Rising cases of assault, harassment in traffic management
To most Nigerians, the height of lawlessness witnessed daily across the above 200,000km road network in the nation must be addressed to protect the populace and the image of the country.
Just recently, a 50-year-old, tanker driver, recognised as Salisu Sanni, was reported killed by men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) at the Ijesha/Sanya axis of Oshodi/Apapa Expressway.
According to reports, the tanker driver, popularly known as Dangwari, was allegedly knocked down by a LASTMA vehicle, while trying to dodge arrest after he had finished repairing his vehicle that broke down in the middle of the road.
In the Durumi area of Abuja, on Sunday, September 18, this week, an unidetified motorist with vehicle regiseration number SD 01 RBC, Honda Accord, pulled out a gun to shoot men of the Federal Road Safety Corps, (FRSC).
According to eyewitness, the man, who was returing from a church service at the Winner’s Chapel, Durumi became angry and allegedly threatened the Marshals with gun after he was told that he commited an offence by not using his seat belt.
Another footage, showing an official of the FRSC and a motorist, who were acutely fighting to the point of bloodshed along Lagos/Ibadan Expressway also went viral across the country recently.
In Arepo, Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, some residents attacked and torn uniforms of men of the FRSC, who according to media reports belonged to a team of Special Intervention Patrol, operating at a section of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
The officials were reported to have followed a motorist into the community around 11am for purportedly violating traffic rule.
The satellite town of Mararaba, located in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, was also thrown into turmoil recently. According to eyewitnesses, the unrest started after a motorist, who was escaping arrest by an official of the FRSC knocked down a pedestrian. Eyewitnesses said that the motorist did not fasten his seat belt and was making a call on his mobile phone when he was flagged down by the Marshal, who came from a side street that connected to the Mararaba-Nyanya Expressway.
A motorist with Toyota Camry, according to the FRSC was also arrested in Lagos last month for allegedly assaulting some Marshals around Jibowu and Yaba axis of Lagos State.
Ag. Public Education Officer, Deputy Route Commander, Lagos, Olabisi Sonusi said the driver, who had no driver’s license on him was to have his vehicle impounded when he veered off the route to his street and mobilised ‘area boys’ to beat up the Marshals with the officers sustaining various degrees of injuries.
A taxi driver with a Nissan Primera, identified as Sunday Agbariko was allegedly reported to have crushed the leg of a LASTMA official, Olayemi Isiaka, in Ketu area of the state.
These are a few of the tragedies that explain what motorists and traffic regulation officers passed through everyday in Nigeria. In fact, the daily happenings across the roads better explain the relationship between road users and regulatory agencies.
Managing Director, Road Safety for Africa, (ROSAFA), a Swedish based Non Government Organisation focused on safety development in low and middle income countries, Adeyemi Adedokun, belives that most motorists do not trust traffic officials since the officials take advantage of them at every opportunity.
This is also the view of Legal Practitioner and Executive Director, Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Adetokunbo Mumuni, who said assault and harassment are direct consequences of the kind of relationship regulatory agencies fostered with motorists.
While assault is a criminal offence punishable under the Nigerian Criminal Act, most defaulters get away with the crime, Mumuni said.
“People have forgotten that traffic offences are matters that must be taken to court. There are traffic laws in Lagos and at the federal level. It is not part of the law for traffic agencies to violate the rights of motorists, motorists must not also take the law into their hands. Matters should be reported in a law court.
“The high handedness of traffic officials maltreating motorists under alleged violation of traffic rules can not stop untill people begin to file civil suit against agencies to correct the manace.”
Adedokun corroborated Mumuni, saying that activities of traffic regulatory agencies in Nigeria are poor and the treatment being melted on motorists barbaric.
“We actually have good traffic laws in Nigeria though outdated. However, a good law without enforcement is nothing but a good advice”, Adedokun said.
According to him, Nigeria’s traffic environment is dynamic and so should traffic laws, for relevance and effectiveness.
“Speaking of abuses, I personally think this is a cultural problem, where most people think that power is meant for oppression rather than service”, he added.
Adedokun said; if there would be a meaningful change, government must sustain the judiciary system, as traffic laws are not the only arms of the country’s judiciary system that is not enforced. “But this doesn’t seem to be profitable for our lawmakers, hence the status quo”
In fact, poor urban sprawl rate and daily waste of man hours translates into aggressive driving, as poor public transport system, poor road networks combined with vehicle maintenance structure leading to high road traffic accidents through mechanical failure, bad road, traffic insecurity leading to total economic shutdown and inadequate infrastructure worsen the plight of motorist in Nigeria, Adedokun said.
Head, Media Relations, FRSC, Bisi kazeem believes that motorist are getting aggressive because they don’t want to obey the law.
Accepting that cases of assault on traffic officials are rising, the spokesperson said motorists may be getting frustrated over the country’s current economic challenges.
“I don’t believe that FRSC officials are extorting motorists. Most of our men do not compromise. I am not saying that there are no bad eggs in the FRSC but the agency has a good surveillance team at every level to bring erring officials to book”, Kazeem said.
Chief Executive Officer of LASTMA, Chris Olakpe, said impunity on the road is a cause to worry about.
“But the cases have continued to reduce. We are fostering our public relations through advocacy, discussion and that has help to reduce cases to a large extent”, Olakpe said.
He said the agency has a strong monitoring team to curb excesses, adding that members of the public should report erring officials to the organisation’s dedicated portals.
Motorists told The Guardian that civility is largely missing in the enforcement of traffic regulation in Nigeria as they accused the agencies including the Police of being more concerned about extortion than the safety of the road users.
Experts said traffic management across the world has gone beyond a situation where regulatory officials merely operate on the road to arrest defaulters, but since infrastructure and adequate data are lacking in Nigeria, motorists believe they can get away when they commit offences.
“Our traffic officials need to undergo a lot of training on how to deal with their fellow humans. Abroad, if you are guiltyy of any traffic rule, the officials still respect you while doing their job. But in Nigerian they always want to prove that they are ‘Omega’ and can do and undo,” a motorist, Omonigho Itoya, said.
A motorist, who simply identified himself as, Akin Awodele, lamented that Nigeria is one of the countries that lack adequate traffic management plan, considering motorisation activities in the country.
“Cameras should be attached to all the traffic lights. This way motorist will know that if they are caught misbaving on the road they cant dodge punishment, he added
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