By Alemma Aliu
BENIN CITY—GOVERNOR Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has introduced community service, as part of penalties for road traffic offenders in the state, particularly Benin City, the state capital, notorious for uncoordinated driving by motorists until his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole established Edo State Traffic Management Agency, EDSTMA.
On resumption of office, the governor overhauled the agency with the recruitment of more personnel, including graduates and other categories of young persons and equipped the outfit with communication gadgets and mobility.
In the last one week, the agency has seized at least 16 traffic offenders and subjected them to community service, which is first of its kind in the state. The services include clearing weeds in government-owned facilities and evacuating refuse where necessary.
How we’re implanting new measures—Macaulay, Head
of Operations, EDSTMA
Head of Operations, EDTSMA, Osamuyi Macaulay, told NDV that the community service was a new measure introduced by the agency to discourage motorists from flouting traffic rules and regulations and complement the state government’s Keep Edo Clean programme.
He said if arrested, the agency would make traffic offenders to undergo community service such as sweeping, cleaning of drainage, among other options.
Macaulay explained: “This is a new initiative and it will continue. Later, we will introduce other measures like impounding vehicles and paying fines. This is the first time we are embarking on this.”
Defaulters commend agency for not extorting money
Mr. Austin Nfere, Monday Ibuedefe and Endurance Joseph are among the motorists, who just completed their community service.
Nfere said after being shown video evidence of him flouting traffic regulations, he pleaded guilty to the offence and served out his punishment, while Ibuedefe said he has learnt a vital lesson and would exercise patience from now on so as not to fall foul of traffic laws.
On his part, Joseph, commended EDTSMA for not extorting money from traffic defaulters, saying: “The option of community service is most welcome, as it will ensure that people face punishment for breaking the law instead of buying their way out.’
I’ll not disobey traffic rules anymore—Ugiagbe
Another offender, Desmond Ugiagbe, after completing his community service, promised not to disregard traffic rules and regulations, noting that the idea of community service as a penalty was more effective as a corrective measure than payment of fines.
The agency’s Public Relations Officer, Roland Owolabi, said the innovation was part of the vast experience the Managing Director of the Agency, Dennis Oloriegbe, has garnered over the years as traffic personnel before the state took him from the Lagos Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA).
He said: “The MD of the agency is coming from somewhere where traffic management has been effective; he is a known traffic juggernaut having garnered so much experience in Sweden, Zambia, Angola and in LASTMA, Lagos, which is his last point of call before he came to Edo State.
“So the experiences have come to bear on our activities in EDSTMA. There were certain leverages that he had to work on and that is why the agency has actually been having a smooth sail.
“Community service in this clime is a kind of novelty, but it has always been in existence in the western world because it is not every offence that attracts monetary terms and other forms of punishment. We hear reports of some sportsmen, who go on drinking spree and then violate traffic laws and authorities punish them with community service.
“However, there are some traffic offences like driving against traffic, which we normally call one way that cannot be corrected with community service, such offenders actually intend to kill. We refer such persons to a Psychiatric Centre to ascertain their mental state before the appropriate penalty is given.