Eat, phone, drive go to jail in Lagos
Lagos State,Nigeria’s economic hub, considered chaotic by many, is being infused with a new traffic law which seeks to restore a semblance of sanity and orderliness.
The new traffic law, among others prohibits drivers from eating, as well as from making or receiving telephone calls while on wheel.
It likewise out-rightly restricts motorcycles, popularly called “okada”, carts, wheel barrows and tricycles, from certain roads within the state metropolis and beyond. These include the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Apapa- Oshodi Expressway, Ikorodu Road, Agege Motor Road, Funsho Williams Avenue, Eko Bridge, the Third Mainland Bridge, Carter Bridge, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Victoria Island-Lekki-Epe Expressway and all bridges within the state.
Where permitted, commercial motorcycle operators can only operate between 6am and 8pm. Motorcycles operated by courier companies are however exempted, but on the provision that they must have engine capacity of 200cc, carry prescribed registration plates, be fitted with proper mail cabin, and must not carry any passenger.
The law also prohibits trailer trucks from entering into, or travelling within Lagos metropolis from 6am to 9pm. Exemption in this case is granted to fuel tankers and long vehicles for carrying passengers. Defaulting trailers are to be impounded, while the sanction will be a N50, 000 fine or imprisonment for six months for offenders.
Also, drivers are to be randomly tested for drunkenness in the new road traffic law.
However, the enforcement of the law which is seen some quarters as high handed will not begin immediately until it is gazetted , copies circulated to relevant stakeholders and massive public enlightenment carried out, to avoid excuse of ignorance.
Signing the law yesterday, governor Babatunde Raji Fashola said it was in response to the challenge of road and traffic management and the need to ensure that those who chose to live and work in the state were not shortchanged by flagrant traffic offenders.
Fashola added that the Lagos government was committed to addressing transportation challenges in the state and that the law which took about 18 months to prepare, would complement government’s efforts at providing adequate road signs, traffic lights, as well as traffic radio services.
This new law is particularly significant because with 18 million of the country’s 158 million population, Lagos has the largest percent of all the states in the federation, aside from being the nation’s commercial hub.
Also, Lagos attracts a great many business and social visitors daily, as well as hundreds of commercial and other motor drivers, who must take cognisance of the new traffic law. Because of its’size, population, business and social significance, Lagos is also a beacon to other states, as regards policy formulation.
“There are rules that operate in many cities that compare with this state. We have been to many of these cities and we comply, why is it difficult to comply at home? Fashola asks, adding “Our lives will be better if we comply with this law. “Some of us have some parts of the law that we like and some parts that we don’t like. That sits well with me, maybe not all of us. The deputy governor and I are the only ones that have immunity from arrest, but we would subject ourselves to the law because no one will be above this law.
“Those who are ready to live with the realities and the complexities of our state are welcome and those who can’t should stay away. Those that drive against traffic when we queue, are cheating us and we will not allow such to happen again. If we cannot reclaim back our sane society for the coming generation, I think we have failed”.
Fashola said the restriction of commercial motorcycles was informed by the increasing rate of fatal accidents associated with the riders, as over 722 cases of accidents on the motorcycles were recorded at the State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja from January to July 2012.
Ade Ipaye, the state commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, who witnessed the signing of the law, explained that government would embark on a mass public enlightenment campaign to ensure people do not fall victim of the law on the excuse of ignorance.
Ipaye said enforcement of the law would not take effect immediately, until it is gazetted and then circulated to all concerned stakeholders, to ensure they have access to the gazette.
“It is only then that real enforcement will begin. As at now, the police and even LASTMA do not have a copy, even if we make photocopies, we still need to ensure we carry out enough sensitisation,” he said.
Question: are there enough spaces in Lagos jails available for new comers?