Allegations against LASTMA: Setting the record straight
The words ‘fact’ and ‘fake’, apart from their meanings which are opposite, only differ in spelling by their last two letters. Maybe this similarity is the reason many do not invest time in the former by hurriedly embracing the latter. Three main things are done to news stories upon receipt: fact-check it, report it as delivered or fake it. News can become fake, if it is reported without verifying from parties involved.
Reporting or publishing a news story without thorough investigation results in a spread of fake news and this could impact a society negatively or even lead to chaos. That’s why media houses and their regulators harp on investigative journalism. However, many reporters have abandoned this watchword to embrace the opposite just to catch up with delivery time. This was the case of a journalist who, in a report, titled, “Undercover: From Ikeja to Lekki, LASTMA officials operate like criminal gang”, created an impression that LASTMA officials arrest motorists without flouting traffic laws. According to the writer of the article, he/she in clear terms, is of the opinion that in a bribery case, it is the receiver of the bribe that should be prosecuted, not the giver. This is totally wrong as both the one who offers bribe and the recipient are guilty of bribery.
It can be deduced from the published report that, the journalist in the course of his investigation, deliberately flouts traffic laws and when apprehended, he induces the LASTMA personnel with bribe; this is what he described as extortion in his report. In this case, the one who offered the bribe and the taker are liable under the law. This is never extortion, it is a case of mutual agreement between the law enforcer and the law breaker to allow the latter to part away with money in order to prevent the law from taking its course. Truth is, bribe negotiation cannot be carried between a law enforcer and a law-abiding citizen. Can an innocent citizen who obeys traffic laws and regulations as he goes about his duties be asked to pay bribe by an officer of the law?
The writers of the piece also encourage bribe collection and negotiations between law enforcement officers and traffic offenders. He also created an impression that none of those arrested were guilty of the traffic offence levelled against them. The story would have been completely different if those charged were not guilty of any traffic infraction. The publication was written to get a false sense of pity from the public, thereby painting all the staff of the agency black and corrupt.
Enforcing traffic laws, according to the writer, isn’t proper as he also opines that government should desist from doing so; leaving the society in disorderliness and unruliness. Is that the kind of Lagos, motorists and road users would love to see? The traffic laws made would be needlessly useless if there isn’t any enforcement. We may be headed for a state of lawlessness, if everyone behaves as they like. The laws are there to keep us in check.
What shocked me the most in that published piece was the feedback he alluded to me when he contacted me. The writer reached out to me on an issue totally different from what he published. He quoted me correctly but not with reference to his storyline. I wonder why such style of journalism would be adopted by this writer. Why play to the gallery to get attention and in the process incite the motoring public against the traffic agency?
Let me state clearly here that I have not said some of our men are not corrupt neither am I saying that some do not demand bribe or extort. The context within which the writer put up his report is just to judge one side in a bribe case. He painted pictures and scenarios which simple logic would debunk. The piece would have made an objective sense if he specifically mentions cases where LASTMA officers apprehend innocent motorists who never committed offence.
Like I have always said and would still continue to say, the agency has various platforms where motorists can report cases of extortion or instances where their rights are infringed upon. As a matter of fact, a LASTMA personnel was recently dismissed for demanding bribe in a viral video from a motorist after investigations proved him guilty. Many other officers have been scolded for various offences with punishments ranging from demotion, suspension to termination of appointments. There is a unit of the agency that checks the excesses of our men on the road; it’s called the Monitoring and Surveillance department.
We urge all motorists and road users to avail themselves the opportunity to reach out to us directly on the various media handles to report officers’ misbehavior in their line of duty. Take note of the location, the name of officer involved, the date and furnish us with as many evidences as possible for onward investigation. LASTMA Connect programme on radio is also another avenue for millions of Lagos Road users to keep abreast of news on LASTMA. Callers can also report cases of infringement live on air.
Lagos will move forward with the speed of light, if we all do the needful by complying with the state traffic laws, this way, everyone becomes happy.
Filade is the deputy director, Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA.