Given the near regular occurrence of long articulated vehicles mishaps on Lagos roads, the need to adequately mobilise the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) in terms of manpower and logistical support, among others, in order to enhance its capacity to enforce Lagos traffic rules and minimum standards has become imperative;
In light of the recent unsettling pattern of articulated long vehicles mishaps in Lagos – such as the fatal oil tanker accident on Otedola Link Bridge in late June, last year – not a few Lagos residents and indigenes are asking about the relevance of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) amid these depressing occurrences.
In March last year, at the flag-off of the implementation of the minimum safety standard for trucks in Nigeria, Boboye Oyeyemi, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Corps Marshal, disclosed in a chat with journalists in Lagos that over 1,000 people lost their lives between December 2016 and January 2017 as a result of auto crashes caused by tanker drivers. And Lagos was a major spot of these crashes.
A case in point, the petrol tanker that exploded on Otedola Link Bridge on June 28, last year, left 12 persons dead and 54 vehicles consumed in the inferno, with many struggling to recover from the mental and physical trauma caused by the incident.
It is believed that if LASTMA had been properly engaged in enforcing the extant Lagos traffic rules, and if also the FRSC had been proactive in enforcing the set minimum standards of safety on Lagos roads against the seemingly uppity tanker drivers, the wanton carnage could have been averted.
To the gratification of many Lagosians, however, following the tragic tanker explosion on Otedola Bridge, the Lagos State Government at a press briefing restricted movement of fuel tankers to designated trailer routes.
It also made mandatory for all articulated trucks coming into Lagos to obtain the Ministry of Transportation’s Road Worthiness Certificate at any of the designated centres before the expiration of July.
At the briefing attended by stakeholders in haulage, logistics and transport sectors, Ladi Lawanson, Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, said the decision became necessary following preliminary investigations into the incident which revealed a combination of factors, including vehicular defect and human errors.
“As an immediate response to the latest incident, the Lagos State Government hereby announces the following measures: Fuel tankers are hereby directed to ply the designated trailer route, that is, Apapa-Oworonshoki Expressway via Ogudu to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway,” he said.
“All Tankers and containers coming into Lagos State from henceforth are directed to obtain the Ministry of Transportation Certificate of Road Worthiness at any of or centres within the next 30 days.”
More importantly, Lawanson disclosed that the State Government was exploring alternative modes of transportation of petroleum products in Lagos to separate passenger traffic from cargo movements within the metropolis in the interest of the public safety and order.
He further disclosed that the state government, in partnership with all the stakeholders, would set up joint-enforcement of the operating laws, while barriers would be installed on bridges in Lagos to prevent articulated trucks.
The bridges in reference include those at Ojuelegba, Mobolaji Bank Anthony, Ekodeso, Abule-Egba, Lekki-Ajah, among others.
Suffice it to note, however, that the problem is scarcely the dearth of laws, rules and regulations.
Lawanson or the Lagos State government he represents may institute administrative rules and bye laws that oblige compliance from road-users, especially the drivers of articulated long vehicles. But if the LASTMA, as the institution saddled with the duty of enforcement, is not taking the road-users to task in terms of compliance, the trend of mishaps will only persist.
Against this background, it has been suggested that LASTMA should be adequately mobilised with the required logistics, manpower, and capacity to ensure that Lagos traffic laws, rules and minimum standards for road-users in the state, especially drivers of long vehicles, are enforced.
This is against the backdrop that LASTMA has even proven to be more efficient than the police in managing Lagos traffic, for which at the 2018 Independent Newspaper Annual Award, the organisation was rewarded with a the “Most Outstanding State Agency of the Year” award.
No fewer than 880 motorists are arrested daily by LASTMA over breach of traffic rules in Lagos, a testimony to its effectiveness.
Chris Olakpe, LASTMA boss, who gave this indication in June, last year, explained that each of the 44 zones of LASTMA made no fewer than 20 arrests daily.
He stressed that mobile courts hear and determine the cases and give fines.
However, since the organisation is not permitted by law to bear arms, there is need for it to be continuously synergised with the police as well as the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to ensure that the rules are enforced, as the state government had pledged.
Regardless, not a few LASTMA personnel have been known to be involved in extortion and sundry nefarious activities.
If these bad eggs in the organisation are not summarily fished out and dealt with, public expectations of the organisation might continually be short-changed.
The Role Of LASTMA
Against the backdrop of the parlous traffic situation in metropolitan Lagos, which often witnesses motorists being stuck in traffic for hours on end, Lagos State Government in 2000 created the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to tackle the challenge.
The need to transform the state’s transportation system in order to ensure free flow of traffic and reduce road accident fatalities on Lagos roads constitutes part of the reasons why the state government set up LASTMA, an agency under the Ministry of Transport,.
The organisation was thus established to reduce economic losses resulting from waste of enormous man-hours in traffic.
Importantly also, it was set up to develop the most effective means of bringing about safety improvement on the roads for the best interest of all manner of road-users.
Among other things, LASTMA’s mandate requires it to cooperate with other agencies engaged in road safety like the police, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), and others, with a view to improving the traffic management system in the state.
Besides, it was established as an agency for enforcing Lagos traffic laws enacted to impose order on the chaos which many have come to associate with Lagos traffic.
Specifically, where any motorist flouts any of the stipulations of the Lagos traffic law, LASTMA’s mandate includes ensuring that the offender faces the consequences of his or her actions.
It goes without saying however, that LASTMA’s emergence in the Lagos traffic scene has seen a steady reduction in the incidence of road accidents in the state. Arguably, also, it has witnessed the easing of traffic in the state.
Lagos is even said to have recorded the lowest rate of accident in Nigeria in the last quarter of 2017, going into 2018.
According to Lawanson, during a recent parley with newsmen, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics as well as the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) indicate that Lagos, compared to other states in the federation, recorded the lowest accident rate of 78 cases involving 531 persons.
“The state would not have achieved this record without the measures put in place to curb road accidents,” he enthused.
But that should not be enough to make the Lagos State Government to rest on its oars. A more empowered and proactive LASTMA is what is urgently required to put is paid to the incessant occurrence of long vehicle mishaps in Lagos.