establishment of State Traffic Agencies. This emulation by other states would not have been so if LASTMA had failed few years after its creation.
LASTMA has, since its inception, witnessed different growth levels in the aspect of increase in workforce to cover more grounds and in the creation of more departments. When LASTMA began operations over two decades ago, it could only brag of few departments and units. But as the traffic situation of a growing Lagos population evolved, the agency rose to those demands. Today, LASTMA personnel are spread across major road intersections and trouble spots all over Lagos in order to carry out its mission statement: To promote a state-wide culture of traffic regulation, control, and management, as well as to ensure smooth traffic flow on Lagos roads.
There three E’s that govern the operations of LASTMA are Traffic Engineering, Traffic Enlightenment and Education and Traffic Enforcement. The first ‘E’ which stands for Engineering explains how the roads are created and designed as there must be the platform or avenue for traffic flow. The second ‘E’ that follows, Enlightenment, clearly reveals that there is provision for education on the rules that govern how these roads are used. This involves enlightenment on traffic signs and road marking signs among others. Traffic enlightenment also stretches beyond physical correctional measures by LASTMA officers on duty. There are regular interviews, jingles and programs on radio and TV, publications of features articles on traffic laws in the newspapers, traffic advocacies on social media platforms, schools and motor parks all to complete what traffic enlightenment is all about. The Last ‘E’ is the reason why traffic law violators are apprehended by LASTMA personnel and made to face the consequential penalty of their actions as stipulated by the law.
The order in which the three E’s are arranged establishes the fact that enlightenment comes before enforcement. This dismisses claims and allegations by some motorists that LASTMA personnel only arrest and do not apply corrective measures in dealing with traffic infractions committed by some offenders. The enlightenment role LASTMA officers play on the road covers traffic control. Let me state categorically here that traffic management is the primary duty of LASTMA personnel, while arrest is secondary. Both are very important because they are interwoven as lawlessness may prevail if the secondary duty is not carried out.
Mr. Bolaji Oreagba, the General Manager of LASTMA, on a radio program, while reacting to claims that LASTMA personnel only punish offenders and never correct them, said: “LASTMA officials carry out their duties with civility, empathy and professionalism. It all depends on the individuals and the approach of the traffic violators. We have had instances where a traffic offender is released upon a good approach, so it all depends on the individual. It’s not all about enforcement, it’s about corrective measures too.” Most motorists only see the arrests made by LASTMA officials and not when they apply corrective measures during enforcement exercises.
The discipline and character of LASTMA personnel in the face of frustration and attacks while discharging their statutory duties have kept them going. Many would have quit the job on grounds of intimidation by some violent and recalcitrant motorists who were apprehended for contravening traffic laws. It takes some exceptional qualities to professionally handle traffic situations in the face of provocations. This is because they bear in mind always that they are government representatives and must be seen as good examples worthy of emulation by the general public at large.
Without any doubt, the agency isn’t resting on its oars under the leadership of Mr. Oreagba who has been championing the course of moving Lagos traffic forward despite all odds. The deployment of Traffic Management Solution (TMS) handheld devices and body-worn cameras to capture real-time picture evidence of traffic violations has improved traffic management and control in Lagos. Constant training and retraining of LASTMA personnel have also brought about better performance and delivery. This technology deployment would help lay to rest arguments and counter arguments between traffic violators and traffic managers as picture evidence does not lie.
For optimal performance of LASTMA, motorists should desist from giving bribe to traffic managers as both the bribe giver and taker are liable under the law. When traffic violators stop inducing traffic officers with money and the latter reject such offers, every motorist would sit up to avoid breaking the law. This way, a corrupt-free LASTMA will be achieved and in turn, there would be justice and fairness for all.
This is urging the motoring public to take advantage of the various channels made available by the agency to lodge complaints of misconducts and misdemeanors of any LASTMA personnel. Seeking redress that way would ensure fairness and balance as a higher authority takes up complaints officially reported. If a motorist is, for instance, apprehended by a LASTMA official for committing a traffic infraction and he feels he had not violated traffic law and hence, dissatisfied, such person is at liberty to make a formal report through LASTMA social media handles and complaint lines.
There is also the mobile court which decides offences on grounds of referral to courts and offenders are at liberty to defend or appeal their cases. There are two options for apprehended traffic offenders – payment of fine or accepting issuance of court referral. If the traffic offender signs an undertaking and agrees to pay fine instead of appearing in court, then so be it. On the other hand, if the traffic offender feels he is not guilty of offence, then the court is on ground to hear his case.
As the Agency grows in leaps and bounds, it must be on standby to face the challenges that come with growing numbers of motoring public in a mega-metropolitan city like Lagos. LASTMA personnel must not, at any point, rest on its oars given the impact their presence has on Lagos roads. In order to maintain the orderliness and sanity LASTMA has brought on Lagos roads, officials of the Agency must continue to discharge their duties with a high level of civility and professionalism.
22 hearty cheers to the management, men and officers of LASTMA!
Ojewale, of the Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA, writes via [email protected]