Monday, 29th May 2023

Extorting motorists over one-way routes with no road signs

By Gbenga Salau
30 October 2022   |   4:22 am
Driving around Lagos is in itself a cumbersome exercise. No thanks to the multitude of traffic snarls that occur just about anywhere, especially where motorists elect to banish common sense and display madness...

Balogun Street, Ikeja

Driving around Lagos is in itself a cumbersome exercise. No thanks to the multitude of traffic snarls that occur just about anywhere, especially where motorists elect to banish common sense and display madness, or where the government has decided to discountenance a pothole until it’s big enough to swallow an entire car.

As if these do not constitute enough headache for motorists, government officials saddled with the responsibility of managing vehicular traffic sometimes overtly or covertly, constitute more of a hindrance than a let to the free flow of traffic with their actions and inaction.
All these notwithstanding, some motorists that play by the books still find themselves entangled in the unfortunate web created by the government’s failure to do its job as far as the erection of vital road signs is concerned.
Across the state, there are several locations without appropriate road signs, including one-way driveways. But government officials, ranging from the Nigeria Police to Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and the likes, find it convenient to lurk around such locations to “arrest offending motorists,” who are eventually extorted.
For instance, from Oshodi to Ewe-Nla Junction on the service lane of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway inward Mile 2 is a one-way drive, while from Ewe-Nla Junction up to Berliet Bus Stop on the expressway is two-way. For many motorists plying that service lane (from Charity Bus Stop towards Oshodi), there are no road signs alerting motorists to the fact that going beyond Ewe-Nla Junction constitutes a traffic regulation breach.
And rather than explore other ways of informing motorists of this development, especially since there are no road signs, LASTMA officials and policemen huddle about 30 metres away from Ewe-Nla Junction to arrest unsuspecting motorists, who drive beyond the junction.
Another one-way drive within Oshodi where there is no road sign is not far away from Ewe-Nla. Many motorists moving from the expressway to link up Oshodi Road, or Church Street do not know that the stretch between the junction of Olaogun Lane and Church Street on Boladale Street is a one-way driveway. The section of the Boladale Street that is a one-way driveway is about a sixth of the street, and there are no signs to help motorists understand this to navigate their ways safely. But LASTMA officials and policemen are always on hand to apprehend motorists midway into the less than a 200-metre stretch of the street that is one-way. These officials are sometimes settled inside minibusses while they wait to apprehend unsuspecting motorists.
Another spot where policemen and traffic officers take cover to arrest motorists is the junction of Apakun Lane, along Airport Road. Most of those who fall prey are those descending from the Apakun Bridge to link up the Airport Road.
The lane, which used to be a two-way drive, was designated a one-way driveway, without appropriate communication or signs to warn motorists, many of whom now drive into the waiting arms of policemen and other government agencies.
The same scenario also plays out in the Costain area of the state, where some persons claiming to be traffic officers, specialise in arresting motorists that try to make a U-turn in front of the National Theatre from Costain, or Ijora. There are two U-turns, which are a few metres apart. One of the lanes is for those coming from Ijora that need to make a U-turn in front of the National Theatre, while the second is for those coming from Costain.
Presently, there are no signs directing motorists to the appropriate lane to follow between the two U-turns. So, drivers especially those coming from Costain often take the first lane, instead of the second. The confusion is compounded by the non-availability of signs to caution motorists, or direct them appropriately.
Narrating how he was arrested around Iyana-Itire on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway by the local council officials, Adebayo Ogunlade said: “As I got to Iyana-Itire Junction, the next logical thing was for me to connect Adeniyi Street, a two-lane road. The inward and outward lanes of the street are separated by a triangle garden.
“But rather than connect Adeniyi Street as vehicles driving against traffic from Ilasa are expected to do, I drove beyond Adeniyi Street’s exit lane. And suddenly, some boys in branded local council vests jumped out from their hideout and flagged me down. As I granted them an audience, I was informed that I drove against traffic. When I asked them how, they said that I should not have driven beyond Adeniyi Street’s exit lane, as I ought to have used the lane along with other vehicles existing on the street.
“As I responded that there was no sign to inform me of what they were saying, they all shouted me down that ignorance is not an excuse in law. Two of them jumped into my car and took me somewhere around Cele Bus Stop, which they claimed was their office. They handed me over to a man, whom they claimed was their senior officer and they disappeared afterward. 
“The supposedly senior officer turned deaf ears to my plea, and I was only let go after parting with N20, 000. This was after subtle threats that I may pay a higher fine if their overall boss is aware of the matter, Ogunlade stated, adding, “recently, I passed through Iyana-Itire and I saw a one-way sign attached to a pole, but the way it was placed is still misleading for motorists that are using that corridor for the first time.”   
Deborah Benjamin, another road user disclosed that last year, her uncle who resides in Abeokuta, visited Lagos for a burial ceremony. The trip was at a time when the service lane around Oshodi inward Mile 2 on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway was being reconstructed. 
“So traffic was diverted to Boladale Street, from the service lane of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. A section of Boladale Street is a one-way driveway, and there were no road signs to this effect or traffic officer to alert my uncle. So, he just drove straight down not knowing he was expected to make a detour at Olaogun Lane, to connect Oshodi Road, into Church Street, and then back to Boladale Street to continue his journey.  
“Meanwhile, some law enforcement officers, who are aware of the confusing atmosphere around the place are always lurking around the route to stop, and arrest motorists for driving against traffic. My uncle’s explanation that it was his first time using the road, and that there were no signs to help him navigate the road all fell on deaf ears. He paid N40, 000 as a fine because they made him understand that if his vehicle gets to their office, he may forfeit it. That is the pain that many motorists go through because the government fails to do its duty. Or who else should be blamed for the failure? The state government wants the people to be law-abiding, but its agencies are doing things that make citizens become lawbreakers,” Benjamin stated. 
She called on lawmakers to protect the interest of the citizens, by mandating the appropriate government agencies to do the needful if it wants residents to respect traffic laws and regulations, adding that it was unfair to arrest motorists on routes where they are road signs.
“The Lagos State government and the state House of Assembly are being unfair to residents of the state that they ought to protect. So, the state traffic law should be amended to accommodate compensation for citizens when they are wrongly accused of breaking the law, or when they suffer harassment for breaching the law owing to the government’s failure to provide signage where they should be,” she stated.   
The Special Adviser on Transportation to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Sola Giwa, stated that even though the government is responsible for traffic management around the state, it cannot be everywhere within the city to observe the conduct of some of these operatives. 
“LASTMA is carrying out traffic education, and enlightenment, as well as, enforcing compliance. However, we cannot be everywhere. So, citizens and critical stakeholders can help provide the needed feedback to the government on where there are no road signs. 
“For us, it is not all about enforcement, we are interested in compliance, and what would make people comply is the education and enlightenment, which signage is a part of. Nevertheless, on most roads in Lagos State, a driver will not drive more than 50 metres before knowing that he is driving against traffic. I always say that when a LASTMA official arrests a motorist, it is only an incident that such residents have previewed. The officer might have let go of 10 or 15 other road users, after warning them against repeating the offence. 
“We encourage them to educate, warn, enlighten and enforce- which is an arrest, but we also need to talk to road users to obey traffic rules. Driving against traffic on one-way is a major offence because it can lead to fatal accidents. So, we must try all we can to avoid it. However, the onus lies on the government to provide signage on the roads. Also, patriotic citizens should point out places where there are no road signs to us so that we can deploy the signage.”