Opinion

The fear of LASTMA

By ‘Kunle Uthman

Motorists and commuters in Lagos State unequivocally express the view that the fear of LASTMA officials is the beginning of wisdom. The reasons embedded in this “prayer” constitutes in literal terms an Oxymoron, a testamentary statement of what that organization has surreptitiously and succinctly become in a megacity and in a place that nothing seems to work properly. 

Day-by-day, these LASTMA officials have become tyrannical, uncontrollable, corrupt, irresponsible, leaving their primary duty to manage traffic for the more apparently profitable one of chasing motorists, okada riders, keke NAPEP, and peering into people’s cars with the intention to extort money in one form or another. The management of LASTMA pretends not to know and the Lagos State government considers discipline on roads of little importance, preferring revenue collection and arresting innocent motorists.

Now, the tragedy: “Several Feared Dead As Truck Rams Into Schoolchildren in Lagos..” This pathetic accident is sad, incomprehensible, wrong and extremely traumatizing for every parent everywhere and any responsible adult, especially those who in the past were victims of LASTMA officials.

This is happening at a time when the issue of addressing bullying in schools, which led to the death of a student of Dowen College, Lekki, where the rich and affluent pay several millions of Naira to keep their children in Ivy League schools. 

This is also at a time when the shock and trauma of a 21 Storey Building collapsed on Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, resulting in loss of several millions of dollars as a result of non insurance and the negligence of Lagos State officials to do what is right and enforce legislation, is still in the front burner and the Lagos State Government has been unable to respond to allegations that its officials were culpable and should be prosecuted. 

We are also dealing with Panel Report/ White Paper in the #EndSARS shooting and related matters on October 20th, 2020. Majority of the citizens have expressed the view that the LASG’s White Paper is a deviation from the Panel’s Report, where its Head of Service gave evidence and all including the Nigerian Army were duly represented by counsel and sittings of the Panel were at taxpayers expense.

What truly is happening in Lagos State? Can these cumulative deaths be ascribed to bad and inept leadership or the gods are angry? Recall the classic, “The Gods Are Not To Blame” by Ola Ritimi, an adaptation of Sophocles, “Oedipus King” in conjunction with John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and one may be tempted to ascribe these dire consequences to abnormalities in the realm of the spiritual. 

There is most definitely something critically wrong in Lagos State and all involved in governance at all levels must necessarily put on their thinking caps to fathom the social and spiritual consequences of these  phantom losses of human lives, especially budding youth and innocent children.

There is an urgent, imperative and obligatory need to reform LASTMA, especially in terms of the psychology and mindset of its officials, especially those on the roads. There must be complete reorientation and retraining of the officials and reappraisal of the statutory responsibilities of management of traffic and not to serve as “Road monsters”, who chase vehicles and collect gratification. It should be explicitly emphasized that any LASTMA official caught in deviant acts or behaviour would be prosecuted. 

As it were, Lagos State is gradually becoming a lawless State and a poor example of good governance. We can no longer allow carnage on our roads, collapsed buildings and discordant tunes emanating from Lagos House in Alausa. We are in the festive holiday seasons and now more than ever we need sanity on our roads. We cannot and should never ever allow the blood of innocent children to satiate some demons, witches or wizards in ancient mythology. 

Our governments at the level of State, local or ward levels must be proactive and not allow the mentality of revenue generation to destroy and terminate the future of innocent children. We must not allow the maxim: “The fear of LASTMA is the beginning of wisdom” to define commuting on Lagos State roads and its resultant repulsive, unlawful, disgusting and attendant consequences and to destroy future generations of Nigerians. 

A Stitch In Time Saves Nine. 

Chief ‘Kunle Uthman is a Lagosian, lawyer and member, Body of Benchers.

 

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