•Waylay motorists, riders on one-way traffic without signage
•Traffic Law empowers LASTMA to arrest, impound, auction defaulters’ vehicles
•Taskforce use our buses to arrest traffic offenders – Danfo drivers
•Police take ‘One-Way’ to discourage robbery in traffic
Wrong-way driving, also known as counter-flow driving, is the act of driving against the direction of traffic. This occurs on either single or dual carriage roads, and may be due to driver’s inattention to road markings and signage or due to insufficient and confusing road markings and signage. However, despite the Lagos State Traffic Law 2018, some drivers and riders intentionally drive against the traffic when they miss an exit, or seeking a shortcut out of traffic. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
Despite the promulgation of several traffic laws to check and control the menace of driving against traffic in Lagos State, motorists and riders across the state have continued in this act ceremoniously even as it has resulted into loss of innocent lives and traffic congestion in the state.
Driving against traffic appears to be a regular occurrence in Lagos, especially when there is heavy traffic on one lane and the other is free, or due to ignorance on the part of the motorists, or perhaps, their mindsets to operate without recourse to the standard order.
Apart from ignorance, which make certain motorists and riders to contravene the traffic law due to lack of, or absence of road signage to educate the motorists and riders on the status of each road, the law enforcement agencies resort to releasing offenders, who are ready to part with some token. Ironically, the officers of the law, who are meant to enforce compliance to traffic laws and orders, are the ones neck-deep in underarm practices, thereby leading to the deaths of Nigerians. Some experts said the traffic law couldn’t, on its own, guarantee sanity if those with the constitutional rights and duties to enforce the law to achieve its intended goal see the laws as a means enhance personal aggrandisement at the expense of people.
Thus, driving against the traffic in Lagos is an act prohibited by Law and punishable under Part (III) item 27 of the Lagos State Transport Sector Reformed Law of 2018. This demeanour is blamed for confusion among other road-users, who may be jostling to avoid collision with the vehicles driving against the traffic, and maiming pedestrians, who only look at one traffic direction before crossing the road. Of course, those backing the traffic without expecting vehicles coming from behind are also in danger.
According to a clinical psychologist, Dr. Candyfidel Onwuraokoye, a good number of the drivers and riders moving against the traffic are usually reckless because of their mindsets towards breaking the law and order.
“They have psychologically prepared their minds on what they want to do and its consequences. They violate the Law but wouldn’t want to be caught. Instead, they can clear anything on their escape route to see that they are not arrested.
This is one of the reasons I support the brain and psychiatric tests they are subjected to when apprehended by serious law enforcement agents,” he quipped. In spite of these negative impacts, the law enforcement agents are ready to free whoever contravened the Law but has some money to part with, thereby sacrificing orderliness, decency and discipline at the altar of settlement (bribe taking). “This is the reason one sees and hears stories of how the law enforcement agents waylay motorists and riders, expecting them to flout the traffic law and get arrested for settlement.
These offenders will have to choose between paying a certain amount or forfeiting their vehicles to Lagos State Government,” said a motorist, Chiejina Oranugo. He noted that Lagos State now auctions people’s vehicles, who were found guilty by the state mobile traffic court for contravening the Lagos Traffic Law, advising every motorist or rider to be mindful and shun driving against the traffic as the authorities involved are making money through the unfortunate incident.
“My cousin paid a total of N89, 000 the day he was arrested,” he added.
According to the former Chairman, Lagos State Environment and Special Offences, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi, 31 Lagosians recently lost their vehicles to the Lagos Government via mobile court in the state.
He said the drivers were found guilty of contravening the Traffic Laws and forfeited their cars after pleading guilty, saying, “These 31 drivers were charged with driving in the direction prohibited by Law punishable under Part (III) item 27 of the ‘Lagos State Transport Sector Reformed Law of 2018.”
Probing further, Sunday Telegraph sought and obtained a copy of the Lagos State Transport Sector Reformed Law of 2018, where Part (III) item 27 (1&2) of the Law speaks of the rights of the LASTMA which is referred to as, the Authority, to arrest and prosecute offenders. The Part III, item 27 (1) of the Law reads in part: “The Authority (LASTMA) shall have powers to –
(a) arrest where appropriate and allow the alleged offender to pay the fine stipulated for the offence under the provisions of this Part;
(b) prosecute any person reasonably suspected of committing or having committed an offence under this Part;
“(c) Impound a vehicle by which an offence under this Law has been committed until the case is determined or disposed of; (d) remove and detain a vehicle which has been parked in a manner that causes an obstruction on a highway until the case is determined or disposed of;
“(e) facilitate the towing and parking of impounded vehicles in the designated vehicle park;
(f) declare an offender wanted if the offender fails to answer charges under this Part; and (g) direct an offender to a driving Institution to undertake a course of study for a period of not less than two (2) days but not exceeding fourteen (14) days in respect of an offence committed under this Law.”
More so, Part III, item 27 (2) speaks on deterring traffic offenders, saying that for the purpose of deterring traffic offenders, the Authority shall (a) introduce the penalty of point rating and apply the points contained in the point column of the Schedule for each traffic offence; or “(b) Withdraws the offender’s driver’s license for a period of six (6) months in the first instance, where the offender has accumulated penalty points in one or more arrests.”
According to Fagbule Duyilemi, a motorist, who was arrested for driving against traffic unknowingly, he had to pay a whopping sum of N12, 000 to continue his journey or stand the risk of ending his journey at the spot where he was arrested.
He lamented: “I coughed out N12, 000 the day I followed a street in front of Ikeja Local Government Area, where those shuttle buses usually call for passengers not knowing it’s One-Way traffic. I was coming from Adeniyi Jones and saw the yellow shuttle buses follow it and I put my head on, not knowing that the men at the gate were waiting for me to draw closer to pounce on me.
“I thought it was going to be a mild case, knowing that I was a few poles to the local government, but it wasn’t so, as I was made to cough out N12, 000 that day.”
In another development, an Editor of one of the popular Newspapers in Lagos (name withheld) ignorantly became a One- Way traffic offender in one of the days he drove to Victoria Island with his wife. He followed a road without knowing it was the wrong way as there was no sign to indicate the road’s status. He narrates, “I was coming from Victoria Island and I entered a road which took me to an unknown place but it turned out to be the wrong way.
Suddenly, while I was advancing, some police officers from nowhere came out. They actually laid in wait for innocent offenders. They asked why I was driving against the traffic, and I responded that I didn’t know it was the wrong way.
“They said ignorance of the law is not an excuse. They said the road is one way but I didn’t have to argue with them because while I was driving down, I didn’t see any vehicle in that direction.
So, one of them said okay, we have seen that you are a gentleman and a journalist, just fuel this car (pointing at the car).” He clearly tried to play on their psyche by saying,
‘Oh, there is no fuel in your car? Why would they not fuel your vehicle before …’ but one of them said to him, ‘don’t worry, it’s your turn to fuel the car today.’ Eventually, the Editor parted with N4, 000 and they directed him on the route to follow out of the traffic.
When Sunday Telegraph contacted the Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure to know why some streets and roads do not have signage to help the motorists and riders guard against driving on the wrong way and avoid risk of being arrested and their vehicles impounded, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Works and Infrastructure,
Mrs. Aramide Adeyoye, said though the Ministry of Works builds the roads, it’s the responsibility of the State Ministry of Transport and Environment to place the appropriate road signage.
She said: “It’s the responsibility of the State Ministry of Transport and Environment. They are the ones to place the appropriate signage on the road and not the Ministry of Works. It decides which road will be one way or will have Zebra Crossing. “So, though these are part of the road projects, road signs are under the care of the Ministry of Transportation and Environment.
So, they are also to replace the bad ones with new signs,” she quipped. Sunday Telegraph moved a step forward by contacting the Assistant Director, State Ministry of Transportation, Mrs. Bola Ogunlona, to speak on the motorists’ claim that there are no road signs in most of the roads designated as ‘One-Way’ traffic. According to her, the Ministry has more than enough road signs to erect but the challenge is, knowing where to place them.
“I do not want to believe that there are not enough road signs on the roads. We have more than enough here in the office. If we are shown where they will be mounted, we will do that because they are here in the office.”
Asked whose duty it was to show her team where to erect the signs, she said they work hand in hand with Department of Environmental Engineering.
She, however, promised to get back to Sunday Telegraph when she would have gathered more information from the director in charge, though she didn’t at the time of filing this story. In another development,
Nelson Obidinma, whose car was confiscated at the Mile Two end and taken to LASTMA office at Mazamaza on a Saturday morning, paid N15, 200 as well as N500, which he gave to the vulcanizer to inflate already deflated tyres of his car vehicle. Obidinma played into their hands at about 5:30am while rushing to Ikeja for an early morning engagement but secured his freedom at about 7am. “Because I was rushing to catch up on my appointment, I paid N15, 200 with please. Yet, I wasn’t given a receipt. You can go there and see for yourself,” he said.
The most annoying part of the story, he noted, was the resolve of one tall Samuel, a police officer to use his 2005 model Pathfinder jeep to block other vehicles coming in the same direction to prevent them from escaping arrest. “At this point, I had to speak out before my car was bashed. I was very angry by that action. Why would they use my car for that nonsense? What happened to the police’s van or LASTMA’s?
Lagos State has enough vehicles that they shouldn’t use ‘impounded’ vehicles to do the odd job,” he said. Sequel to this revelation, Sunday Telegraph visited the agency’s office at Mazamaza, along Mile 2 – Badagry Expressway, adjacent Festac Maternal and Child Hospital, with a view to witnessing what happens there.
During Sunday Telegraph’s visits to the site belonging to the State Ministry of Transportation and Environment, a number of activities were observed on the site which seemed like a market place, where everybody comes around to bargain.
During the visit, while a young man was busy taking the number of vehicles brought into the place, few other policemen and plain-clothes officials were having talks with those whose vehicles were impounded on the possibility of releasing their vehicles before the arrival of their boss, who they said would collect full payment and observe other protocols.
According to an official, when anyone contravenes the traffic Law, especially on one-way issues, the vehicle has to be impounded and the contravener will go for brain and psychiatric tests before he regains his freedom, saying that the fee is to caution the offenders.
Also, Sunday Telegraph observed a stationed vulcanizer, who deflates vehicles’ tyres on arrival with the aim of limiting the movement of the vehicle and inflating them for financial reward of N500 as soon as the vehicles are released.
This is where he makes his own money, though he settles the LASTMA officials and Taskforce for it. The Vulcaniser, who identified himself as Segun, said he is a roadside Vulcaniser but was brought in by some LASTMA boys to work for them. After work, he goes back to his business. It was also discovered that a gate fee of between N1, 200 and N1, 500 is paid before one drives his vehicle out of the compound upon release.
Again, Sunday Telegraph learnt that certain law enforcement agencies, including the army, use the area boys to collect bribes. In most cases, when you see the police at the bus stop, they work with the area boys. They pretend to be controlling the traffic but their eyes, soul and body, are with them.
The moment a motorist tries to beat the boys; the officer in charge will come out and coerce him into doing the expected to regain his freedom.
A journey to an Oshodi bus terminal, where long and mini buses board for Mile-2 and where those coming from Ketu discharge their passengers, it’s a regular occurrence to see this secret synergy between the area boys, police and LASTMA. One could see what happens there, if a close attention is paid.
Of course, at Mile- 2 Oke and Festac side, it is not different. Also, in an attempt to find out what relationship the LASTMA has with the yellow buses, Tunji Rafiu, a danfo driver, said: “I do not know of another partnership with them apart from the fact that sometimes, they beg us to work with our buses.
They use it to arrest defaulters. “Another one is that when they arrest our buses and we don’t have money to pay, they will use our buses to do their work. We will drive the way they want. When they see an offender, they will ask the driver to block the bus for them to arrest him. “That is why you will see some taskforce members in a danfo bus and you will think that they are commercial buses until they block you and jump down to arrest your motor.”
But when contacted to respond to these allegations and others, the General Manager, LASTMA, Engr. Jide Oduyoye, said he was in a training class and couldn’t talk till later. Though he promised to talk with Sunday Telegraph after his training session, he never showed up as at the time of filing this report. “I’m in a class for training and can’t talk. We shall plan to discuss with our PRO.
So, seek a convenient time. His name is Olumide Filade,” he sent through WhatsApp after our correspondent’s voice call put across to him was aborted. However, on the one-way status of a road, a LASTMA official, who spoke to Sunday Telegraph on a condition of anonymity said LASTMA’s verdict on status of a road should be taken seriously.
Our source said: “LASTMA officials have been trained as professional traffic managers to manage traffic on the Lagos roads. If they open a particular road at a particular period at a particular time, they have a reason for doing that and that should be respected. The traffic situation of the area informs their actions and decisions.
“Sometimes, they do what is called ‘counter flows,’ which allows the traffic to move the other way round. So, when you see them do that, it’s in all effort to solve the traffic gridlock on the place and that is what they have applied there. “I can only implore motorists to comply with them so that they can allow the traffic to flow around for a stress-free driving.
If LASTMA says you have to move to a certain direction of the road, you have to respect that because there is a reason for that.” Several calls put across to the new Chairman of Taskforce were not answered nor returned.
However, a source within the Taskforce also told Sunday Telegraph that police and other security operatives will always drive against the traffic, especially when there’s traffic to deter robbery in the traffic.
“The public may not know but victims of robbery in traffic may call the police but due to the fact that the police cannot get access in traffic, they have to counter-flow to arrest the situation,” a senior police officer told Sunday Telegraph.
Recall that for asking some policemen driving against traffic to turn back and use their rightful lane, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) personnel were attacked, threatened with a gun and the mobile phone with which one of them was recording the incident smashed.
This prompted the Corps Marshal, FRSC, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, to vow that he would prosecute the offending policemen, who were said to be escorting VIPs.