Operators, lawmakers differ on proposed Lagos traffic law

gridlocks

Lagos, with its huge population, has a peculiar transportation challenge, which various administrations since 1999 have tried to tackle through enactment of regulatory frameworks.For instance, in 2012, former Governor Babatunde Fashola signed into law the Lagos Road Traffic Law 2012, which restricted okada operations in at least 492 of the 9, 200 roads across the metropolis.

Sadly, however, the okada operators have not only fully returned to all the roads from where they were banned, but are doing so with impunity.In a bid to proffer solution to this chaotic transportation system, the state House of Assembly recently held a public hearing.Tagged: “Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law,” it was aimed at consolidating all laws relating to the transport sector with a view to enhancing development and management of a sustainable transport system in the state and for better road network.

Section 35 of the Nine Scheduled Bill, which comprises 226 sections, stated:“A person shall not ride, drive or propel a cart, wheelbarrow, motorcycle or tricycle on any road within the state. A person, who fails to comply with any of the provision of this section commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to: Imprisonment for a term of three years or to any non-custodial sentence; and have his vehicle forfeited to the state.”

According to this section, where a rider is convicted for an offence, the passenger shall also be liable to the same penalty, provided he/she is not a child. The bill also includes over 50 vehicle inspection offences and penalties.For instance, operating a vehicle within restricted routes or beyond approved hour attracts a fine of N50, 000, or six months imprisonment, while physical assault on traffic officers attracts N50, 000 fine or six-month imprisonment.

Driving a trailer or other vehicles carrying unlatched container attracts a fine of N250, 000 and the vehicle impounded; towing a loaded trailer or tanker attracts a fine of N100, 000. Not painting a commercial vehicle in the approved colours attracts N50, 000 fine and enforces painting.Learner drivers on highways attract N20, 000 for first offender and N30, 000 for subsequent offence.

However, in the bill, most of the offences attract both a fine and imprisonment.Reviewing the bill, Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa said: “We arrived at this bill by looking through laws that have to do with transport system in the Lagos State.“We overhaul all the laws in transport system in conformity with best global standard practices. We have made this systematic to ensure that there is no overlap that could cause friction and conflict.”

On the proposed outright ban of motorcycles and tricycles in the state, Obasa, who was represented by the Majority Leader, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, said the House would do its best to satisfy the masses.He hinted that the state road traffic laws and its provisions have been merged with MVAA and the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA).

According to him, when the law is passed, the state would be the better for it.While commending the House efforts on the unified bill, Lagos State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Mr. Hyginus Omeje, said “it is a right step in a right direction.”He, however, called for an affirmative statement on the proposed law’s position on the ban of motorcycles and tricycles.He noted that there was need to harmonise all the traffic laws with offences, as well as records of a driver’s offences, irrespective of where such occurred in the country.

The commander said the state might need to build more prisons, if the traffic offences attracting three-year imprisonment were to be implemented.Analysing the bill and its overall impact, a university don, Prof. Iyiola Oni, who commended the efforts to consolidate all transport laws in the state, said the greatest problem in the transport sector is disorderliness.

Oni, who is the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lagos, said the obligations among transport agencies should be well-clarified, and that the state is in need of an integrated and intermodal transport system.“What is the level of training of the enforcers, he queried. “We have to be careful and tread softly, taking congnisance of the economic realities with regards to the fines.”

The don, who called for a comprehensive database, said road transportation has been emphasised more than other means of transport in the country.He, therefore, called for an established role of local government traffic management unit, with each council organising and managing the roads in their domains.He urged the Assembly to look into blockages of inner roads by landlords, religious organisations, as well as cutting of roads by communication industries and others.

Also speaking on the issue, Head of Department, Urban and Regional Planning, Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), Mr. Peter Fosudo, called for categorisations of roads that commercial motorcycles and tricycles operators should ply in the bill.Fosudo advocated restriction of motorcycles and tricycles from highways, instead of outright ban and heavy fines.

On his part, a solicitor for National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Mr. Biodun Mike Hundeyin, said outright ban on commercial motorcycles and tricycles would be counterproductive to the state’s economic activities.The solicitor, who called for specific roles for NURTW in the new proposed law, said such development would compound the state’s unemployment problem.He said the major mode of transport in Badagry, for instance, is motorcycles, as the roads are in deplorable state.

Prince Joseph Odusanya, Lagos chairman of Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria, who frowned at outright ban of tricycles, urged government to be more considerate in its proposed step.He said: “If okada is being banned, tricycles should be an alternative means of transportation. Let’s consider the hardship this might bring to the people and the state’s economy.”To the secretary, Taxi Drivers and Cab Operators Association, Mr. Taiwo Olalekan, “the section requiring use of brand new vehicles or those that are not older than five years as taxi should be reconsidered.”He advised that it should rather be extended to 10 years because of the economic implication.

Representing Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Mr. Albert Omotayo said the offences should be reduced, as they were unrealistic.The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Dr. Taiwo Salaam, said it is high time the state improved on its transport system, as this would enhance security and commuters’ safety.

“Security is at stake, if we don’t modernise our transport system,” he explained. “It is an aberration for a state like Lagos to support the use of okada as a means of transportation. Many of the operators unleash terror on the people. Even if they are going to be allowed in the estates, there is need for proper documentation.”In a reaction to the stakeholders’ comments, Agunbiade urged compliance with the rules and regulations to make the state attain the smart megacity status.He also tasked the Ministry of Transportation to monitor activities of some landlords, who go the extra mile by locking their estates’ gates before approved time.“We recognise the need for security, but so many streets now lock their gates during the day. People do it indiscriminately and with impunity,” he said.

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Lagos Traffic Law
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