By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Monsur Olowopejo
In what might appear as a curious coincidence, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) has recently been featuring frequently in the news for the wrong reasons. At least for reasons other than that which informed it being set up by the Lagos State government. For instance a couple of weeks back two of its officials attached to the Iyana Ejigbo unit were involved in separate incidents that claimed the lives of a motorist and a motorcyclist.
In the latter incident, the LASTMA official almost lost his life as an angry mob descended on him when his scuffle with the motorcyclist ended in death as he was suspected of having used a diabolical ring on the unfortunate Okada man.
While the public was still trying to come to terms with these two tragic incidents involving LASTMA officials, one of them was yet again at the centre of a scuffle where a member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) allegedly chopped off his left ear. The official, Mr Ibrahim Etti, who isÂ the head of Mushin zone 21, was said to beÂ trying to settle an argument when he lost his ear.
The argument which later degenerated into a scuffle initially involved one of the NURTW chairmen of Oshodi under the bridge park unit, identified as Mr. Francis Sunday and a junior LASTMA staff at Oshodi as some of the agencyâ€™s officials were trying to remove some vehicles which were thenÂ obstructing the free flow of traffic on the highway.
In his reaction, Chief Executive Officer of LASTMA, Commissioner of Police (rtd) Mr .Young Arabamen,Â explained that trouble started when Francis tried to stop the LASTMA officials from using their tow trucks to remove the last of the offending vehicles then parked at LAGBUS park. He said in a bid to pre-empt any fracas between LASTMA andÂ members of the (NURTW) operating at the park,Â the junior LASTMA official had thought it wise to seek the intervention of the zonal head, Mr. Etti.
Arabamen said that on getting to the scene of the argument, Etti was busy discussing with his personnel on how to resolve the issue when Francis came from the rear to chop off the left ear of the zonal head. Arabamen stated that the attack caught Etti unawares and he did not know what happened until he saw blood gushing out of his ear.
He became unconscious as a result of the amount of blood which he lost and was rushed by LASAMBUS officials to Gbagada General Hospital for medical attention.
Arabamen noted that Francis had since been arrested by the officials of the state Task Force for proper interrogation.
The LASTMA CEO, therefore, appealed to members of the public to desist from attacking any of the traffic officers when performing their primary assignment.
He said that whenever the public is aggrieved about the activities of any LASTMA official, they should not hesitate to complain at LASTMA headquarters or the state Ministry of Transport rather than taking laws into their hands.
Arabamen assured all and sundry of justice and fairness whenever such complaint is made.
Since the inception of LASTMA, 219 of its personnel had been injured out of which 15 had suffered permanent disability in the course of serving their fatherland.Â ThreeÂ other LASTMA officials suffered gunshot attack, while 56 of them lost their lives.
In a related development, the Lagos State House of Assembly is said to be set toÂ review the laws setting up LASTMA in order to check the corrupt practices of some officials of the agency. This was disclosed by Mr Rotimi Olowo, theÂ Chairman of its Committee on Tourism and Inter_governmental Relations during a recent parley with journalists at Alausa.
He said:Â â€œThere is the need to overhaul LASTMA as an organ. Some of them (officials) are only interested in money and are always on the look out for who to extort money from rather than bringing about corrective measures. â€œEven if motorists err, an officer who has the only goal of making Lagos traffic flow should not at all times be apprehending. Some officials would even go to the extent of jumping into the vehicle of an offender to drive it themselvesâ€.
He lamented that some officials exploit the mistakes of motorists to extort money rather than bring about measures that would ensure that traffic continues to move, just as heÂ stressed the need to increase the spread of the LASTMA monitoring team to curtail extortion.
He also said that there was need to train and retrain LASTMA officials to ensure they did their jobs better and improve their skills in the act of decency to be able to serve the public better.