In the kingdom of LASTMA
If you have ever entered this kingdom, your first lesson is to understand clearly that as a motorist, you have a god before whom you must bow and tremble. The second lesson is that you are a nobody no matter whatever status you hold or position you occupy. The only exception is if you are a military personnel or you belong to a brand of force or the another. Without that, no regard or respect for you no matter how highly placed you may be, and the only language of bailout is cash, most times to the corporate pockets or in rare situations to the government. It is doubtful if there’s any other state in the entire world apart from Lagos where motorists get constantly intimidated and molested by traffic officers or where motorists are treated as slaves on a daily basis in their own country , or where uniformed personnel enjoy special treatment no matter whatever traffic offence they commit on the roads.
Perhaps the major culprit is the uniform. Maybe LASTMA officers think that since they themselves are in uniform, they should overlook whatever any uniformed person does on the roads in tandem with esprit de corps. Viewed from another perspective, uniform itself easily walks its way into people’s heads. Give a uniform to any Nigerian to facilitate easy identification and a rush of arrogance takes the centrestage. The uniformed individual suddenly sees himself as a superman with an unrestricted government backing to assault and insult anybody.
Ironically, LASTMA officers are deployed to the roads to assist in the smooth movement of vehicles. But no sooner had they got to the roadsides than they are afflicted by an unknown demons forcing their shoulders very high in an air of extreme arrogance while all aims and aspirations are geared towards nothing else but extortion. The hangover of military rule under which human rights count for nothing may possibly explain the reason why Nigerians in whatever uniform see themselves as tin gods.
Perhaps the time has come for a general re-orientation and reform of LASTMA. Nigerians should never be allowed to be continually treated as a people without any rights whatsoever by those who draw their emoluments from the public tilt. Even while discharging their duties, LASTMA officers should be made to understand that whatever position anyone occupies at any point in time is just for a brief moment, and every unjustified pains unleashed on helpless citizens have a way affecting also the masterminds later. It’s completely unacceptable for LASTMA officers to turn themselves into thorns in the flesh of the citizens just because they believe they own the license to hold anyone to ransom. Most of the problems of motorists on the roads are caused by the government itself. Failure to fix the roads and non-readiness to create more road networks lead to gridlock which everyone tries to avoid. If the roads are in good condition and there are good road network, it is doubtful if anyone would have any problem with any LASTMA officer.
But since things remain the way they are, there is no gainsaying that the roads are going to continue to witness so much impatience on the part of motorists, but that is not supposed to be turned into a money-making venture by LASTMA officers. It is true that traffic violations should attract sanctions to serve as a deterrent but the main reason why LASTMA officers constitute themselves into so much nuisance is that they are always too desperate to make more money into their own pockets.
Under such clandestine aspiration, all caution is thrown to the dogs and any manner of courtesy jettisoned, all in the name of extortion. Never will any LASTMA officer assist any stranger in finding their way. Rather, the common practice is to pretend never to notice a mistake about being made and the next moment, LASTMA officers are all about you. Their modus operandi is really very annoying. They will ask you to hand over your car key and come down. As you comply, they jump into your vehicle forcefully and as they drive away, they start dictating terms of release.
No one will place any fault on the Lagos government for creating LASTMA personnel. In a way, their existence on the roads ought to be a blessing and at least it has been another source of creating employment for young Nigerians who otherwise would still have been restricted to the unemployment camps. But by turning themselves into enemies of motorists, the stage can only be set for the crying baby who together with his mom will never sleep. Chaos already happening where LASTMA officers are attacked and even in some situations killed need to be avoided. The best way to do that is to keep LASTMA officers in regular training and close monitoring. Moreover maybe it’s even wrong to use them to generate IGR for the state because that is where all the problem starts from.
Instead of turning LASTMA officers to public enemies through revenue generation,, each tier of government can look for ways to encourage more citizens to pay their taxes. Most taxable adults in Nigeria do not pay taxes and that’s the crux of the matter. If more people are made to be alert to their civic responsibilities as far as payment of taxes is concerned, the nation and each state will have more than enough internally generated revenue and there won’t be any need to involve traffic officers in the issue of revenue generation. Again, the poor state of the roads is another sore spot. Let the Lagos government more attention to the condition of the roads and let there be more road networks so that the bottlenecks and gridlock witnessed on the roads on daily basis will gradually ease out.
Oyewusi, an educationist, wrote from Lagos.
No comments yet