In line with provisions of extant laws, the Lagos State government last week auctioned 44 vehicles seized from their owners/drivers for violating various traffic rules. Vehicles forfeited to the state government, and sold by the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences included Murano Nissan (N450, 000); Toyota Sienna (N850, 000); Honda CRV (N1.550 million); Toyota Corolla 2003 model (N1.2 million); Toyota Camry 2008 model (N1.9 million); Hyundai car (N300, 000); mini bus (N505, 000); a 14-seater bus (N4 million) and a Mercedes Benz SUV (N9 million). Owners of some of the seized vehicles who turned up for the auction in anticipation of buying their vehicles back were disappointed, as some other people who came prepared and determined to return home with vehicles out-priced them, making some of them weep in the process.
One of them, the former owner of a Toyota Corolla 2003 model said, rather emotionally: “My heart bled seeing my car auctioned in my presence. I tried bidding, but each time I bid, there was always someone adding N100, 000 to my offer. That was how I lost my car, which was auctioned for N1.2 million.”
But, as the original owners were sad that their vehicles were gone for good, the new proud owners of the vehicles were expectedly in a happy mood.
Some people have condemned the law under which the vehicles were sold as draconian while others see it as the needed antidote to restore sanity to Lagos roads. Which, really, is the crux of the matter. The truth is that some road users in the state, including Okada riders, have since the #EndSARS protest thrown courtesy to the winds. Reckless driving has become the order of the day, with some motorists driving against traffic, others driving on BRT corridors and others causing obstruction on the highways. Many motorists continue to take undue advantage of the demoralisation of the police resulting in their being off the roads, to perpetuate their flagrant contravention of the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law 2018.
The result is the chaos on the roads, with commuters and other motorists generally becoming the victims of these inconsiderate law breakers, as they spend longer periods on journeys that normally should not last beyond minutes. Soon, Lagosians began to complain aloud; asking the state government to intervene. The situation became unbearable and the government intervened by invoking the relevant provisions of extant laws to rein in the recalcitrant road users. Of course the law has always been there; only that it has sparingly been applied, which is the bane of governments in the country. Yet, no responsible government would fold its arms and watch a few law breakers having a free reign at the expense of the law-abiding majority.
We must appreciate the fact that the law under which the sanctions were applied was duly passed, and members of the public had ample time to raise objections to aspects of it that they considered distasteful or draconian. That the offenders were tried, even if summarily, means they still had the opportunity of fair hearing. Only people who do not want the government to do anything on the traffic chaos engendered by these few law breakers would insist such offences should be tried in the regular courts, with the attendant encumbrances.
All said, however, the task of guaranteeing responsible behaviour on the roads rests squarely on both the government and the citizens. Let the government also ensure that roads are passable; potholes must be fixed on time and regular maintenance of the roads should be seen as an indispensable condition for safe motoring.
We also call for synergy among the personnel controlling traffic on the roads. Occasionally, there are disconnects which lead to situations whereby some of them direct motorists to take one way due to one problem or the other only for those at the other end who are apparently unaware of such diversion to arrest motorists who obeyed such directive. Moreover, the trials must be thorough, with both the prosecuting agents and offenders allowed enough time and space to state their sides of the case.
But the point remains that Lagos State would fast degenerate to a huge jungle if drastic actions are not taken against those who appear sworn not to allow free flow of traffic on Lagos roads.