The growing audacity of insanity in Lagos

By Douglas Anele
Some psychologists believe that human beings manifest some level of insanity. That is very true, because every individual experiences strong emotions, which usually precipitate irrational behaviour. Persistent existential deprivations that characterise the human condition in Nigeria right now is particularly conducive to insanity. Last week, on a lovely Monday morning, I went to buy some pre-recorded compact disks at Yaba. It was difficult to find somewhere to park my vehicle because virtually all the parking lots around were full. After driving for about fifteen minutes, I was able to squeeze my jeep behind another vehicle along Montgomery Street. When I came out of the vehicle, I noticed that it extended beyond the white line on the ground.
However, before leaving I made sure it did not obstruct traffic in any way. After purchasing the CDs I wanted, I went back to my vehicle. As I entered, I discovered that the driver’s door would not open properly. I tried to free it from the obstruction by driving backwards a little bit. Moments after, with the engine still running, I tested the CDs one after another to ensure they are okay before leaving.
I looked up when I heard a knock on my window. A man wearing a reddish-brown or maroon coloured uniform (let us call him Mr. A) signalled me to wind down the driver’s window and I complied. He said I have committed an offense by packing my vehicle beyond the white mark on the ground. Politely, I told Mr. A that the engine was running and that my jeep did not obstruct the road at all. As we were arguing, his colleague (Mr. B) joined him, and after a brief exchange between three of us, both men decided that my alleged offence deserved punishment.
Meanwhile Mr. A brought a camera and took a photograph of my jeep. He threatened that if I refuse to comply with their directives, he would bring a tow van to remove the vehicle to their office in Adekunle. To cut a long sad story short, they tricked me into driving to their office. As I drove through the gate and entered a compound that looks like a makeshift garage, a man who called himself Hon. Muyiwa who claimed to be Chairman House Committee on Works approached me. He entered my vehicle and insisted that I must pay a fine of twenty-five thousand naira. I tried to reach an amicable settlement with him because I thought that as a legislator, Muyiwa is likely to be more reasonable than the others are.
However, I was wrong. I pleaded with him that as a university teacher, I would not deliberately disobey traffic rules and regulations, that the so-called offense I committed is insignificant, and that he should use his discretion to let me go. He refused. Instead, he threatened to deflate my tires, recommend that I should go to a designated place for psychiatric examination, and refer my case to “headquarters.”
I felt humiliated and angry. How could a purported member of Lagos State House of Assembly who, judging by the low intellectual quality he displayed while we were arguing, is not even qualified to sit in my Master’s class, be the one to recommend me for psychiatric evaluation? Even after explaining that lecturers are on strike and that it is necessary to conserve funds because the federal government might stop our salaries, Muyiwa “the oga at the top” remained adamant.
At this stage, there was a hot exchange of words between him and me. Muyiwa angrily accused me of disobeying the law, and boasted that he is the leader of a task force established by the state government to apprehend and punish offenders. He ordered a vulcaniser to deflate my front tyres. I was thinking of what to do and wondering why Lagos State government created another outfit to deal with traffic issues when LASTMA is still functioning – then it occurred to me to call Ade Ipaye, a colleague and current Logos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice.
Luckily, he picked my call and his timely intervention saved me from further embarrassment. The entire horrible episode lasted for over one hour. Afterwards, a few friends and colleagues I told my ordeal narrated their own ugly encounters with the same people. It is quite distressing, I must admit. For quite some time now, Lagosians have been complaining bitterly about unwarranted incessant harassment by KAI and LASTMA officials and all sorts of miscreants-in-uniform. But the government has not done anything concrete to address the complaints.
The level of intimidation and embarrassment is unacceptable. People are now afraid to drive their cars because different officials claiming to work for government fabricate excuses to extort money from them. Concerted efforts of the state governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, and his lieutenants to increase the internally generated revenue base of Lagos State are commendable. Nevertheless, must ordinary citizens be harassed, intimated, and oppressed just because government is trying to raise additional funds? Officials of LASTMA, KAI and others constantly cajole, insult, bully, and threaten people in order to extort money from them.
Of course, some of them are nice and reasonable: only the bad ones, the “animals in uniform,” enjoy inflicting pain and suffering on Lagosians. Their uniforms intoxicate them to the extent of megalomania. Given the crude and uncouth manner of KAI and LASTMA officials, qualifications for employing staff for these outfits should be strengthened. In other words, the qualifications must be tightened to minimise the influx of miscreants and undesirable elements into the system.
I believe that politicians create most of these outfits to resettle and create jobs for thugs they used during elections to capture power. But this approach usually boomerangs, with devastating effects on the society, as is evident in the emergence of Niger Delta militant groups and Boko Haram. To repeat; there is an urgent need for thorough overhaul of the employment procedure of KAI, LASTMA and so on.
The reform must include adequate training for those employed to improve their emotional intelligence, appreciation of civilised conduct, and respect for human dignity. It is extremely important that government officials dealing with the public in whatever capacity must learn to treat people with respect, and exercise discretion whenever it is necessary to do so.
The stress of living in Lagos is already very high and health threatening. It is not the business of government under any guise to increase it by empowering all manner of insane people to intimidate and extort money from law-abiding citizens. The insane audacity of miscreants masquerading either as LASTMA, KAI, and task force officials is going out of bounds. We are supposed to be operating a democratic system which requires that government officials no matter the situation must respect the citizens.
I suggest that Governor Fashola should take a hard or critical look at his internal revenue generation strategy and come up with appropriate and effective ways of eliminating the jarring highhandedness of government officials running the system. I hereby express my sincere gratitude to Ade Ipaye for rescuing me from predators-in-uniform. He is a good man indeed!

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Remembering Road Traffic Victims In Nigeria

By Tope Templer Olaiya

Today (November 18) is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Introduced by RoadPeace in the United Kingdom in 1993 and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in October 2005, the third Sunday in November every year is set aside to acknowledge victims of road traffic crashes and recognise the plight of their relatives, who must cope with the emotional and practical consequences of the tragic events.
The day focuses on both the overall scale and the devastation caused on individuals by road deaths and injuries, plus the impact on families and communities around the world. It also offers families and friends the opportunity to come together to remember loved ones, highlight the death toll and reflect on what can be done to prevent future deaths.
According to available statistics, road traffic crashes kill nearly 1.3 million people every year and injure or disable as many as 50 million more. They are the leading cause of death among young people aged 15–29 years.

OVERSPEEDING: Major cause of road crashes as captured above on the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos… recently.

Almost 4,000 people are killed and hundreds of thousands injured on roads throughout the world daily.
Many more have to cope with bereavement or the effects of injury and thus become part of the huge group of people affected by road carnage. Every 20 seconds somewhere in the world, a father, mother, son, daughter, colleague or friend is killed in a road traffic crash. For every person killed, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates another four will suffer long term life changing injury.
In Nigeria, the day’s commemoration has been muted since 2005 when the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on governments to mark the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. The gap is being filled by nongovernmental organizations, who are using the day to draw public attention to road traffic crashes, their consequences and costs, and the measures, which can be taken to prevent them.

The car crash at Idi-Oro bus-stop on Agege motor road, Mushin, which killed star music act, Dapo Olaitan also known as Da Grin in April 2010.

COMEMMORATING this year’s event, Steerite Driving School will from tomorrow till Wednesday hold 90 minutes sessions on the 3Ds of road traffic crashes, which are drunk driving, distracted driving and drowsy driving.
With the theme How Not To Be A Victim, organisers hope to enlighten, create awareness and focus on the needless consequences of road users’ actions, while impacting and sharpening participants’ hazard perception skills, which are crucial to collision avoidance and crash preventability.
The proprietor of the school, Mr. Akinfe Samuel, said beyond declarations, there should be strategies to achieving resolutions made by the world body. “This is the gap we are filling because regulatory agencies are not living up to their billing. As a driving school, we do our best to give qualitative lessons to learners and corporate drivers. After two weeks, they are released to handle the wheel in a hostile environment.
“We decided to go beyond those we train and reach out to the public with free sessions on safe driving because of the inherent danger in releasing learners into a hostile environment like Lagos where there are little respect for road users by drivers and motorcyclists.”
Lagos State Chief Vehicle Inspection Officer, Mr. Gbolahan Toriola, noted that for an accident to occur, three things must contribute to it: the road, vehicle and the driver, “and all lie with the driver, who controls the other factors. Safety lies in our hands and government cannot do it alone.

“While we may complain about bad roads, I think it’s a blessing in disguise because the high spate of accidents abroad is because of good roads, where most drivers tend to over-speed and as a result crash their vehicles, many of which find their way into the country,” he said.
Former military administrator of old Ondo State, Rear Admiral Sunday Abiodun Olukoya (Rtd), called for support for the new Lagos State Traffic Laws. According to him, Fashola has not reinvented the wheel. “He has only added bite to already existing laws, which is all in the bid to make our roads safer. We grew up in an environment where everybody was safe and you could move free on the road because drivers respected the road and other road users.
“The good old days has given way to chaos, a situation the governor is trying hard to redress. And as citizens, we must give him our support on this because for every road crash, there are three categories of victims: those who die, those injured and the many others traumatized by the incident.”

From left: CEO of NUFORSA, Adedapo Oyedipe; Former Military Governor of old Ondo State, Rear Admiral Sunday Olukoya; proprietor of Steerlite Driving School, Akinfe Samuel; and Lagos State Chief VIO Officer,Gbolahan Toriola at the press briefing to announce this year’s remembrance for road traffic victims in Lagos… on Thursday.

Partnering with the Nigerians Unite For Road Safety (NUFORSA), Steerlite Driving School is using this year’s commemoration to seek the following from government: recognition of the special day for road traffic victims; erection of a national memorial to road crash victims; funding for key remembrance events; ensure crash investigation institutions are functioning; and ensuring justice, care and support for injured road crash victims and bereaved families.
Others include introducing and enforcing speed limits on relevant roads; making road safety a police priority; introducing the strict liability law to protect vulnerable road users with a compensation plan; legislate articulated vehicle operations such as frequent trainings and installing wide-angle mirrors; and allocating funding to organizations supporting road crash victims and post-crash rescue.

Tips For Road Users
Never speed or tailgate (bumper to bumper).
Never go through red lights.
Never drink or drug drive.
Never hit and run.
Never use a phone while driving or any other distractions.
Always wear a safety belt and helmet.
Give more consideration to vulnerable road users.
Install speed limiters in own car.
Provide aids for crash victims on the road.