The Lagos State Government today has in place a road traffic law. Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, who signed the Lagos Road Traffic Bill into law, explained that it was in a bid to ensure safety and orderly flow of traffic in the state. He alarmed the people with horrific statistics to underscore upward rise in accident rates resulting in injuries and deaths.
The new law spells out a number of actions taken by motorists that constitute offences and the sanctions that follow them. These could be fines or imprisonment or both. For instance, articulated vehicles or trailers (apart from fuel tankers and long buses) are prohibited from plying the roads between 6 a.m. and 9.00 p.m. Commercial motorcycle operators are not to use major trunk roads such as Ikorodu, Oshodi-Iyana Ipaja, Lagos-Badagry and Lekki-Epe Express, Funsho Williams Avenue as well as Apapa-Oshodi Express.
The law also bars motorists making phone calls, eating, counting money or any other act that is capable of distracting them while driving. Pedestrians are restricted to using pedestrian overhead bridges; this effectively makes crossing of the expressway an offence.Violation of these laws attracts sanctions, ranging from N30,000 to N50, 000 fines to imprisonment of up to three years. There is a strong possibility of the offender forfeiting his vehicle to the government.
There have been mixed reactions to the law. While some see it as being “draconian”, many others have become resigned to welcoming it, if indeed it will be the solution to Lagos’ notorious traffic logjam.There is, however, a consensus on the harshness of the maximum three-year prison term.
We at Peoples Daily believe that the government means well with this piece of legislation. Anybody, whether Nigerian or foreigner, familiar with the gridlock on Lagos streets where you sit in a vehicle for hours in sweltering heat, will readily welcome any strategy at all that will facilitate the smooth flow of traffic , both human and vehicular. The status of Lagos as a mega city does underline the need for people to move freely, whether they are out for business or for personal activity.
It doesn’t take an oracle to tell those responsible for this problem: illiterate molue (commuter bus) drivers and ubiquitous motorcyclists. To be sure, apart from their nuisance value, the latter also serve a utilitarian purpose – taking people to destinations that buses and taxi-cabs cannot go.
Our reservation about the new law is not the sincerity of the state government; instead, it is what its officials who will do on the road. We mean officials of the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) notorious for their highhandedness and extortionist conduct. Also, it is doubtful if the existing infrastructure in the state would be adequate to provide back-up to the new law. Prisons in the state are already overpopulated; the slow pace of prosecution will be another cog in the wheel of the new legislation.
We urge the government to take quick measures to address these concerns before setting in motion the machinery for the implementation of the law. One of such measures should be consultation with all stakeholders on how best to proceed. Residents of Lagos need to be assured that those who are law-abiding have no cause for anxiety.