New Telegraph

LASTMA/VIO: Dealing With Reckless Drivers, Vehicles On Lagos Roads

For a number of motorists on Lagos roads, the fear of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority(LASTMA) and Vehicle Inspection Officers(VIO) is the beginning of wisdom. In recent times, reports linking deaths of motorists and commuters to these agencies have stirred concerns. LADESOPE LADELOKUN writes on the trouble with safety on Lagos roads

The admonition to drive like the only sane person on the road is one deemed to be aimed at warding off the prob- able cataclysmic consequences of reckless driving. In a bid to ensure compliance with vehicle policies and stipulated road traffic laws, the Lagos State government had established the Lagos State computerised Vehicle Inspection Service (LACVIS) and the Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA). However, from LASTMA to LACVIS, reports abound on how activities of alleged overzealous, discriminatory, and corrupt agents cause pains and untimely deaths on Lagos roads.

Only last month, a pregnant woman, her two sons, and a tricycle rider were reportedly crushed to death at Okota Roundabout, Ago Palace Way, Lagos State. According to the Spokesman of the Lagos State Police Command, Benjamin Hundeyin, the incident happened when a driver fleeing from LASTMA officials who accosted him for driving against traffic ran into a tricycle. It was learnt that the husband of the pregnant woman passed out on sighting the lifeless bodies of his wife and children. Two weeks ago, it was another season of tears and sorrow as the lives of two street sweepers got terminated abruptly; something observers described as a sordid reminder of an earlier incident.

The two street cleaners, who were said to be employees of Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), were reportedly killed by a driver allegedly attempting to escape a raid by officers of LASTMA at Charly Boy Bus Stop in the Gbagada area of Lagos State. But for sheer luck, Saheed Agbaje, a commercial bus driver, would have joined the statistics of deaths on the highway. He told Sunday Telegraph how Vehicle Inspection Officers almost made him hit a trailer after he was chased for doing nothing.

“These people just decide to make life unbearable for motorists. I was at the Secretariat Bus Stop today. They just came and they were trying to hold me down. I drove off. I almost hit a trailer.The funny thing is if they eventually state their problem with my vehicle, they will still collect N20,000 bribe. They are just for their daily bread,” he said. Meanwhile, citing a maxim in law, activist and lawyer, Abejoye Ajose , told Sunday Telegraph that, “it is better for an offender to escape justice than for one person to be unjustly punished”, noting that nothing justifies the action.

He added: “And let me tell you, it is a maxim in law that it is better for criminals to escape justice than for one person to be unjustly punished. It is better for motorists to escape justice and arrest by LASTMA officials than for those innocent, hapless poor people to be hacked to death due to the over- zealous officials or recklessness of the driver. “That could have happened to anybody. It was so bad that the said road sweepers were of the same parents. That, for me, is too much a loss to be borne by a family. Whatever happens to anyone could happen to anybody. We need to be very careful. There is no justification for their action under the law. Whether by law, by common sense or by common law,there is no justification. And let me tell you, LASTMA should be penalised.

Should agents of government look on in the face of infractions?

Despite the primary purpose of ensuring safety of life and property,Ajose said no innocent soul deserves to die in the course of carrying out their duties. According to him, even when law enforcement agents can chase perceived offenders, they must be guided by the constitution. Citing some portions of the constitution, the Lagos lawyer said the constitution recognises the right to life and human dignity. “The primary purpose government is the protection and welfare of the people. In this case, the protection and welfare of the people have been jeopardized by the action of government itself. When that happens, the LASG will be vicariously liable because those LASTMA officials are agents of government.

The LASG can be sued to the tune of millions of naira as compensation to be paid to the victims’ family. The officials can be charged for murder or manslaughter. Let’s say manslaughter because they didn’t internationally kill those people. The same way for the drivers. The driver could be exculpate because he didn’t wilfully kill those people. But if it is proven that the driver drove without driver’s license, he would also be charged for murder or manslaughter. And it’s a function of lawyers, who know their onions. The man can be let off the hook if the police officers or LASTMA were not properly dressed. You thought they were kidnappers or you thought they were armed robbers.

“That is a defence. I’m just saying that. I don’t have the fact. You have the right to do your duty under the law but you must do it according to the law. Let me tell you, under the constitution, chapter 4 of the constitution, particularly section 33 talks about the fundamental right to life. Section 34 talks about dignity of human person. It means that even if you’re chasing a person, you must chase in a dignified manner. So, how did they chase the driver? Section 33 talks about the inviolable right to life of every human in Nigeria. Nobody should die because you want to arrest him.”

I violate traffic law for survival – Driver

A few meters away from Secretariat Bus Stop in Ikeja, Lagos State, cars, mini buses were seen. Asked why his mini bus was not parked at the main bus stop, a commercial bus driver, who simply identified himself as Jamiu, said it was easier to get passengers at the said spot, even when it attracts penalty. When told his action could be a reason to justify actions of state agents, he said it was only a matter of time that ‘war’ would break out between commercial bus drivers and LASTMA officials. “They normally come in mufti very early in the morning to take pictures.

They would later show us and take us to their office. Should they be working when they are not on duty? A time will come that there will be war between drivers and these people. They have killed people. Everyone has a story. Imagine you thinking about how to pay school fees,and they arrest you to demand N11,000 or N25,000 from you.”

We’ll continue to arrest violators of traffic laws – LASTMA

For a number of motorists, a statement credited to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu that the Lagos State government had or- dered LASTMA officials to stop arresting errant motorists came as a breath of fresh air. But their joy was only momentary.. The purported statement read: “Hence- forth, no LASTMA Official should arrest any motorist, either commercial or private. The duty of LASTMA is to manage traffic and not to arrest anyone. I have heard a lot of complaints, any official that violates the rule will be severely dealt with, “I have heard a lot of complaints, and any official that violates the rule of his work will be severely dealt with. “If at any time, LASTMA officials make an attempt to arrest you or forcefully enter your car, don’t argue with them.

Just allow them to enter and call these numbers: 08129928600 and 08129928550.” However, in another statement signed by the Commissioner of Information of the state, Gbenga Omotosho, the Lagos State government dismissed the statement as fake news, noting that LASTMA will continue to discharge its duty of ensuring the free flow of traffic and enforcing the laws against violators of road traffic regulations as it was not considering the withdrawal of the power to enforce traffic law against erring motorists from LASTMA. In line with the mission statement of LASTMA, which is, “To promote a statwide culture of traffic regulation, control, and management, as well as to ensure smooth traffic flow on Lagos roads, the agency,through its Director, Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA, Taofiq Adebayo, said it was the agency’s responsibility to uphold and enforce the traffic laws of the state by ensuring that motorists comply with the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law (2018) as amended.

With 2k bribe, our vehicles pass roadworthiness test

Ideally, a road worthiness certificate should be proof of a vehicle in good condition. But that is not the story for a number of motorists as some share how they procured roadworthiness certificates. In a chat with Sunday Telegraph,a businessman, Sunday Edoho, revealed that he only needs to give his panel beater N5,000 to go to a LAGVIS office in Lagos where he would give an official to N2,000 to get his vehicle certified roadworthy. “After collecting N2,000, they would tell me my back tire is not good. I need to get fire extinguisher. There was a time my car wind- screen got cracked, they certified it okay,” he told Sunday Telegraph. Another motorist, Niyi Adesina, told Sunday Telegraph that his car had earlier failed road worthiness test before he got informed that he could get certified, regardless of the condition his car..

” I got linked to someone at their office.As soon I got there, I gave the guy N2,000. He told me to keep it somewhere in my car. So, as I got in, I paid the the regular fee. They told me there was an issue with my brake but since I gave the guy N2,000, my car was certified roadworthy. Interestingly, three days after the visit to their office, the N2,000 bribe fell from where he asked me to keep it, I eventually spent it.” For Biola Ogunrinde, having to travel in commercial buses is a risk hardship has imposed on him. According to him, it would no longer make economic sense to drive every day to his Gbagada office in Lagos from his Ofada, Ogun State residence. Each journey, he said, keeps his heart in his mouth, owing to the rickety nature of a number of them. According to him, there’s discrimination against private vehicle owners, noting that commercial bus drivers get away with in- fractions against the law while agencies of government pay more attention to private vehicle owners.

He recalls an incident in the Berger area of Lagos, where the only side mirror of a commercial bus was yanked off because the driver failed to part with N200. Oladele said he saw the said bus in the same condition- without side mirrors- in the Lagos Secretariat area a week after, wondering why the driver had such . “There’s discrimination against private vehicle owners. They hardly stop commercial vehicles for reasons best known to them. Many of them don’t have indicator lights, side mirrors. Some don’t even have functional brakes. But no one arrests them. Even Federal Road Safety agents. And the risk is higher with commercial vehicles. A commercial vehicle conveys 14 to 18 passengers. Some of the passengers also have more dependants.

So, if accident happens, it has a multiplier effect down that line. But the risk associated with my vehicle is largely restricted to my family. “There was a time I drew attention of a VIO to a commercial bus that would never pass a road worthiness test. The officer said it was his prerogative to choose who to inspect. I told him it was my prerogative to question his activities and that I could accuse him of being compromised.”

Relief for private vehicle owners?

In what appears to be a judgment that stripped state governments of the right to issue Road Worthiness Certificate to private vehicles, the Asaba Division of the Court of Appeal had in 2021, stated that the Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) lack the powers to stop a private vehicle on the highway to demand the certificate of roadworthiness. In the Certified True Copy of the judgment, the court stated:“Before drawing the curtain on this judgment, I need to remind public bodies and public officers that a public body or public officer vested with statutory power must take care not to exceed or abuse its or his power. It or he must keep within the limits of the authority committed to it.

This is to prevent arbitrariness and the rule of man rather than the rule of law. “The Vehicle Inspection Officers went beyond the powers vested in them by the Law and the RTR by violently stopping the private vehicle of the Respondent on a public highway using menacing tactics and dan- gerous implements to demand a certificate of roadworthiness which the said vehicle is not required to have. Such conduct sends a wrong signal to the citizens who may adopt such strong-arm tactics as a means of settling disputes.” Meanwhile, figures from Open Nigerian States, a website supported by budgIT, revealed that Lagos leads in traffic offences based ọn fines imposed ọn offenders in ninè months.

The analysis of the top tẹn states showed that while Lagos State government received N2.1 billion as fines, states like Osun,Oyo, Ogun, Plateau, Delta, Niger, Cross River, Enugu,and Kogi got N32.4m,N27.4m,N2 0.5m,N14.6m,N9.1m,N7.9m, N3.6m, 2.7m and N1.8m respectively.

We’ve arrested 44,323 offenders, recorded 376 road crashes,128 deaths

No fewer than 44,323 traffic offenders were arrested in Lagos between January and September this year, says the Lagos State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Babatunde Farinloye. Farinloye explained that contrary to the allegation that agents of government look away when commercial vehicles violated traffic laws, the figure of vehicles impounded includes those of commercial vehicle owners. “We don’t just enforce; we enlighten peo- ple first. We have to let them understand because ignorance of the law is no excuse before we start enforcing and arresting people. A vehicle that is mechanically deficient would be arrested on the road.

“The vehicles we have arrested from January to end of September 2023, offenders that we have arrested amount to about 44,323 in Lagos State. We have different categories. We have commercial, we have private vehicles. In Lagos, from January to October, the command has recorded 376 road traffic crashes, which claimed 128 lives and 704 others sustained varying degrees of injury,”he explained. Speaking on the agency’s collaboration with transport unions and efforts to ensure safety of life and property, he said: “There’s what we call early morning safety cry. This early morning safety cry we are talking about is focused on ensuring that we educate the commercial drivers at the park. We have a very good understanding with the transport unions-National Union of Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, the motorcycle unions, the tricycle unions.

We have a good rapport with them. We see them on a daily basis. We educate them. We know what is required of them. “The issue of these commercial vehicles not having mirror, having this, having that is the work of VIO. They do take vehicles to LAGVIS for inspection to ensure that they are roadworthy and they have their road- worthiness certificate. So, if you say they don’t have, it’s not the duty of road safety officials to inspect vehicles. Our work is to ensure safety of life and property, prevent accident from happening, accident victims evacuation, FirstAid and what have you.”

∆Commenting further on how the commission is different from other agencies with the mandate to ensure safety on the road, he explained: “The aspect of vehicle inspection rest solely on Vehicle Inspection Service. Come to think of it, these vehicles you are talking about, before they move from their parks when we visit them at their parks, we do what we call pre-trip checks. That means the vehicle that is about to move, we ensure it is okay. We have that understanding with the transport unions. They will not allow the vehicle to move. Do we have the right to go to someone’s house to inspect their vehicle before they move? But we do that with the commercial vehicles. We also do what we call domesticated public enlightenment. We go to worship centres. We go to markets. We go to traditional institutions. We talk to their subjects.

We make people to understand that it is important to obey traffic rules and regulations.” He further stated that the commission was presently working on the need to imbibe safety culture through enlightenment, education, enforcement of other strategies and programmes. According to him, the mandate of the com- mission is to eradicate road traffic crashes and create a safe monitoring environment in Nigeria, noting that it is targeting a situation where accidents will be a thing of the past. The target, he said, the commission is having, in tandem with UN decade of action(2021-2030) is to ensure that by 2030, accident must have been reduced by 50 percent.

Safety business of all

A top aide tọ the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who spoke with Sunday Telegraph on condition of anonymity, wondered why critics of the government want LASTMA and other relevant agencies to just move on in the face of infractions. He blamed the recent deaths linked to LASTMA and other agencies on indiscipline, stating that it is the business of everyone to ensure safety on the road.

Meanwhile, worried by what it described as the recklessness of some motorists operating in the state and the activities of some officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, the Lagos State House of Assembly had last week, at a plenary, presided over by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, invited the Commissioner of Transportation, Mr. Oluwaseun Osiyemi; the Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Hon. Sola Giwa; former General Manager of LASTMA, Bolaji Oreagba, among others, to appear and give explanations concerning the incessant recklessness of drivers and the roles played by LASTMA officials.

Read Previous

Wana Wana Thrills Fans With Spoken Word Poetry Today

Read Next

Budget 2024: FG Earmarks N3.2 Trillion Capital Expenditure In Mdas