Dozens of civil society activists on Thursday marched along some major roads in Ikeja, the Lagos capital, to protest the new executive order signed by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on traffic laws and penalties for offences in the state.
The protesters, led by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), described the governor’s order as “unfair.
Olatunde Owoeye, the vice president of CDHR, Lagos Branch, condemned the governor’s decision to issue the executive order.
“There are potholes and bad roads everywhere and there has not been any attempt to repair it and you are issuing an executive order,” Mr Owoeye told PREMIUM TIMES.
“Even what FRSC is charging for fine is far lesser than what Lagos State government is charging. Are they telling us they are superior to the federal government?”
“We are trying to decongest the prison but the Lagos State government keeps congesting the prison by criminalising minor offences.”
In his first executive order signed on May 30, Mr Sanwo-Olu charged the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to ensure strict compliance by motorists of all extant traffic rules and regulations as prescribed in the enabling law.
But the protesters argued that most roads in the state are ridden with potholes and the governor ought to have prioritised that. They also stated that the fines imposed by the state for traffic offences are exorbitant.
“Draconian laws are made and enforced on the poor masses,” said Funmi Ajayi, a representative of the Grassroot Women Initiative.
“The laws are inhumane. Not only the drivers are affected, it affected all Lagosians, even the market women. When you impound like 10 commercial buses, the little ones on the street will hike their price.”
The peaceful protest started at the headquarters of Ikeja local government area and the protesters marched to the Lagos State House of Assembly with banners and placards saying ‘No to SANWO OLU draconian order on traffic offences and State Traffic Rules.
Olatunji Mayowa, a commercial bus driver plying the Ikeja-Secretariat route, narrated his experience with LASTMA officials to journalists.
“I was arrested by LASTMA officials on Monday at Coca Cola bus stop in Alausa, Ikeja. They said I did not place my hackney permit on my windscreen and was fined ₦20,000.”
“My vehicle was seized, they called my offence ‘non-placement of hackney permit and they took my bus to their office at Agidingbi. I went to borrow the 20,000 from colleagues. I have not been able to work since Monday.”
Alex Omotehinse, the president of CDHR, Lagos branch, while addressing the representatives of the state House of Assembly said that CDHR had written to the lawmakers earlier but got no response, which was why they resorted to the protest.
“Wherever there is a law that is affecting the people negatively, we are bound to complain,” Mr Omotehinse said.
“Every law made in this state is an avenue for security agencies to extort Lagosians.
“On traffic offences, the issue of impounding of vehicles and imprisonment of offenders on minor offences is a challenge.”
Mr Omotehinse also said there are five state prisons in Lagos state with a total capacity of 3,520 but as at April when CDHR visited them, there had 9,216 inmates.
“Our prisons are congested already and we don’t need traffic offenders to add to the numbers in our prison.”
Some of the demands by the protesters include a reversal and reduction of the traffic fines, cancellation of prison terms for offenders and impounding of vehicles, warning and freeing of first-time offenders, immediate repair of traffic lights and roads in the state, and de-congesting of the prisons.
Tunde Braimoh, a member of the House of Assembly and the chairman, House Committee on Public Protest, who addressed the protesters said their petition would be addressed by the House.
“There is a need for law and order in Lagos,” he said.
“An order is still better than no order, the way we are headed, it is as though orderliness has broken down. Fines are not imposed on offenders just because we want to make economic gains from the situation.”
“FRSC is responsible for the whole of Nigeria, how many vehicles are available to some states? Lagos has a critical challenge when it comes to traffic because of the sheer number of vehicles available to Lagos.”
Mr Braimoh said the “peculiar problems in Lagos demand a peculiar solution.”
“There must be punitive measures, resistance and deterrent to aberrant behaviours. This is why ₦2,000 or ₦5, 000 fine is like a slap on the wrist.
“Government will not do anything with those vehicles that are impounded, government will not do anything with that ₦100,000 they are taking. The government takes money from responsible means that are empirical and can be given by data. Those are just miscellaneous items that we don’t even budget on.”
Adebisi Yusuf, a House of Assembly member, admonished the protesters to educate the people at the grassroots on the need to obey laws and orders in the society.
Below is a comparison of fines for traffic offences levied by FRSC vs Lagos State government:
Offences FRSC FINE LAGOS STATE FINE
1. Driving without a drivers licence: ₦10,000 Impound of Vehicle
2. Exceeding speed limit: ₦3,000 ₦100,000
3. Disobeying traffic light: ₦2,000 ₦100,000
4. Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs: ₦5,000 ₦100,000
5. Willful obstruction of the highway: ₦3,000 ₦50,000
6. Driving without seat belt on: ₦2,000 ₦20,000
7. Making calls/receiving text messages while driving: ₦4,000 ₦20,000
8. Staying within the yellow junction box : ₦5,000 ₦30,000
9. Vehicle causing obstruction on the highway (if broken down): ₦50,000 ₦5,000
10. Driving without road worthiness: ₦20,000 Impound vehicle
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