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Lagosians Lament Sufferings From Transport Sector Law

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Transport Sector Law

***Police, LASTMA Alleged Of Taking Advantage

Lukmon Akintola

Lagos

For the average middle-class residents of Lagos State, it is now a matter of one day, one problem from the government of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Hinging this position on earlier insinuations that Lagos State is not for all, but those who can afford it, it appears that an onslaught has been launched on this cader of people.

Since the commencement of the government of Governor Sanwo-Olu, the mass-oriented initiatives executed have been far and in-between with most spurred by prevailing circumstances.

Known as a busy state with an average population of 21 million as of 2016, the figure has significantly increased four years after.

According to available statistics, in 2016, Lagos State roads hosted over 5 million cars and 200,000 commercial vehicles.

In 2017, the state recorded an average of 227 vehicles per kilometer on a daily basis.

With this figure, there is hardly the need for a soothsayer to predict the presence of infractions on state roads, hence an ideal government would have wielded a big stick to ensure traffic laws are maintained, while still maintaining a humane face.

However, that approach and enlightenment which should be a part of law enforcement has been thrown out like dirty water, with punitive measures being the key for enforcers in present day Lagos State.

This came courtesy of what has been described an enactment of a once docile Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law 2018, but really appears a fight against the masses.

Described as a welcomed development by some people who maintain Lagosians will eventually adapt, the first blow dealt via the law was the rumour of an intending ban on Okada and Tricycles which was denied by the government.

A statement dated January 7 and signed by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso stated that the government had not taken a position on Okada and Tricycles.

In the statement titled: “LAGOS GOVT CLARIFIES POSITION ON OKADA, TRICYCLES, Omotoso was quoted as saying that the speculation was false and unofficial, adding that it should be disregarded.

“Contrary to the news in circulation on the list of restricted areas, especially on the social media, purporting that the government has banned Okada and Keke Marwa on some routes no such action has been taken. The list is false and unofficial. It should be disregarded.”

Omotoso also  emphasised the need to achieve a generally accepted solution, adding that there was the need to reckon with various opinions expressed by stakeholders, as the Governor Sanwo-Olu administration had a spirit of democracy.

If Lagosians especially commercial motorcyclists and tricycle riders  had been assured by Omotoso and the supposedly democratic government of Governor Sanwo-Olu, they were shocked to their marrows when the government changed its tune.

As if awaking from a slumber, the Governor Sanwo-Olu government via the same Omotoso who had announced that the earlier speculation should be disregarded revealed a restriction on Okada and Tricycles on highways and other roads, confirming the saying “the more you look, the less you see.”

The restriction was hinged on the high death rate recorded in the state.

Since then, it has been a nightmare for those making use of public transportation with hordes of people waiting for none available buses, while those not too patient opt for walking a long stretch in packs hoping that they would see a bus at the next bus stop.

This has led to several people falling victims of the dreaded one chance, while others who have taken rides from unknown persons in their desperation to get home at all cost have been raped.

The scarcity of buses has not been helped by institutionalised bike transportation companies such as Gokada, Opay, Max NG who were known for cushioning the transportation shortfalls in Lagos State, having reduced operations to skeletal delivery services.

Just as public transport users are lamenting the effect of the restriction, commercial motorcyclist working outside the restricted route are also complaining of exploitation in the hands of policemen.

“I just got arrested by policemen in a van. They said I was working in the restricted zone. My brother, the restricted zone is Lekki-Epe Expressway, but I was arrested at Badore. The funny thing is that I was not the only one who was there, but they arrested me and asked me to release the key to the bike, but I refused. I told them I would die before releasing the key. I just left the station now, I was told the people who arrested me have not returned to the office. I am going to take a shower and return later. These people are exploiting us, “an obviously angry John who came out of Ajiwe Police Station, Ajah told INDEPENDENT Newspapers. Indeed, there are several other people with tales to tell like John.

For car owners, their problem has to do with officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) scattered in almost every part of Lagos State.

At the Iyana Oworo axis of Lagos State, where there is a LASTMA office, the sight of LASTMA officers unjustly arresting both commercial and private car owners is now a norm. Officers who are known to lead this dastardly act includes Neye and a fair-complexioned and plumpy lady. In the hands of this duo, vehicle owners are randomly arrested for offenses like not moving swiftly enough when the car in front has moved, when a commercial bus supposedly stays longer than considered reasonable by an officer among other offenses. A private bus driver who parks in a space allocated as commercial is hastily arrested without enlightened of his mistake.

Interestingly, the signposts designating lanes are high up, almost beyound the view of the driver, but this is not an excuse with LASTMA officers. The tales of the exploits of Alhaja, another fair-complexioned officer who uses a page to collect money from commercial bus drivers in selected bus stop including Toll Gate, Ogudu is also legendary.

Such is the crazy happening at Iyana Oworo, where the fear of LASTMA is the beginning of wisdom.

Narrating his experience in the hand of a LASTMA officer during the latter part of Ambode’s government,  Tayo Ademowo, revealed how on his way to Ladipo Market via Oshodi he took the wrong turn and was arrested. According to him, his punishment was simply to go and make a U-turn five minutes away and navigate his way back using the right lane.

“I was driving, and I was conscious of the lane I was supposed to be, but an obstruction saw me changing lanes in front of a traffic light close to my destination, finding myself in the wrong lane, I thought I was going to pay through my nose, but I was made to make a U-turn some minutes away and navigate the road again. That for a fine was good, I learned my lesson without having to pay through my nose because it would have been chaos for me to be asked to pay a dime. That is the way it works abroad. In some cases abroad, you are documented and allowed to go if you are a first offender. No one will ask you to pay fifty thousand or one hundred and twenty thousand like is done in Lagos State.  Actions like that make it look like LASTMA is generating funds for the state.”

A commercial bus driver detailed the operation of LASTMA officers who work between the Iyana Oworo and Shoprite, Ikeja corridor.

“Neye operates from Iyana Oworo to Shoprite, he is dreaded amongst them all. He looks gentle, but he is something else. Once you are arrested for any reason, you will get to the office, no one cares about your story or if he is lying.”

A funny experience of how a senior LASTMA officer had threatened to arrest a passersby who cautioned his driver having almost been knocked down was also told. What about the story of how a private car driver was arrested in Iyana Oworo by a female LASTMA officer who gave the driver’s offense as repeatedly picking up passenger at the bus stop. According to her, they could not ascertain where he was dropping the passengers. Such is the suffering of Lagosians whose lamentations and cries have unfortunately been described as cheap blackmail by Governor Sanwo-Olu.

With no one seeming to care about this exploitations, those who have had to bear the brunt of it all are daily commuters who struggle daily to catch a bus to their individual offices and have to do same on the return trip home. Victims like a pregnant woman who put to bed by the roadside in broad daylight due to a lack of transportation to take her to the hospital also have unpalatable stories to tell.

 While commuters continue to suffer from lack of adequate buses on roads, the commissioning of a ferry service in Badore, Ajah, as an alternative means of transportation and the release of a handful of buses on the restricted routes have been described as a drop of water in a desert,  as it has not helped matters.

As if the situation is not bad enough, there have been other silent clamp down on Lagosians including the return of Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) to the hinther roads.

Following their return after a 2017 ban from Lagos roads, VIOs now appear to have a score to settle with road users with Uber drivers being their present focus.

Presently, Uber drivers are being arrested for using privately registered cars for commercial purposes, while the government feigns ignorance to the fact that it is the modus operandi of the business globally.

That it is senior officers who now hit the road to arrest drivers paints a picture of a desperate and radical move to raise funds for the state as earlier posited by Ademowo.

This situation becomes more questionable bearing in mind that on their return to Lagos roads, Governor Sanwo-Olu mandated VIO officers to educate the public more on what they need to have in their vehicles especially during this rainy season as opposed to indiscriminate arrests.

With negative tales of suffering from scarcity of buses and exploitation from both LASTMA and the police being told daily and no meaningful solution in sight, Lagosians can only ask who will eventually bail them from this nightmare.

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