• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Sanwo-Olu and the errant soldier: Time to take Lagos traffic law serious

Hardship: Assembly asks Sanwo-Olu to summon stakeholders’ meeting

To some residents of Lagos, the arrest of a soldier by Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of the state, recently for riding his motorcycle (Okoda) against traffic, was a mere drama. To some others, it was just another day’s episode full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

But, for us, it was a tragedy of a society where some citizens have descended to sub-human levels, displaying impunity and bestiality, showing disregard for everything and everybody even at the cost of lives, including their own.

On January 2, 2024, Governor Sanwo-Olu ordered the arrest of a soldier and some other Okada riders for going against traffic on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway which violated the traffic law enacted by the state in August 2012.

The governor who was returning from the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo where he had gone to inaugurate a project sponsored by Femi Gbajabiamila, the chief of staff to President Bola Tinubu, impounded a few motorcycles and arrested some of the riders.

One of those offenders was a soldier, a Lance Corporal in the Nigeria Army, who was arrested with his bike. The soldier’s insistence that he should not be arrested because he was a soldier, angered the governor who ordered his men to put the soldier into a vehicle, saying he was going to lock him up.

We condemn, in its entirety, the action of the errant soldier who, in disregard to the law which he was supposed to enforce, went against traffic

Lagosians have reacted variously to this development with some saying the governor shouldn’t have arrested the soldier and the other riders given that driving or riding against traffic has become a norm in Lagos and most culprits are government officials, law enforcement agents and road transport workers.

The worst of the criticism of the governor’s action came with an unguarded outburst from a junior military officer caught in a viral video hauling abuses at the governor over his colleague’s arrest, saying the governor messed up the colleague and that he would have messed up the governor if he was the one involved.

This, for us, is the crux of the matter because here we have the executive governor of a state who is the chief security and law enforcement officer being ridiculed by a soldier who should be an epitome of discipline and order, more so in a civil society where the soldier should be subject to civil authority.

We condemn, in its entirety, the action of the errant soldier who, in disregard to the law which he was supposed to enforce, went against traffic—an action that could lead to traffic congestion and, in some cases, fatal accidents and loss of lives. We also condemn the impudence of the young soldier who threw caution to the winds in defence of what was not defensible.

We are glad that the army authority is dealing with this case expeditiously. Taoreed Lagbaja, the chief of army staff, a couple of days ago, confirmed the arrest of the junior ranking soldier who disparaged the governor and ridiculed his office.

Lagbaja was said to have condemned the young soldier, saying his conduct did not represent the entire Nigerian Army. He added that the army has taken steps to instruct soldiers on how to behave in the different localities where they are deployed.

We hope this will serve as a lesson and guide to other uniformed officers who bully other road users and offend their sensibilities with their reckless and lawless driving culture on busy and congested roads.

However, even though we commend Governor Sanwo-Olu for acting the way he did in a bid to protect the laws of the state. We still insist that, in law which we believe strongly, “whoever comes to equity must come with clean hands.”

The governor, in our view, needed and still needs to do serious self-introspection, particularly on this issue of driving against traffic in Lagos. Since 2012, a law that should regulate and control traffic in the state has been in place. This law has been updated twice in 2018 and 2020.

Again, the governor, pursuant to the enforcement of aspects of the law, banned Okada operation in six local government areas which he said would be “indefinite and total.” The six local governments are Ikeja, Surulere, Eti-Osa, Lagos Mainland, Lagos Island, and Apapa.

Later, the governor extended the ban on these commercial motorcycles to four more local government areas and five local council development areas and directed full enforcement from September 1, 2022.

In spite of all these, Okada still plies all roads except those in very highbrow locations which have become exclusive preserves of military and police officers to ply their trade as commercial Okada riders.

In all the roads outside the city centres, all kinds of vehicles including danfo, Korope and private cars belonging to government officials, notable politicians, law enforcement agencies, chairman of transport unions, and leaders of Agbero formations, all drive against traffic, endangering the lives of ordinary law-abiding citizens who spend several hours commuting to work or business premises.

In the light of the above, we deem it expedient to advise the governor to do a thorough cause and effect analysis of this embarrassing situation and come up with workable solutions. One of such solutions, which we consider a low hanging fruit, is enforcement of the traffic law which should be total and fearless.

It is our considered opinion, therefore, that the governor needs to save his time and energy for other state matters, including infrastructure provision and maintenance of existing ones, and leave enforcement of the traffic laws to relevant agencies. And the time to do so, we believe, is NOW.