Lagos is a mad city and it needs some control. Whenever I come back into the country, it usually takes me a while to adjust to the erratic traffic behaviour, although I must say that if I’m coming from Italy, the adjustment period is usually shorter because that is one country that reminds me a lot about Nigeria. So, Lagos drivers need some strong measures to put them in check, no doubt.
I have seen enough motorbike (Okada) accidents to be the first to ask that they be banned completely from Lagos, despite the good option they provide Lagosians (Well, there are some that say Lagosians need to walk more, so we can all burn off excess fat).
But the solution is not to prescribe a three-year jail term for a traffic offense such as driving in the wrong direction. Where I would have described the action as crazy and stupid, alas it is the law itself I am now inclined to describe as such. It is now also an offense to eat a snack while driving; it is an offense to smoke while driving; and so on.
My point is not about the gravity of the punishment but rather of the opportunity for corruption this new law will present to the already corrupt Lagos traffic law enforcement officials and the police. Under the pain of imprisonment, it will now be customary to request you to part with a ‘paltry’ two hundred thousand naira (N200,000) just so you do not go to jail. Further, it is the law enforcement agencies themselves who would be the first to break the law, and is there anything the government can do? I want to be proven wrong, but fresh in my mind are recent clashes between soldiers and the police, or of soldiers manhandling traffic officials for daring to put them in line.
In every country, there are penalties for traffic offenses, but all the penalties make sense and are not stupid, like this one. Highway radars detect when you overspeed, take a photo of your car plates and sends you a fine in your mail box. Some countries deduct points from you and when you accumulate up to a certain amount, you could have your drivers license confiscated. You park in the wrong place, you get a ticket.
This entire charade reminds me so much of the military era of Buhari and Idiagbon. And we were supposed to have thinking heads in the Lagos State Government.