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Drivers won’t respect traffic law if fines were cheap — LASTMA

General Manager, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, Mr Olawale Musa speaks with Punch Newspaper in this interview There are cl...

General Manager, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, Mr Olawale Musa speaks with Punch Newspaper in this interview

There are claims that the new traffic law was made to generate revenue rather than to ease traffic on Lagos roads. Is this true?

The law is not new. It is the same law that we have been operating for many years. We decided to re-publicise it because mischief makers were spreading fake information about it. We don’t want motorists to be having problems with our men on the road; so, we needed to let them know more about the law. Some are saying the governor (Babajide Sanwo-Olu) has said LASTMA cannot make arrests. Mischief makers are doing so many funny things on social media and we need to let the public know the truth. It is the same law that we have been using; there is nothing new about it.

About the allegation of using the law to generate revenue, that is not true. What they are circulating are the penalties attached to the law. The law entails everything about the operations of LASTMA and how officials should conduct themselves. That penalty aspect is just a schedule; it is not the law. Let me make it clear, nobody can control traffic without enforcing the law. Anywhere in the world, if you say you are controlling traffic without enforcement, you are joking. The only difference between those in advanced countries and here is that they make use of technology there and we put human beings. They use cameras and we put human beings because the people see human beings; that is why they are complaining. There must be enforcement everywhere you control traffic in the world; otherwise, people will not take them seriously. I don’t see any reason why people should be afraid. I pass through the same road others pass. My wife and my relations pass through the same road; they must also obey the law. The law applies to everybody, irrespective of their status. This law has been there since the time of (former Governor Babatunde) Fashola.

Are the fines new?

Those fines are not new. Social media is now more active than the way it was before and many people are active on it. That is why the fines are being circulated and many more people get to see them. People now see information more than before.

Is the aspect of forfeiture of vehicles not new as well?

It is not new. It was even worse than this during Fashola’s regime because if you were arrested then, you would be made to go for psychiatric evaluation. If we ask people to go for psychiatric evaluation now, they would say it is new but it has always been there. I am sure many people will remember this. It is the same law we are using but we are just enlightening the people so that they will know the fines. This is meant to deter them from violating the law.

How do you react to the claims that the law is cruel and oppressive?

The law is not cruel. It is a misconception. You are free to go and do the analysis of our law with traffic law and fines and compare them with what they have anywhere in the world and see if they are cruel. I didn’t make the law. I am sure you know that. But if the fines are too meagre, many people will not respect it. If the fines are there like that, it will make people to respect the law. Nobody should blame LASTMA for the law. LASTMA did not make any law but we are just enforcing it.

What is LASTMA’s business with drivers not fastening seat belt? Why don’t you leave this to the Federal Road Safety Corps to enforce?

It is our duty to enforce it according to the law. LASTMA does not just control traffic; we enforce traffic law. There are traffic laws that you must obey once you are driving on the road. It is for your safety. If our job is just to control traffic, we will not need to be removing impediments on the road then. If it is controlling traffic, we will not be involved in removing broken down vehicles. There are so many things attached to traffic control and management. Once you are driving on the road, you must wear your seat belt. If that does not concern us, then some will ask: what has LASTMA got to do with ensuring that motorists do not beat traffic lights? Or what is the business of LASTMA when somebody parks a vehicle on the kerb or walkway?

The roads are very bad now, riddled with potholes. Many believe that the roads should have been fixed first before enforcing the law. Do you agree with this?

There are two ways to look at it. For instance, if there is flash flood and somebody now decides to drive against traffic and block the remaining lane, should we not enforce the law? We know that the roads are bad. I’m in touch with the GM of Public Works; they are doing something about it. But the rains are disturbing them now. We tell them where we have issues and they are working on it. But it is a lot of work. The governor has given a directive that all traffic lights must work and they are working on it. They are working on many things.

Traffic officials are accused of luring motorists to drive against traffic and later arrest them. Are you aware of this?

It is not possible. Let me tell you what usually happens especially on the BRT lanes. If there is any breakdown (of vehicles) on the main road, we normally open the BRT lanes to all vehicles to free the traffic. But some drivers will refuse to go back to the main road at the exit where they are expected to go out. They are supposed to use the BRT lanes to avoid staying in gridlock for hours but they should exit later. Some of them will continue driving on the lane and if they are arrested, they will not tell the whole truth. Some drivers will drive on the BRT lane just because it was opened to them the previous day to clear traffic. Shouldn’t they be arrested? We have told motorists not to give money to our officials. If you insist that you are on your right, we have said no LASTMA officials should issue ticket to you. You will go to court and the magistrate will determine whether you are guilty or not. The magistrate can add to the fine or say you are not guilty.

Culled from Punch Newspaper

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