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“One way” driving and high-handed enforcement by officials



One way driving

Lookman was running late that Monday morning as he manoeuvred his way through the early morning traffic on the Lekki – Epe Expressway. He had thankfully found himself at the front of the queue and awaited the green light on the traffic signal to sprint into what appeared to be open free road ahead of him.

On cue, the light turned green and he revved his engine into life and had only moved a few meters when he was jolted by the impact of another vehicle ramming into his car. The collision sent his Honda Accord into a tailspin that resulted in a four-car pile-up in the middle of the highway.

When he was able to exit his car after the dust settled; he realized that a mini-bus that had parked to pick up and drop off passengers at a non-designated bus stop was being pursued by officials of the Lagos State Task Force enforcing traffic offences. In a bid to evade them, he ran into Lookman’s car and caused a massive pile-up. Thankfully, there were no casualties, but the damage to the Vehicles was extensive.

Incidents such as described above, have become more commonplace in cosmopolitan areas in the country; where the enforcement of basic offences such as traffic infractions are carried out by gun-wielding policemen with the maximum force applied. Sometimes, the punishment prescribed by the law for such offences might be a small fine, but the enforcement of the law does not in any way fit the crime.

In Lugbe Abuja FCT, there was a report of a VIO team crashing into an oncoming Toyota Corolla while driving against traffic in a bid to arrest an erring Driver.

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Last week social media was agog with differing opinions on the action of the LASG on the public auction of vehicles of erring persons who had committed different offences especially the dreaded driving against traffic known locally as “one way”. This was done through its agencies, the courts and the instrumentality of the State Traffic Law.

Many have opined that the action of the State Government is draconian, while others think it’s the only way to sanitize the system. I personally feel if the law can be enforced on all persons and we do not remove a category of persons because we are unable to hold them accountable, then the punishment fits the crime. Do you know the pain of a mother who drops off her Son and proceeds on her way to work only to get called a few minutes later that the son is in critical condition (he later dies), because the driver of a commercial bus couldn’t be bothered with the normal rules of society and knocked down her son who was blindsided by the bus coming in the wrong direction?

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Driving against traffic, I believe should also require erring persons to undergo a period of psychological evaluation, because a normal right-thinking person doesn’t just drive against traffic on Third Mainland all the way from Obalende to Adekunle. The Adekunle approach unto the Third Mainland is one of the most dangerous, as it’s a sharp bend with a blind spot that can have disastrous consequences.

Laws are made for the benefit of society and aim to regulate the way citizens act or behave in specific instances. These laws do not enforce themselves and the State utilizes the instrumentality of enforcement agents like the Police and other Law Enforcement Agencies created for the enforcement of specific aspects of societal norms and rules. An example is the enforcement of traffic rules as described above. Most States in Nigeria created State Traffic Enforcement Agencies like LASTMA in Lagos, TRACE in Ogun State, OYRTMA in Oyo State etc and the FRSC nationally. These Agencies are charged with the responsibility to ensure the free flow of traffic, ensure adherence to traffic regulations and arrest and prosecution of erring citizens.

Like I opined earlier, driving against traffic is an offence we must strictly enforce. Law enforcement officers are also guilty of this and it’s a common sight to see one set of law enforcement breaking the same rules another is trying to enforce at the same time on ordinary citizens.

Ordinarily, traffic cameras and other technological aids should be deployed to assist in apprehending defaulters and bringing them to book. Vehicles that “ run the red light” at traffic stops are captured by the Speed Cameras and with the aid of data captured on the Vehicle Particulars, evidence of the infraction is sent to the known address with a timeline for the individual to offset the fine in lieu of further prosecution. The absence of accurate and timely data in Nigeria means though the preceding is the ideal, the conditions on the ground make this very impractical.

Talking about the high-handedness of our Law Enforcement Officials, in reaction to a viral video of some young men engaged in a physical altercation with armed Policemen, the Force PRO in a tweet appeared to tacitly sanction official high-handedness by the Police (he later came to clarify that he was in no way sanctioning such behaviour by the Police), but the reality is that in Nigeria an Official Uniform bestows on the wearer so much power and if the individual concerned lacks self-restraint, he is without limits.

Let’s be very clear, I would not encourage anyone to engage in physical altercation with an armed law enforcement agent. It’s a recipe for disaster with so many possible outcomes, none of which would be good for the civilian. It can be viewed as an attempt to disarm and steal the Rifle/Firearm of the official the loss of which a punishable offence in every known Agency which assigns arms and ammunitions all over the world. I will advise we de-escalate the situation to avoid injuries and the possible loss of life, but not to engage in any physical stuff.

Accordingly, it is the responsibility of all Law Enforcement Agencies to evolve a civil (non-destructive way) to ensure compliance with the laws as prescribed while dealing with the Citizenry in all applicable situations.