Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

The new Lagos road traffic law

The new Lagos road traffic law

By Victor Osakwe

With the new road traffic law enacted by the ACN government of Lagos State, motorists and okada riders alike are in for a tough time. As against the claim of the government that the law is meant to deter motorists and okada riders from committing the offences that are purportedly responsible for the perennial traffic congestion in the state, the truth is that the government is much more interested in the huge amount of money it hopes to make from the hefty fines it is imposing on would-be violators.

Besides, the law is an attempt to bury the real issue which is the failure of the government to provide good roads and public transportation, and punish the victims. Commercial motorcycling popularly known as Okada, for instance, which was not a phenomenon in early 1990’s, has become the means of mass transit as the transport system deteriorated and roads became bad. For instance, most roads in communities are simply impassable for motorists. The major roads are also littered with potholes and bad portions which slow down the traffic movement and thereby force many people to opt for okada, which can easily maneuver bad portions to get to their destination or meet appointment in time.

Instead of addressing the underlying problems the law, for instance, bans the okada from carrying pregnant women or children of school ages. This is ridiculous. How does the government expect expectant mothers living in the communities not plied by commercial vehicles as a result of the deplorable conditions of road to get to hospital or children get to school? The bad conditions of access and link roads mean that most motorists prefer taking major roads and thereby worsen the traffic congestion. Confronting such situation, commuters often opt for okada to avoid spending hours on the road. Also outlandish is the provision that bans operation of okada after 10pm in a state where many communities can only be accessed by okada.

The approach of the ACN government to the transportation crisis in the state has largely been tokenistic and driven by self-serving interest. The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme, for instance, was created ostensibly to tackle the problem of congestion but ended up worsening the situation by reducing the number of lanes for the majority of the road users. The BRT cannot move more than 5 percent of commuters yet a special lane was dedicated to it on a number of major roads. Besides, the scheme is using public resources for private profit. It was set up with public funds but is managed as a private business. This explains why a number of buses in the fleet of Lagbus, the BRT operator, has fallen as many have broken down. Also, Lastma, the state traffic operatives, is much more of patronage system for supporters of ACN and revenue generation for the government than traffic management. The operational model of Lastma is punitive rather than preventive. It is therefore not accidental that Lastma officers are notorious for corrupt practices and associated highhandedness.

The development of the metro system is still more than 30 years backwards while waterways have not been developed to reduce congestion on the roads. A responsible government would have created enabling conditions that make violation of traffic laws extremely difficult and unnecessary. Indeed, most of the provisions of the law are not new. What has been done is to put fines on the violation of traffic rule while roads and transportation system remain in a deplorable state. This means that the new traffic law is more of revenue generation initiative than being deterrent to traffic offences. It is also measure of using legislation and heavy fines to drive people off the roads. This is not the solution to the problem of the transport system.

Using public works, with heavy investment and democratic control of workers, relevant professionals and communities would have ensured cost effective construction and maintenance of many quality roads including in the communities. But this is not an option for the ACN government which, like other big business, profit-first political parties, employs contract system designed to deploy public resources to gratify the self-serving interests of politicians and their business associates.

No amount of legislation and criminalization of road offences will solve the problem of go-slows and hold-ups in Lagos. It is the pro-active approach of the government in making sure transport system including metro and waterways is modernized and integrated, and planned to meet the needs of the growing population of Lagos State will solve the traffic crisis in the state. The solution is easy but it is beyond the capacity of capitalist, pro-establishment, parties like ACN which are in government primarily for self-serving and private interest as against the common good of the society and the working people. This is one of the reasons we of the DSM have been campaigning for building of the working peoples’ political party to chase out the thieving ruling elite from power at all levels and use the resources of the society for infrastructure development and basic needs of the working people. A bold step in this direction is the formation of Socialist Party of Nigeria. We call on workers and youths to join the party today