African Outlook Online

Letters to the editor

Curbing The Excesses of LASTMA Officials

Curbing The Excesses of LASTMA Officials

 

By Jimoh Ibrahim Olalekan

Last week I was coming from Ikeja in a commercial bus hoping to arrive home as quickly as possible because it was getting late. Our bus arrived at a corner along the highway just to be obstructed by a taxi man who was passing a wrong lane. The taxi could not move or turn back for like five minutes and with that the noise started.

A LASTMA official in undignified action while trying to accost a public transportation driver

‘Go back!’ ‘Where should I go?’ ‘Let me quickly pass jor! At last the taxi driver had his way. But to my chagrin our bus was hijacked by the LASTMA officials whose presence was like that of pirates. It was so quick that nobody noticed their coming. As the driver tried to escape the arrest, the key was removed and seized by the officials who came in dozen.

 

Though the position in which the bus was worth arresting. It was unfortunate that the taxi driver who was the cause for the halt of our bus went scot free. Our plea to the LASTMA officials was in vain as they packed the bus and ordered us to get down. At that time most of us have paid our transport fares, some even are yet to collect their change from the bus conductor.

 

We are all left on our own peril, stranded, as the position of arrest of the bus was not a bus-stop. Some passengers were lamenting counting their woes as the time moves on. ‘I should be here by this time; I should be there by now’. Moreover like me, some passengers speculated that the officials only want to have their night meal from the bribe they’ll receive from the driver. I watched keenly and guess what I see, negotiation has started. They were less concerned about the passengers. Some of whom I could read through their expressions had appointments, while others were hoping to beat the traffic to arrive their various destinations on time.

 

The question now is, if a bus be arrested in a point where ordinarily buses do not wait to pick up passengers and the commuters disembarked from such a bus, all because of arrest, should there not be another bus on ground to convey passengers to their destinations? Or if that is not praticable, shouldn’t there be another option of disciplining the erring bus-driver? Is this how developed nations, or let’s put it in simple terms, developing nation like Nigeria effect laws on motorists? No! I believe there should be warning for those unavoidable offences prior to arrest and fine. Also, the fact that the passengers were left stranded is another case. If not for a private car that came to our rescue, and that is even a four-passenger car, which of course collected double, where only three of us were able to leave the scene on time. God knows if the remaining commuters wouldn’t wait hours before luck will come their way.

 

Just two days after this unfortunate incident, I again had a terrible experience with these LASTMA Officials. When the bus I boarded from Maryland Junction to Obalende reached Yaba bus-stop, the driver packed a little bit ahead of the normal parking space and the LASTMA officials, two of them this time, told the driver in a simple statement, ‘don’t stay there’. Immediately the driver reversed a bit to the normal parking space to call passengers in. Surprisingly the officials who were looking despondently jumped into the bus, ‘decide your passengers’ was what came from their mouth – it was just as if they were expecting the driver to make the slightest mistake. Or what else would you require the driver do than to park properly? It was just like a movie to us. Some passengers rain abusive words on the officials and others even suggested that the driver continue his journey to Obalende and if they refuse to come down take them to his house. It was like a tragic-comedy movie. All in all they were adamant and the driver had to find us another bus.

 

In these two experiences I had, and others of such, with most LASTMA officials I noticed some things. Firstly, that the officials majority of them are illiterates, they do not understand the law. In fact some of them are area boys – thugs who just par chance find themselves in uniforms.

 

Furthermore sometimes they can’t carry out their duties because they constantly collect token, or simply call it egunje from motorists. And as the saying goes, ‘to whom much is given much is expected’, the erring motorists ordinarily at times of road misconduct would demand from the LASTMA officials pardon and overlook of their crimes.

 

Our LASTMA officials though have worked effective in curbing road abuse by users – it would be an understatement to say that they have not helped maintain orderliness on our roads; nonetheless their excesses need be checked to ensure that they are not just enriching their pockets through legal/illegal arrest of motorists. They also should be properly educated, trained or/and re-sensitized regularly on their duties. Lastly, it is also paramount that their bosses work hard to sanitize the agency from corruption and bad officials, and not just sit in their offices waiting for the month to end to earn fat salaries.