Recently, two officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Osazu Segun Godwin and Adeniyi Hakeem, were hacked by some Lagos commercial bus drivers in the Anthony area of Lagos State.
The duo, according to the General Manager, LASTMA, Olajide Oduyoye, were attacked by drivers of Suzuki commercial buses popularly known as ‘Korope,’ and others at Anthony Village, Oshodi.
Oduyoye explained that Godwin and Hakeem were attacked with machetes and other dangerous weapons by the drivers, and the development led to the death of Godwin.
According to Oduyoye, trouble started when a commercial bus driver with registration number FKJ 452 YC, plying Bariga to Oshodi, via the Ikorodu Road axis, was apprehended for contravening the Traffic Law of the state.
Infuriated by the officer’s action, the driver, an alleged ex-convict, with some other drivers, pounced on the officers, overpowered, and eventually killed the deceased.
Oduyoye said that the sad fact about the whole saga was that the two LASTMA officers were in mufti and on their way home, having completed their morning shift, before the ugly episode occurred.
In response to the distressing situation, the Lagos State Government has declared a zero tolerance for such uncivilized conduct by members of the public against LASTMA officers while on duty.
According to available data, 18 LASTMA officials were killed in 2018 alone; while 24 were debilitated by ‘hit-and-run’ vehicles and violent attacks in the same year. This has become a recurring evil.
For instance, on December 15th, 2016, a LASTMA official in charge of the Apapa axis, Mr. Olatunji Suraju Bakare, was openly killed in broad daylight. He was gruesomely murdered by irate mob that undressed and dropped him inside the drain, before lynching him to death.
It is, indeed, ironic that LASTMA officials, who are employed to ensure Lagos residents have a pleasant motoring experience, have suddenly become objects of undue assaults and barbaric attacks by the same people whom they are being paid to serve.
With over 3 million cars and 100,000 commercial vehicles on the roads, Lagos daily records an average of 227 vehicles per every kilometer of roads. This makes it imperative for the government to establish LASTMA in 2000.
In-spite of the difficult environment it operates, Lagos residents have continued to feel the impact of LASTMA’s good job as areas hitherto notorious for traffic gridlocks during peak periods now relatively experience free flow traffic.
On its part, the government has continued to ensure that LASTMA is abreast of the latest and best global trends in traffic management. Consequently, it had organized a series of training for LASTMA personnel in order to serve as a role model to other States in the country. It is important to state that some States in the country have established their own traffic management outfit tailored after LASTMA.
LASTMA officials have been trained on incident management, traffic management and modern road traffic arts among others. The government is desirous of creating an attitudinal change and rebranding LASTMA officials. Part of the training objective is to provide the basic knowledge and skills necessary to accurately monitor and manage the road in order to reduce travel time and ensure an effective traffic control plan for the safe movement of people and goods.
However, regardless of doing its utmost to ensure sanity exists on Lagos’ roads, no other government agency has been most vilified, maligned and misjudged like LASTMA. The war of attrition between motorists, security operatives and LASTMA officials have been so heightened, culminating in brutal attacks, unwarranted hostility and needless deaths of LASTMA officials.
Always ignored, however, is the fact that the failure of motorists, most especially commercial drivers, to obey simple traffic rules and regulations often lead to traffic snarl that gives room for social miscreants to rob motorists of valuable items and vandalisation of cars. It is no longer news that, in Lagos, some motorists are fond of contravening traffic laws. For instance, the BRT lanes are strictly meant for BRT buses, but other motorists prohibited from using the lane flout the rule with impunity.
Aside from this, some commercial bus drivers are quite lawless. They not only drive against traffic, they usually carry more than the required number of passengers, stop to pick passengers at un-designated places and over speed among many other dangerous acts. Whenever they are apprehended by LASTMA officials, they resort to harassing, and even beating them up.
Nevertheless, as with other regulatory and enforcement agencies, it may not be unusual to find a few bad eggs among LASTMA officials. The government is not unaware of this as it has always made efforts geared towards solving the problem of black sheep in LASTMA. Recently, a corrupt LASTMA official, who was caught in the act, was not only dismissed, but prosecuted by the government and eventually jailed.
Equally, a few LASTMA officials have been sacked for various acts of misconduct, while various disciplinary measures have been meted out to others found culpable of acts of misconduct. All these are measures to maintain discipline and also to sanitize the rank and file of the traffic control authority.
It is, thus, important to stress that, rather than vilifying LASTMA officials, members of the public should collaborate with the Agency to work better for the good of the society. LASTMA officials are our brothers and sisters; we should respect their right to life.
On a final note, the case involving Osazu Segun Godwin and Adeniyi Hakeem must be seen to a logical end and all persons involved must be made to face the full wrath of the law. Anything short of that would only empower criminals to continue to be more audacious and malicious. This, of course, is not in the best interest of society.
Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director, (Public Affairs) Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.