…Says law will solve environmental, public safety, security challenges
Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Thursday signed into law a new bill that will regulate traffic operation and management in the State to compel motorists to be more law abiding and keep to traffic rules.
The new law, “Lagos State Road Traffic Law” will according to the Governor, make the citizens live better as it will make the road safer for them, improve their life expectancy and solve their environmental, public health, safety issues and many of the insecurity challenges now affecting them.
The Governor who assented the bill at the Banquet Hall of Lagos House, Ikeja before a large gathering made up of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Adeyemi Ikuforiji, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon Justice Ayo Philip and members of the State House of Assembly said his government provided the law because of its belief that transportation is a critical hub of civilization since as he said, life will be improved if the State gets transportation right.
“Many things in our life will be improved such as cost of food, life expectancy, health and so many. I believe that if we succeed with this law, our state will change for the better.
The law he said became necessary to bring back decency in our people saying “Different people come into Lagos and we see them openly urinating and defecating on the road and this must stop. People hanging clothes to dry on our highways and bus stops must desist because the traffic and sanitation officers will go out and enforce the sanitation laws. The traffic law is only a metaphor to other laws that the State Government will enforce”, he emphasized.
Governor Fashola assured the people that the law will be friendly to law abiding citizens and allayed the fear of those who may see it as being too stringent “for those who have expressed concern about the new laws, the law is a dormant piece of paper which will not just jump on an innocent motorist in his vehicle neither will it come into his house looking for him but rather it is the man that always go looking for the law”.
He reiterated that for as long as there is the Constitutional provision that states that nobody will go to jail without undergoing a fair trial and also have a right to defend himself with a lawyer of his choice, he is sure that the Judges and Magistrates who were also present at the event will ensure that justice is done and where there is a reasonable doubt, the person will be discharged and acquitted.
“We welcome people to our state, those who are ready to live with the reality and complexity that governs a modern state that is growing and a commercial capital for West Africa are welcome but those who cannot live with our laws should please stay away. This is the way we choose to live in Lagos”
He informed that the State Government had devised and applied various measures in the past, including changing sides of the road at which people drove and using odd and even numbers but had to go the extra mile of providing the latest measure because these past strategies did not solve the problem, adding that the all of the strategies have only spoken of one fact which is that the State could never walk out of congestion since it is a big and growing city state attracting more people which therefore necessitates the road resource been managed.
Fashola cautioned: “we have to live by some rules, rules that have worked in other dispensations, rules that we obey when we go there. It is time to really show commitment for the place that we really call home. Most of the rules read out by the Attorney General of the State are not unique to Lagos; they are rules that operate in many cities by whose standard this state is being measured
“They are rules that affect application of breathalyzers on drivers, driving against traffic, and trading on the road. Clearly, we have been to many of these cities and we complied. Why is it difficult to comply at home”.
He said the new law is an addition to many of the traffic management strategies which the state has devised one of which is the introduction of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA). He said people will also see increasingly that the streets of Lagos have been marked and road signed and also increasingly being managed by traffic lights just as there is also a traffic radio to give advance information on traffic situation.
He recalled that the road to the signing ceremony has taken almost one and half years which include involving several stakeholders who have done their best to make the law people friendly.
The Governor thanked the State House of Assembly for working assiduously on the bill to become a law, adding that the responsibility is now that of the people in the Executive to work with the Judiciary in ensuring successful implementation of the provision of the new law.
“When we sent this bill as an executive bill, there were certain streets we did not touch but by the time it came back, we saw that in each Local Government, the members of the House of Assembly in responding to the fear, agitation and concern of their constituents had actually increased certain places in it. So it already spoke to the unspoken issues about the bill”.
The State Governor said corruption on the road should not be restricted to only as it relates to money but should be viewed that those who drive against traffic are also engage in a bigger corruption which even lead to loss of lives stating that it is the responsibility of government to put a stop to such practice.
“It has led to a state of fear. The question is how many of us can now allow our children to go out and take the buses the way we use to. Now if we are privilege to lead government and cannot reclaim back society and hand it back to our children, I think we have failed”, Governor Fashola posited.
The Governor explained between January and May this year, 432 complaints were received from members of the public about their neighbours who do not allow them to sleep through noise pollution, adding that during the period, 94 of the complaints were abated, 339 for non-compliance while 31 were successfully enforced.
“Noise level also has impact on our health and how we live, so if we succeed in stopping needless deaths on the roads clearly we can see an increase in life expectancy in the State because all the tragic deaths add up to the numbers and rating of our State and country to the life expectancy which is just 51 years”.
He informed that all of the major highways like Lagos Badagry Expressway, Lekki- Epe Expressway, Funsho Williams and Ikorodu Road with more than two lanes have become no go areas for commercial motorcycles.
The Governor said the men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority who are responsible for implementing the new law are under close watch as anyone of them caught extorting money or oppressing the citizens will be prosecuted by the Attorney General.
The Head of Service Prince Adesegun Ogunlewe and the Commissioner for Transportation, Hon Kayode Opeifa had earlier also given insights into some of the white papers released by the State Government on various Committees and Panel enquiries it set up as well as the resolve to have a data base of all those who operate all form of commercial vehicles in the State.
Earlier, while introducing the new Law, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaiye, said it gives the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA ) the power to apply breath, blood and urine specimen testing on any driver to detect drunk-driving or driving under the influence of drugs.
The Attorney-General, who said the Law operates alongside the already existing traditional road traffic rules and offences including driving without due care and attention, stated also that the Law empowers LASTMA to demand psychiatric evaluation of any person who drives against the normal flow of traffic or fails to comply with any provision of the law at the offender’s cost, if in the opinion of any LASTMA officer, such is necessary for the purpose of determining the person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.
According to the Justice Commissioner, the Law also bars anybody from operating a motorcycle or tricycle without a Rider’s Card issued by MVAA, without wearing a standard protective crash helmet, carrying more than one passenger at a time, while a pregnant woman, a child below the age of 12 or an adult carrying heavy load on his head should not be carried as passenger at all.
“Anybody caught in this act risks an imprisonment of three years or community service and forfeiture of the vehicle while the passenger will also be prosecuted except such a passenger is a child”, the Attorney General said.
Schedule 111 to the law, Ipaiye said, specifically excludes anybody from riding motorcycle, driving tricycle or propelling a cart on Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Apapa – Oshodi Expressway, Ikorodu Road, Agege Motor Road, Funsho Williams Avenue, Eko Bridge, 3rdMainland Bridge, Carter Bridge, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Victoria Island-Lekki-Epe Expressway and all bridges not earlier mentioned, adding, however, that where motorcycles are permitted, they can only operate between the hours of 6.00 a.m. and 8.00 p.m.
Also, according to the Commissioner, all motorcycles below 200cc engine capacity shall not be used or operated on bridges or carriage roads with two or more lanes in the opposite directions while mail distribution or other courier service motorcycles exempted from route restriction by the Ministry of Transport can only operate if they have 200cc or above engine capacity, carry prescribed number plates and identification, fitted with proper mail cabin and do not carry passengers.
The Commissioner said the penalties for neglect of traffic signs, traffic light and traffic directions or driving against on-coming traffic, include forfeiture and imprisonment for one year for first offender and three years and forfeiture for subsequent cases if found guilty.
On the Law as it applies to the Bus Rapid Transit BRT), sirens etc., Ipaiye listed the offences to include, driving on BRT lane, parking within15 metres of a road intersection, using sirens and other noisy devices in a vehicle, driver or conductor on duty failing to wear the prescribe uniform or identification tag, driving or being driven on unauthorized routes and herding or allowing cattle, sheep, goats or other animals on the road.
Other areas taken care of by the new law include driving an unregistered, unlicensed vehicle or vehicle without valid identification mark, an offence which attracts a penalty of N20, 000 for first offender and N30.000 or three years imprisonment or both for subsequent offences and conditions for use of trailers where the law now bars trailers from entering or travelling within the Lagos Metropolis between 6.00 a.m. and 9.00 p.m. although fuel tankers and long vehicles for carrying passengers are exempted. Any trailer contravening the law will be impounded and N50.000 fine imposed or imprisonment for six month for the driver.
According to the law, it is henceforth an offence to sell alcoholic drinks, herbal or pharmaceutical drugs within 100 metres of a bus stop, terminus or motor park; hawk, vend or offer for sale any item of goods or services or beg or solicit for alms or engage in cleaning windscreens or any part of a vehicle on the highway or bridge. Other offences include displaying of wares on walkways, dropping or picking of passengers on fast lanes or undesignated bus-stop by commercial vehicles.
LASTMA is also empowered by the new law to designate as bus lanes for priority service, a side of Ikotun-Ejigbo-Cele Expressway, Iyana-Ipaja-Agege, Pen Cinema, Ojodu -Berger; Iyana-Ipaja-Idimu-Iyana-Iba Roundabout, Iyana-Idimu-Ikotun, Berger-3rd Mainland-Tafawa Balewa Square, Iyana-Oworo-Anthony-Oshodi-Mile 2-Apapa, Sango-Iyana-Ipaja-Oshodi and Orile Iganmu-Mile 2- Okokomaiko roads, during peak hours of 6.00 a.m. to 10.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m.
The Attorney General said provisions of the new law would apply to public officers or other persons in the service of the State explaining that for the purpose of proceedings for an offence in connection with any official vehicle, any person other than the driver, the person nominated by the Department in whose service the vehicle is used, shall be deemed to be the person actually responsible unless it is otherwise proved to the satisfaction of the court.
Also, the law bars all traffic officers from demanding, willfully condoning, conniving, abetting or receiving gratification in cash or kind from any person to circumvent the provisions of the law while contravention by any officer will attract summary dismissal and prosecution under the ACL Law. Vehicle inspection Officer are also empowered under the law to inspect, control, regulate and enforce road worthiness standards, pre-registration inspection, emergency services, issuance of Road Worthiness Certificates, testing for license or riders’ card etc, the Attorney General said.
The event was graced by Judges of the State High Court, some members of the State House of Assembly, State Commissioner of Police, Umaru Manko, Service commanders of the Navy, Airforce, Army and State Security Service as well as officials of LASTMA and Vehicle Inspection Unit (VIO).