By Kayode Ojewale
The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918 – 2008), Russian writer and winner of Nobel Prize for Literature.
EVERYONE, by default, has the tendency to either be good or bad, kind or unkind, human or heartless; no one is born a saint or devil. We all can be induced to manifest either the good or bad character when pressured by situational forces or rather the uncontrolled urge to amass wealth. Greed and discontentment are the drivers that lure one to cheat and swindle. Choosing to do good when the option of bad appeals is what defines a disciplined and matured man.
There is a general notion by most Lagosians that all the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, officials are corrupt and that these personnel do nothing on the road other than to extort. No one makes any good comment about the officers anywhere anytime.
Motorists and even commuters all speak ill of LASTMA officials with their various experiences at the hands of these cream and maroon uniformed color personnel. Virtually no one wishes them well. Sadly, those who hold such notions are not entirely wrong as their painful, unforgettable encounters constantly send reminders on how bad some of these men and officers of the agency could be.
It would, however, be totally wrong and unfair to judge all officials of the agency as bad or corrupt. In every setting, we have two categories of staff – the promoters and spoilers of good deeds. For every original thing, there exists the counterfeit and as such, life itself is two-sided.
So, human actions are adjudged good or bad based on the line drawn as standard. It takes long time continuity and consistency for the good doer to get recognition and a short time for one who does the opposite to be known. Now, people are quick to judge and conclude on spotting any LASTMA officer at any intersection or layby, that they are evil and corrupt.
I was in a commercial vehicle heading for Oshodi recently, and as we approached Ikeja Along Bus-stop, there were about a dozen LASTMA officers scattered along that long stretch from Ile Zik through Ajaiyi Farm to Ikeja.
Suddenly, some passengers in the same bus with me began to rain curses on these officers stationed at their work beats. I listened carefully to their reasons as they separately narrated various ordeals they have suffered from traffic officers who have apprehended them for various offences. Each experience shared happened at different parts of Lagos, according to those narrators. They, therefore, upon sighting these officers at Ikeja, regarded them as same – corrupt.
A very important fact that must be registered in the mind of all is that people are, by nature, generally opposed to anything or anyone that checkmates or regulates their actions. They become even recalcitrant when enforcement of laws is effected. This fact alone makes LASTMA officials enemy of those who are addicted traffic offenders.
Traffic control is the core duty of the agency, arrest of traffic violators is secondary, but the latter is as important as the former for compliance purpose. When penalties are paid by traffic law defaulters, it would make them think twice in flouting it next time and also serve as deterrence to would-be offenders too.
The spokesman for LASTMA, Mr. Olumide Filade, recently disclosed that the agency, between May and July this year, had impounded a total of 2,280 privately-owned vehicles and 1,570 commercial vehicles, while 130 drivers were referred to the Lagos State Drivers Institute, LASDRI, for recertification of their licences within the same period. With this alone, these affected members of the public would certainly not be happy with the agency; they blame the traffic law enforcers for not being lenient because they failed to wear a ‘human face’.
It is not to say that corrupt LASTMA officers do not exist; they do but not all of them are corrupt. The LASTMA PRO in his comment on the excesses of his men and officers, said: “Any LASTMA official found guilty of bribery and corruption charges will face disciplinary action according to the Extant Laws and Regulation of Lagos State Civil Service.”
The agency’s image-maker went further to add that: “Every organisation has its bad eggs and it would be unfair of the public to categorise all LASTMA staff as corrupt.” He labelled these corrupt officers as bad eggs in the agency. “They are the ones who tarnish LASTMA’s image and bring down the efforts of other hardworking officers,” he said.
According to Mr. Filade, about 11 officers of the agency have so far faced various disciplinary actions from 2020 till date, with some having their appointments terminated, some demoted and others reprimanded for various offences.
It would be recalled that a LASTMA officer was dismissed for demanding bribe from a motorist in June this year. This shows clearly that the agency isn’t handling with levity allegations or complaints of corruption against any officer.
The way LASTMA officers are quick to warn, correct or apprehend traffic violators, the management of the agency, who acts as check and balance to their works, will with the same pace, treat allegation cases involving extortion. The motoring public is, therefore, urged to reach out to the agency and make formal report of misdemeanor of any officer in his line of duty.
In all, LASTMA officers have a lot to do in winning back the trust of the public. Doing better in delivering public service to Lagosians is the expectation of motorists and this can be achieved.
It is generally said that, one can preach a sermon better with his life than with his lips; so no matter what’s written or said about LASTMA, it is what its men do that matters and would ultimately be seen by all. In the end, it is up to LASTMA and its men!
As officers and men of LASTMA, our scorecard of performance is solely determined by what we do as seen by the public. Whether it is commendation or condemnation, it’s a function of our own doing!
Ojewale is of the Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA