A new beginning – The Nation

The new traffic laws are welcome, especially if a few examples are made

To say that sanity has taken a flight from roads in Lagos is to oversimplify the chaos that has characterised road transportation in the state, particularly in recent times. It is against this backdrop that we welcome the state government’s decision to establish special courts to try road traffic offenders. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who spoke at an interdenominational thanksgiving service organised by the Lagos State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), at the Deeper Life Bible Church Headquarters in Gbagada, Lagos, said that the courts would try offenders right on the spot where the offence was committed.

A statement by his deputy chief press secretary, Gboyega Akosile, quoted the governor as saying that: “We want the people to obey Lagos traffic law. We want them to understand that they are not the only road users who have right of way. If you want my government to finish well, don’t drive against the traffic.

“We are working with the Acting Chief Judge of the state to set up special mobile courts that will dispense judgment on traffic offences. Any offender would be made to serve the punishment immediately, which could be in the form of compulsory community service. We are declaring zero tolerance for disobedience to traffic rules.”

It is not for lack of structures that driving has become a nightmare in Lagos. From 1999 when the current civil rule began, successive administrations in the state have taken this aspect of life as a challenge and had put in place mechanisms to check the trend. The Tinubu administration at a point had to call for psychiatric test for motorists who flouted certain traffic rules. It also established the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to ensure free flow of traffic and also reduce road accidents.

The Babatunde Raji Fashola administration that succeeded it also came up with a new Lagos State Traffic Law which prescribes fines and penalties for different violations of traffic laws. Of course it is not that there was no traffic law before in the state, but Fashola made it clear that the objective of the one initiated by his government was more about getting people to comply rather than getting them arrested. According to Fashola, “”unlike the provision of the old Traffic law, the new law has made provisions for not only payment of fines but for convicted offenders to engage in community service such as directing traffic for a specified period.”

Given the emergency that the traffic situation has become in Lagos, perhaps it is high time the hammer was brought down real hard on traffic offenders. Things became compounded on Lagos roads the very moment the immediate past governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, lost his party’s ticket to run for second term. What we now find is a situation where many motorists, particularly the commercial drivers, commercial motorcycle riders, etc. take laws into their hands. They drive against traffic; engage in over-speeding and commit several other traffic infractions with impunity. We can do with more sanity on the roads.

However, before the state goes tough on these traffic offenders, it must do its part of the job. There is an urgent need to fix the road infrastructure as many of them, including traffic lights, are not working. Moreover, there are no road signs in many places. Even where there are, some of them are not conspicuously placed. What we have therefore is a situation where law enforcement officers hide in a corner nearby only to apprehend motorists who could ignorantly have broken the law.

We do not need such ambuscades.

The state government also has to repair many of the inner roads that are in terrible state.  It is after the government has fulfilled its own part of the bargain that it can stand on a solid moral pedestal to deal with recalcitrant traffic offenders. All that is required for people to know that it can no longer be business as usual on Lagos roads is for the government to make, as Governor Sanwo-Olu has himself indicated, a few examples of some motorists and commercial motorcycle riders, and get them adequately publicised.

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