By Kayode Ojewale
Handling traffic challenges posed by a megametropolitan city like Lagos could be overwhelming and to contain this, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), was established 21 years ago in order to bring sanity and orderliness to Lagos roads. LASTMA, on July 15, 2020, became twenty one years since its establishment. The journey since inception would certainly and expectedly not have been an easy one given the attendant effect the everyday-growing population of people in Lagos would have on the flow of traffic on the roads. The increasing population necessitated the creation of the agency, saddled primarily with the responsibility of managing and controlling traffic on Lagos roads.
The introduction of LASTMA filled the yawning lacuna between where Lagos was without a state traffic control agency and where it is now that it has one. While unruliness, disorderliness and lawlessness were the order of the day then, the introduction of LASTMA brought some level of sanity into transport system and operation in Lagos. The argument that the establishment of LASTMA has not brought any meaningful change or impact to traffic flow on Lagos roads as being said by some road users does not hold water. Let me quickly add that, we cannot rule out the fact that, some LASTMA personnel manifest their excesses by abusing their powers. Reason the agency constituted units and departments which act as checks and balances to the activities of its men. The State owned Traffic Agency has different departments like the Provost and Monitoring and Surveillance departments which checkmate modes of dressing and activities of the personnel on the road.
The mission statement of LASTMA necessitated the establishment of the Agency and it reads: To develop a culture of regulation, control and management of traffic operations state wide; And to ensure hitch-free traffic flow on Lagos roads. At every major road intersections and busy troubled spots of traffic flow in Lagos, the impacts of these personnel are felt; maybe not in totality but to a large extent. The unruly and lawless behaviors of some motorists on the roads have been checkmated with the presence of LASTMA officials on the road.
The tides of incessant attacks on LASTMA personnel and clashes with recalcitrant motorists can be stemmed if no one violates traffic laws and infractions are not committed. It is only traffic offenders due to their indiscipline and carelessness that become violent when apprehended. They attempt to assault the traffic personnel who book them for the offence committed.
The argument in some quarters that LASTMA officers do nothing on the roads other than to extort motorists does not hold water and can not stand. It is very imperative to state clearly that these personnel have their excesses too given how they sometimes operate and wield their powers. The cheering news, however, to the general public is that, there is a system in place to bring them to order.
There were few or no traffic offenders before LASTMA came on stage as there were probably no state traffic laws, affirming that part of the Holy Scripture which declares that, where there is no law, there is no sin. However, with the introduction of various traffic laws and accompanying punishable offences in Lagos, traffic offenders began to surface.
Whether a motorist or pedestrian, everyone residing or doing business in Lagos uses the roads and as such they see on daily basis what officers and men of LASTMA do. So it is only the road users who truly can assess and score traffic managers high or low.
With the daily growth in population and enormously complex road networks in Lagos, the available LASTMA officers might not be able to cover all the road intersections or junctions where traffic congestion usually emanates from. But with high level compliance and adherence with traffic laws, traffic would flow unhindered.
As enshrined in the vision and mission statements of LASTMA, the agency still has a lot to do in achieving the goals set before it. In a bid to achieve a modern traffic management system, Lagos State Government recently introduced the Traffic Management Solution (TMS), a technology of handheld device deployed to capture real-time picture evidence of traffic violations. This will help put to rest arguments on false accusations of arrests on traffic infractions between LASTMA personnel and traffic offenders.
To everyone who has directly or indirectly contributed to moving Lagos traffic forward thus far, more can be done with the cooperation of all road users as we obey traffic laws and officers at all time. Past and present administrations at State, Ministry and Agency levels have all immensely contributed their quota and still contributing to the growth of LASTMA.
No feat or any significant impact would have been made by LASTMA without the contributions in terms of the support received from the motoring public. The kudos and knocks received from road users are important as they give room for proper performance evaluation by the agency. For the men and officers of LASTMA, commendations would spur to do more, while the corrections would make them buckle up.
Let me also acknowledge the contributions of LASTMA Special Traffic Mayors, the volunteers who assist and complement traffic personnel on duty. They are the shoulders who have not allowed the cloth to fall off the body proving to be worthy cover and support for LASTMA officials.
The difference made, coupled with the progress achieved between then and now, can be sustained if there is continued synergy between LASTMA and the motoring public in terms of balance. Every driver must respect other road users and obey traffic laws.
At 21 and as LASTMA keeps growing, it is time for the agency to brace for more challenges ahead in order to catch up with Lagos’ growing population and attendant traffic demands.
This is wishing LASTMA a cheerful 21st anniversary!
Kayode Ojewale is of the Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA