Safe Driving With Jonas Agwu
Since last week's publication of my piece on the 2012 Lagos traffic law-the FRSC perspective, I have received a couple of reactions through text messages. While Some were livid with anger and even poured venom on people like us for supporting the Lagos Governor others share the FRSC position. Before I continue with the FRSC perspective, let me first share with you just few instructive reactions.
The first salvo came from a very close senior who bluntly expressed disgust at the new law, saying, "if harsh laws prevent crimes, society would have been crime-free. The real issue, he went further, is diligent enforcement. The second was more interesting and quite long but I assure you, you will find it interesting just as I did. Said this reader,"...just finished reading your piece on FRSC perspective on the 2012 Lagos Traffic Law. Quite educative.
He however expressed reservations on my stand. Thelast two were more accommodating and subtle. 'Your piece on2012 Lagos traffic Law; The FRSC perspective, was heartwarming for the law abiding citizens and instructive for erring offenders. I wish we all could all do the right thing and the world will be harm free (a better pace).I give the Governor thumbs up. The last said the write up was revealing.FRSC, he went on should sponsor a similar legislation in the FCT and beyond. These reactions are almost similar to the ones I got in 2008.In 2008, the first reaction was fired by one Pastor Godday Odidi who said' Dear Jonas, Fashola laws are becoming harder on Lagosians and the motorists, though it has reduced accident on the roads. They should reduce the fine'.
A second reaction came from an unknown reader who said. 'The new traffic law in Lagos will only enrich its enforcers'. Even among some of my colleagues, the new law is just a license for enriching the pockets of the foot soldiers of the law-the law enforcers. A good number of them opined that enforcement is the key as past laws in the state have been abused.
Let me state here that I agree that enforcement holds the key to a saner traffic culture in Lagos and other parts of the Country. That explains why the government has come up with this improvement. But I am still waiting for an answer to the million dollar question I posed to critics in my piece last week. The question was simply, 'How much fine, impoundments, or imprisonment will compensate for a lost child, or loved friend?
This I believe is the crux of the matter. How many of us have had the fortune of loosing a child,a parent or a friend through a road traffic crash? How many? Of what value was the loss to you? I hope you still recall the 2008 national tragedy when we lost 46soldiers, including four others. How much penalty would be enough to heal the nation's pains? What of their families? Or colleagues? Do I sound like a pastor? Please forgive me. This is what I do and I have seen victims agonize in pains as they die. Some maimed for life. Others according to my good friend disfigured especially single female victims whose brideprice, he says naturally like the old naira notes loses its value.
For those with very strong faith in God, would you keep faith to that relationship, I mean planned marriage if your partner were to end up with amputated legs? How many employers would still retain you after your whole being is messed up by one 'SMART' driver who believes that anything goes in Nigeria and so indulges in breaking all the traffic laws in the land? How many critics of the new law will truly and sincerely hail government should they lose a loved one through a crash only to hear that the driver responsible was fine N5000 and released.
I believe that every critic of this law should remember that we have lost the notable Nigerians including celebrities and that government and all Nigerians have a responsibility to act as a collective demonstration of our desire to halt road crashes which as at June 2012, trended up by 21.6% with 2,717 crashes as against 2,235 in 2011 even though fatalities reduced by 12.7% with 1936deaths compared to the 2011 figure of 2218deaths.
Forgive me if I lost tract. Let us go back to the 2012 traffic laws of Lagos State. Remember the law never said all road users must pay N50, 000 for driving. It did not say that all drivers must be jailed . Neither did it say that every car owner in Lagos State should pay a particular amount per vehicle in a renewed move by government to create a reliable vehicular or licensed drivers base in the state to ease planning. It did not say all unemployed in the State should pay into government coffers for job placement or everyone trekking on Lagos road or driving through Lagos roads to pay specific fines. What the law simply says is that if you flout the provisions of the 2012 Lagos traffic laws ... you are liable to pay a specific amount as fines and or be jailed. The underlying condition as provided in the traffic law, is;' IF' you do this, then this and that punishment will follow you.
Why then should an average road user worry about the high traffic laws if and when he knows that he is a good guy? He does not indulge in driving against the flow of traffic, does not phone while driving, does not speed or overload; neither would he abandon his vehicle on the highway to the detriment of other road users.
This law is there as a deterrant.For us as the lead agency in traffic management, this example should be commended and emulated at a time when the global concern is for government and others to take drastic action against the increasing surge of crashes. Our mandate is to rid the nation of road carnages which has cost the nation and families a lot, not only in terms of deaths and trauma but increasing medical bills for the treatment and rehabilitation of accident victims.
The same Lagos State government at the wake of irresponsible driving in the State introduced the compulsory psychiatric test for traffic offenders and the payment of specific sum as fine.
That move was meant to change the face of driving in Lagos; did we really feel the pain of government before this introduction? Did we change our driving habits as a civic response from us? My answer is no. We continued our lost love, breaking the traffic rules, trusting in our connections through an in-law, brethren, office colleague, uncle, village brother and when these failed, grease the palm of the hungry traffic enforcer yet we all cream of making our society better than the white man's. Thank God that a new dawn is here.
This is obviously a new dawn and we hope others will follow suit. This dawn is only possible though, when we, as law enforcers treat every road user same. It is possible when we live above board. It is only possible when we enforce with the fear of God. It is common to find only rickety or commercial vehicles being flagged down, impounded and punished for sundry traffic offences while the bid boys and girls get first hand treatment. That is why we are where we are today-different strokes for different folks.
The operators of traffic rules in developed societies by creation are not better gifted than us. Neither are they more committed. However, passion drives them because a life hold lots of promise to them.
And so, while their rules are applied without respect for positions or status, in our own case, our traffic laws dey fear face. That is our challenge individually as law enforcers. So while we worry about the Lagos traffic laws, please remember that tougher laws await law breakers