Sola Giwa, a formal Special Assistant to the former Lagos State Governor, Babajide Fashola, on Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA Matter who was recently appointed the Special Adviser on Transportation to the incumbent Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, speaks with Olasunkanmi Akoni, on his mission and vision for transportation sector in the state, Viz-a viz, restoring sanity to the roads, the Apapa gridlock, fake illegal traffic agents, among others. Excerpts:
What are your plans to reposition transport sector in Lagos
Basically, you know that Mr. Governor’s THEMES agenda starts with T, transportation and traffic management; I don’t have a choice but to deliver that mandate. However, I must correct the impression the issue of bad image, I think it’s not as bad as they portrait, the governor has been giving a lot of kudos in the areas of transport infrastructural development and management in a mega city like Lagos. It’s growing up everyday, people are moving to Lagos in droves, rural –urban migration because of genuine infrastructure we are putting in place, because of the fact that there’s prosperity.
The issue is how we are managing it through the integrated inter-modal transport system, the evolving rail system and the waterways. A lot of bridges have been constructed at critical areas, junction improvement, traffic lights and ofcourse in the area of transport management generally. So, it is not really about Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, there are alots of things involved about traffic management, such as road signages, laybys, bus stops, traffic routines, these are some of the things that encompasses traffic management and transport logistics.
The LASTMA end of it is actually management of movement of vehicles on the road. LASTMA has come a long way and they are doing a humongous task and have been living up to expectation. However, they can do better. For me, I want to call myself LASTMA person because my first appointment in this government was the special assistant to the governor then, Mr. Babajide Raji Fashola on LASTMA Matters before it now became LASTMA itself, So I understand where LASTMA is coming from, I can say that we understand what the issues are and we are ready with the Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde to do the needful and move LASTMA traffic management and transportation system in Lagos forward. It’s not yet Uhuru in Lagos traffic system but we are close to it, and very soon Lagosians will start enjoying all the benefits.
Tackling Lagos intractable gridlock amid several road closures
First and foremost, let us correct the impression of gridlock, I explained to you at the beginning that Lagos state is doing a whole lot in terms of infrastructural development, there is no infrastructural development we are embarking on without Traffic Impact Assessment, TIA, and like I said, you can’t eat your cake and have it.
Alot of people from other states are moving into Lagos by the day to live and that put a lot of pressure on infrastructure and as a government that is pro- active, we are planning for the future. When the capital of Nigeria was moved from Lagos to Abuja, Lagos has been neglected with attendant consequences one of which has led to infrastructural deficiency.
The more we are developing, the chokier it is as people troop in. That’s why we are partnering with Ogun government and extending the rail system to Ogun State, our neighbouring state. Even the road under construction in Epe, we are joining it with Shagamu, still in Ogun State so that there will be at least minimal rural-urban migration.
We need to plan for the future. What you are experiencing in Lagos road infrastructure is planning for the future. We are being proactive as Lagos is utilizing the tax -payers’ money in providing necessary infrastructure.
We forget what we go through when development comes, remember that the Kudirat Abiola Way was a no-go area then with intractable traffic. While undergoing construction people will have to go through some forms of inconveniences. So, in a situation like this, we provide for diversion and when we divert traffic to a side, people will complain, however, what do we do, we need to improve. LASTMA is always at the receiving end, getting all the bashing.
For example, do we want to say that because we don’t want people get stuck in traffic, we will not do the Yaba rail system or Oyingbo, of course the government understands that we need to develop its just like a pregnant wanting to give birth, she must have to go through some pains and at the end of the day, we will all be happy for it.
However, we are still putting mitigating factor there to make sure that the inconvenience is not too pronounced. So, it’s something we have to continue to do, infrastructural growth must continue and that’s what the people voted this government to do, to improve infrastructure.
If you should go to anywhere that there’s development, you must see traffic, traffic comes with development. It is the management of the traffic that is important, and we are managing it, that is what is important, and we can do better.
Tackling public perception of LASTMA being compromised in areas of traffic management
Recently, I met with all the road operational heads and commanders, we have been speaking truth to ourselves, looking at the problems and also what we need to do to give them support in terms of welfare.
They pledged to put in their best and I also pledged to support them in terms of their welfare and making them more professional, and in return stressed the need to be more disciplined and work hard.
It is on the following three tripods that am actually coming: Discipline, welfarism and professionalism. There are teething problems, I admit. We know there are issues, and we will resolve these issues. We are bringing the Apapa template to manage Lagos. Things will have to be done according to normal professional standard. Mark my words things will change for the better. Members of the public should also help us, when you see something say something.
The LASTMA man you are seeing is also a man like you and you should respect them also, they are well trained, and we will look into their welfare also. I give you the assurance that things are going to change for the better soon. To whom much is given much is expected.
Reasons for MOT ban
Remember, on August 11, 2022, we placed an indefinite ban on the activities of enforcement team, tagged M.O.T Taskforce as part of measures to streamline transport operations in Lagos State for better effectiveness.
I have explained this and I’m going to say it again, we need to have a new strategy and don’t forget LASTMA is an agency under ministry of transportation, and they are empowered to enforce all traffic laws also. Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIO is also under it.
My Office has been flooded with series of complaints over the rampart activities of unauthorized traffic agents; the state government will no longer tolerate such criminal act but bring down the full wrath of the law on any phony operator.
Lagos State is a State governed by laws. The Transportation Sector is regulated by the Transport Sector Reform Law, TSRL, 2018 and thus, does not leave any room for any hanky-panky or space for charlatans to operate.
My office will continue to go on sting operations and unplanned visits so as to catch these fake agents, their collaborators and sponsors in the act. It is no longer going to be business as usual, enough is enough.
I’m using this opportunity to urge the public to report any suspicious activity of unauthorized enforcement team to the Ministry of Transportation for onward report to the Police for possible prosecution.
We are looking at some strategies also and we don’t give the opportunity where people will use our names to commit negative acts or criminal acts. Alot of people just wear MOT enforcement and we decided to change our strategies and we banned them, and if we see anyone impersonating, we will get them arrested and we are coming with a new model to change our enforcement, however, LASTMA is still there and VIO also to do the normal enforcement.
Does it include local government traffic officers?
Okay, let me be clear, local government is not empowered to manage traffic, LASTMA by the law has been giving that responsibility, any local government is not empowered to manage the traffic in Lagos.
So, anyone saying local government traffic management, there’s nothing like that.
They should report such case to our office for appropriate action. It is illegal an illegal operation.
Body worn cameras functions
Well, recently distributed the cameras lo officers, they have been directed to commence the use of the gadgets forthwith. The essence of the security camera is to site an offender or suspicious offender, the camera is to help them check vehicles that are coming and all your conversations and image will be recorded also with the camera and it will help in prosecuting offenders also.
The camera is there to do everything and it is also use to caution LASTMA officers and he should wear it every day also.
Okada ban enforcement
In six local governments, we have stopped the operation of Okada there and recently four more councils. It’s an ongoing work and there’s no nation that will not invest in proper transportation management, and that’s the essence of the government doing also.
There are some places where government has deployed small buses that can carry like 6 or 8 passengers and there’s no need for a bike.
The government has done something already, enforcement is something that is critical in anything you do, and anybody can make a law but to be able to enforce it is more important and Okada riders will always be stubborn people that won’t follow the law. Mr. Governor has said it and there’s no going back, they have to back down.
Plans for enforcement
I don’t want to go into the strategy and because we know the people that we are dealing with, and they’re very fierce and they attack police and people, as you can see the menace has reduced and it will continue to reduce more with time and there’s no going back.
Sustaining achievements in Apapa
Okay, basically, what happened is that there was a committee that manages the traffic in Apapa and I was the head of the committee, the immediate past Special Adviser, Toyin Fayinka, was the chairman of the committee and the committee is still in existence and I’m now the special adviser and now the chairman of the committee and generally, traffic management is under my purview.
Major cause of the gridlock in Apapa
Like what we have today in Apapa for example, there are two sides, the GRA and the Apapa-Oshodi side, I can comfortably tell you that we have solved that Apapa GRA issue.
There will always be traffic as long as we are operating machines and they intend to break down sometimes even without noticing and the side of Apapa-Oshodi Express way also, I want to use this opportunity to call on the Federal Government to do the needful on that road.
You know that the road was left to Dangote Groups and there is just a particular portion which you know very well between Sunrise and Coconut that is so bad, so the strategy we put in place is that trucks will come in batches and when the truck gets stuck on the road, what happened gridlock, because the road is bad and the same system we have in Apapa is the same we have in Oshodi- Express way. Lagosians are tired already, so we can have peace in that area.