A few days ago, the management of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, sacked some of its officials for corruption and misconduct and the sad fact of it was that several Lagosians rejoiced.
The Chairman of the authority, Mr. Young Arebaman, a former police officer, has always been strict but a handful of officials of LASTMA had always proved to be undisciplined, and many of them had been shown the way out.
Even then, this has not curbed the indiscipline in the rank and file of these men who necessity has spurned to be on our roads to instill the discipline that they lack.
For the many years that they have been on the road, some of the officials of LASTMA have yet to learn how to operate without becoming the traffic wardens who disgrace the authorities that created them.
For several years, some LASTMA officials have become the kings of the road, dispensing justice the way they choose and allowing lawlessness when they want.
For several years, a few of the officials have often acted with impunity, making the law and dispensing justice as they deem fit. Several times they have employed entrapment, just to be able to extort money from unwary motorists.
We have seen situations where LASTMA operatives have stood by and allowed danfo (kombi bus) drivers to load their vehicles on the highways, creating unnecessary traffic gridlock and even accidents as vehicles pile up on the highway. They have become lords unto themselves and nobody has yet challenged them.
Mr. Young Arebamen was a fine police officer and his concern for justice has spurned several dismissals of his operatives, and yet he has not stopped; but the bad eggs in his outfit create more challenges.
Though Lagosians are not the most obedient, motorists and infraction of the law should be dealt with without fear or favour, but to entrap a motorist, especially commuter bus drivers, is not the best, especially if those entrapped have committed no sin except to stop at accredited bus stops.
Many times, LASTMA officials encourage commuter bus drivers to stop at illegal places to carry and drop commuters, and nobody complains, after all, they are the kings of the roads. But when LASTMA officials decide that those places are no longer suitable to stop and carry passengers, the drivers of these buses have to pay. And a steep price it is.
Many times, drivers of commuter buses have to pay up to N50,000 or more to retrieve their impounded buses, while those who wish to do it unofficially pay between N5,000 and N12,000. It is a sad situation and we know Arebamen is not happy with it.
Ojota bus stop is an example of what should not be, as LASTMA officials have turned the place into a money spinner, both day and night. It has become common place for commuter (kombi) bus drivers to stop on the two-lane expressway to solicit for passengers, even in broad daylight with LASTMA officials urging them to move on in their usual lethargic manner. Of course, many of the kombi bus drivers are recalcitrant, as they pay to be allowed to break the law and load their vehicles.
All over Lagos, LASTMA officials seem to have been compromised. Reports from bus drivers and conductors have confirmed the anomaly.
The cat and mouse game between LASTMA operatives and commuter bus operators have compromised the Lagos State governor’s plan to ensure free traffic flow. Traffic would never flow freely in a situation where LASTMA thinks it is king of the roads and can decide what it wants without thinking of the laws of the land.
We want Arebamen to look into the activities of his men. A monitoring unit would not be out of place to monitor these deviants.
An official and a gentleman like Mr. Arebamen must not allow himself soiled by men who believe they are above the law.
Many fine officers of LASTMA have become apprehensive of the manner in which their colleagues operate. In Agidingbi and several other places, LASTMA officials have been praised for their efficiency. Why then should a few bad eggs destroy the reputation of an agency that many Lagosians have lauded?