*Attack LASTMA officials, vandalise impounded vehicles

By Albert Akpor

Created by the administration of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu to assist the police in traffic control in the state, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, means different things to different people. To some, it is a mere duplication of police duty and by extension, the creation of employment opportunity for the teeming unemployed Lagosians.

To others, it is an organization of indisciplined and untamed persons mainly chasing after commercial bus drivers to extort money and therefore, should not exist at all. However, which ever way LASTMA is looked at, the organization apart from providing gainful employment, has tremendously assisted in the management and control of traffic in the state; albeit with a few hiccups.

Recently, a group of persons suspected to be commercial bus drivers operating with unpainted vehicles invaded offices of the organization and unleashed terror on officials on duty. They were reported to have vandalized and removed some impounded vehicles for reasons yet to be ascertained. Although, some of the perpetrators have been arrested and arraigned, the organisation and indeed, victims of the attack are still in shock over the unwarranted and unprovoked attack.

Crime Guard scooped that officials of the agency and commercial bus drivers, especially those who vehemently refused to paint their buses in the approved Lagos State commercial vehicles colour of yellow and black stripes, has been locked in a cold war as the former’s attempt to enforce the recent order have been met with with stiff resistance.

Following several meetings, consultations and notices, the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation on September 6 , 2011 reportedly issued a 14-day ultimatum to all operators of unpainted commercial vehicles (Danfo and Paragon) to comply with the approved specification of Yellow and Black stripe colours. The directive, it was learnt, became necessary to ensure safety and free flow of traffic across the state. Sources at the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation and LASTMA informed that the move to enforce uniform identity for private commercial vehicles became pertinent following the spate of deliberate and lawless violation of traffic rules by operators of unpainted commercial vehicle operators.

Relevant traffic rules

According to LASTMA, operators of unpainted commercial vehicles were particularly notorious for flagrantly flouting relevant traffic rules. It was noted that they openly engage in illegal parking; picking and dropping of passengers at undesignated bus stops; driving on the median, walkways, BRT lanes; driving against traffic (one-way); and making unauthorized U-turns, thereby causing traffic obstructions. In addition, it was equally discovered that unpainted commercial vehicles were mostly being used for nefarious activities in the state.

It was, therefore, against the backdrop of this counter-productive effects of unpainted commercial vehicles and the implied negative influence on other commercial vehicle operators in the state that the Ministry of Transportation, in conjunction with LASTMA, decided to enforce uniform identity for all such vehilces operating in the state. Consequently, by the ultimatum, it was directed that operators of the following unpainted commercial vehicles with inscriptions: GALANT MOPOL, DISABLED SPORT, COMPETENT HANDICAP, AWUA, AHUA, AWOL, BEBETO 777, FISH, EAGLE, AKALA, JATTO, PONPAWLY, KK, MOB, HOTWATER, SAIL NAVY ADE, KEN 1, LAW, SUPER, AGBALAYA, ODCA, DE, NANS, ACTION MOBILISATION, LASUSU, STUDENT UNION, LASPOTECH and SUG should paint their vehicles in the approved specification of Yellow with Black stripe colours. These categories of commercial vehicle operators were also directed to restrict transport activities to approved locations designated for their operation by the Ministry of Transport.

It was learnt that the Commissioner for Transport, Kayode Opeifa granted audience to a group of operators of unpainted commercial vehicles otherwise referred to as ‘disabled’ and ‘handicapped’ persons in transport business at his Alausa office during which the commissioner who, though applauded physically challenged Nigerians for venturing into transport business, reiterated the need to comply with the new directives.

Business potentials

He was said to have assured the transporters that the state government was committed and eager to assist various categories of commercial vehicle operators in attaining their full business potentials. Leader of the ‘disabled’ and ‘handicapped’ persons in transport business, Mr. Patrick Ene, was said to have pledged the readiness of operators of unpainted commercial vehicles to adhere to the directives.

But rather than honour their pledge, some operators of unpainted commercial vehicles, including the ‘disabled’ and ‘handicapped’ persons, recently threw caution to the wind. They stormed LASTMA’s operational offices and inflicted injuries on officials. They also reportedly vandalized property which monetary value was yet to be ascertained.

Impounded vehicles

During one of the unprovoked attacks, the attackers invaded LASTMA yard zone11, Idi-roko Anthony, along Ikorodu expressway, injured an official, forcefully removed three impounded vehicles with registration numbers: XW 176 EPE; XR 863 LND; and XN 671 AKD, vandalized the organization’s operation Trooper (18 Echo) and also damaged an operation Motorbike fitted with communication gadget.

While the organization was still nursing its wound over the shocking attack, another group of people also said to be unpainted commercial bus drivers invaded another LASTMA office, (zone 3 and 15) in Iponri after the attack at Anthony, leaving several officials seriously wounded. The rampaging attackers zoomed off to zone 1 and 18, Olowu office on central Lagos, unleashed another orgy of violence on officials on duty. One Mr. Wasiu Akintunde was seriously battered and is presently battling not to lose his sight.

However, even in the face of these attacks, the General Manager and chief operating officer of LASTMA, Engr. Babatunde Edu, has vowed that the organization would collaborate with the Ministry of Transport to ensure full implementation of the new directives while assuring that LASTMA was more than ever poised to manage and control traffic better.

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