Motorists, exasperated and debilitated by the notorious daily Lagos gridlock, have an adjunct nemesis in traffic robbery to contend with. It is an increasing menace the police and the Lagos State Government have no solution to as yet. What is quite disturbing is the fact that the banditry is often carried out in the daytime as if the authority of the state does not exist. This is a challenge Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the state’s Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, must face squarely.
Unfortunately, the police boss missed the point when he said recently that the matter was exaggerated. Victims of this ingenious robbery method in Nigeria’s most nerve-jangling city will obviously scoff at Owoseni’s assessment of the problem; and they are many. A few of them will suffice: Matthew Ojo, Chika Johnson, Tayo Omoregie, Omowunmi Olatunji and Monday Odey.
Driving home to Omole Estate from work on Lagos Island, Ojo, a banker, was robbed at about 7.30 pm recently, near Iyana-Oworo Bus Stop, while Odey said he was attacked at the same Iyana-Oworo with the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority officials watching. Chika was a victim on the Agboju-FESTAC Gate axis.
Narrating his experience, Ojo said, “There was traffic gridlock, which hindered vehicles from moving fast. I spent three hours to move from the Island to Iyana-Oworo en-route to Omole. As I drove past Iyana-Oworo towards Ogudu, a man suddenly appeared from behind, hit my car and ordered me to give him all I had. As I attempted to wind up my car window glass, the guy showed me a (the) butt of (a) gun that was tucked inside his trousers by his groin. He ordered me to give him my phones. But as I was still fumbling with the phones, he stretched his hands into the car and made away with my bag and two phones.”
There was also a report on Friday of how a gang of over 10 robbers descended on the bridge linking Costain Bus Stop with Eko Bridge, the previous day, wielding cutlasses, pistols and knives. They smashed windscreens and robbed unmolested for 15 good minutes before making good their escape. The police were nowhere to be found.
Instructively, these attacks take place at “black spots” already known to the police, such as Oshodi-Oke, Apongbon Bridge, Gbagada-Oworonsoki-Ketu, Ojota, Berger and long bridge on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Third Mainland Bridge, Murtala Muhammed Airport Road, Iyana-Oworo, CMS Bus Stop, among others. Motorists should be wary of these areas.
Traffic snarl, a perennial mayhem, which the hoodlums exploit, occurs mostly because many of the roads are dilapidated. Reckless driving often results in accidents and obstruction; rickety vehicles that ought not to be plying the roads frequently break down, and no speedy responses to their removal. There are also few traffic lights to moderate the flow of vehicular movements and the city lacks CCTVs in critical mass to track criminals.
The few installed are not functioning, says the governor. “The CCTVs have been handed over to the Nigeria Police. But they do not see anything. So, the state government, the police, and other security agencies technically have analog technology,” he said. Besides, potholes morph into craters to impede the smooth flow of traffic, simply because, at the developing stages, they never receive immediate attention from relevant agencies of government.
In view of the enormity of the problem, we advise that the governor’s duty schedule should include regular trips on these roads, especially areas not inhabited by the elite, to see things for himself. In fact, many city roads are like the Isolo-Ejigbo-Ikotun Egbe Road – abandoned for long by a contractor – which the governor visited recently, and expressed his disapproval of its condition. Service lanes adjoining federal highways like the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and Ikorodu-Funso Williams Avenue are riddled with craters, forcing commercial drivers to avoid them. They then spill into the expressway to navigate their way out of the chaos. Plying these routes at peak hours is a nightmare that is better imagined than experienced by any resident.
Dealing effectively with robbery in traffic, therefore, will require aggressive policy measures and implementation of extant laws that conduce to orderly society. In this wise, roads rehabilitation should engage the state’s attention more than ever before; just as the law on street trading and hawking should be religiously enforced. It is difficult to appreciate why street lights cannot be regarded by the government as a critical security facility. With solar power technology and its huge financial resources, the government should see this as a necessity.
The Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Other Special Offences (Enforcement Unit) should see itself as having failed woefully in ridding the city of street traders and hawkers. Quite often, most roads are narrowed by street traders who display their wares along them, as they target workers returning home in the evening. From these hordes of the so-called hustlers, emerge the traffic robbers, who easily disappear with the speed of light after each operation.
According to Section 10 of the Street Trading and Illegal Market Prohibition Law 2003, any offender is liable to a fine of N5,000, or three months imprisonment upon conviction. Had there been strict implementation of this law since it was passed, traffic robbery would not have festered. It was in response to the traffic crisis that the government set up LASTMA. However, its work is often hampered by these challenges. Regrettably, the situation may not change until the government and the police begin to take law enforcement seriously.
Ultimately, what counts in governance is not rhetoric, but action or concrete achievements. Consequently, the state Security Council meeting should prove to residents that the city has not relapsed into its infamous past, as not a few are wont to posit.