The reckless and lawless behaviors of commercial tricycle and motorcycle riders on the roads in Lagos would make one conclude that they are either highhanded or above the law. They operate as if traffic laws were made for other road users and not for them. They now ply routes where they have been prohibited from without any fear of arrest. They compete with heavy duty trucks, high-capacity vehicles on the highways and even on BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) lanes.
One major challenge the BRT drivers face daily when on the wheel in their dedicated lanes is the problem created by the motorcyclists riding recklessly on BRT corridors. These motorcycle riders appear uncontrollable and above the law. These motorcyclists overspeed and even overtake BRT buses on the lanes assigned for BRT. They flout the laws and in fact some uniformed security personnel who also ride motorcycles disobey traffic laws.
On the 22nd of March, 2021, at about 8pm, a nursing mother with her baby escaped death by the whiskers while on a motorbike at Fagba intersection, along Iju road in Lagos. Officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), were on ground to rescue the woman and her baby. The victims were lucky to have only sustained minor injuries and were moved to a nearby hospital for First Aid treatment and attention. The immediate set of questions that would come to mind first are: Why would one be in a hurry to arrive a destination at the expense of their life? Next is, what would have been more important for a nursing mother to catch up with than the life of her baby? Why would a pillion allow the motorcyclist ride past highways, busy roads or prohibited areas for bikes?
The motorbike operator that carried the woman alongside her baby, actually ran the traffic red light and disobeyed traffic managers operating manually. The erring motorcyclist, in the process, ran into oncoming vehicle from Jonathan Coker road to connect Iju road through the intersection. The rider was then trapped by a vehicle in the opposite direction. LASTMA officers on ground rushed to save the lives of the baby and that of the mother; they didn’t hurry to apprehend the erring motorcyclist.
A close observation at road intersections and junctions where traffic managers or traffic lights are positioned in Lagos, one will discover that, these lawless motorcycle and tricycle riders do not wait a minute at signalized junctions to obey traffic instructions whether manually or electronically. If LASTMA officers prioritize arrest of traffic offenders instead of traffic control, then all commercial motorcycles and tricycles would have been confiscated because the riders are habitual traffic law offenders.
These commercial motorcycle and tricycle operators are also known to quickly mobilise and repel any attempt by law enforcement agents to arrest them. In fact, they resort to vandalizing public properties and anything that indicates or shows ownership by government to express their displeasure or announce their disagreement with the authority. At times, they claim that they are protesting against certain decisions of the government but they end up destroying public and private properties, causing riot and unleashing mayhem on other road users. There were instances in time past where they mobilized to repel and revolt violently against arrest when they contravened traffic laws even it was clear they did not conform to regulations.
There is a notion that all LASTMA officers are generally reputed to milk the motoring public when they commit traffic offences. They are seen as ‘lions‘ on the road seeking whom to ‘devour‘. That notion is untrue but it is not to rule out the fact that there are no bad eggs among these traffic personnel. There are many other good ones out there who have been spotted and commended by the general public. Some Lagosians, commuters in particular, however, sometimes misconstrue and misrepresent the intentions of LASTMA officials when on duty. They assume their primary assignment is to arrest traffic violators, whereas it is to manage traffic; arrest is secondary.
This rescue by LASTMA officers brings to fore the need for motorcyclists and the three-wheel riders to obey traffic laws and regulations at all times in order to prevent needless crashes or deaths. If the LASTMA men at the Iju intersection that day had dashed to apprehend the traffic offender first, the woman and her baby might not have been lucky to be alive today.
In all, safety of life is paramount, and cannot be negotiated or substituted for early arrival at one’s destination. Passengers on board bikes and motorcycles are also duty-bound to caution their riders at every given point when they appear to be riding outside what the traffic laws stipulate. Riders of motorcycles and tricycles should learn patience and ensure they always adhere to traffic laws even when they are in haste in the overall interest of saving lives.
Kayode Ojewale is of the Public Affairs Unit of LASTMA