Nigeria’s most popular newspaper, The Punch, has slammed Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for his lacklustre performance since becoming the governor of Lagos. The paper laments that Lagos traffic has gone from bad to worst under the watchful eyes of the governor.

While quoting NOI Polls result which captured Lagosians anger at the governor, The Punch editorial for Monday November 2, 2015 calls on the governor to “take firm charge of the machinery so laboriously put in place over the last 16 years and return sanity to the metropolis.”

The paper admonishes Governor Ambode not be deluded by flatterers; stating that the riotous traffic and associated ills ”“ crime and street trading ”“ on his watch is hanging a negative tag on his five-month-old administration.

Here is the excerpt of the editorial:

“Every day, Lagosians are confronted with slow, grinding traffic, exacerbated by bad roads, street traders and the ubiquitous commercial motorcycle operators (okada) who have returned in full force to the 475 roads from which they were prohibited by the Lagos State Traffic Law. Impunity has returned. Between them, commercial vehicle drivers, okada and tricycle operators, an increasing number of private vehicle drivers and street traders have turned Lagos into an urban jungle.

“Reckless driving sometimes assumes maniacal proportions. Drivers frequently face oncoming traffic, ride over kerbs, jump signal lights and ignore traffic officers. Hospital admissions from motorcycle-related accidents have risen again, according to the Federal Road Safety Commission. Add to these the lawlessness of truck operators who also drive recklessly and park their vehicles where they please, thereby blocking major roads for days. Capitalising on the gridlock, hoodlums are having a field day. The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, Fatai Owoseni, admitted last week: “In a day, I receive about four tweets of traffic robbery”¦”

“He has ordered enforcement of the traffic law, repair of potholed roads and restriction of street hawkers. His charge to his cabinet and top bureaucrats to come up with ideas is like resigning to fate. Lagos traffic problems are over five decades old and he certainly did not create them. However, he sent confusing signals that suggested restraining the over-stretched Lagos State Transport Management Authority officers from arresting offenders. His ineffectual solution of issuing tickets should have come only after a thorough appraisal. The state government over the years had been refining and retooling its institutions and making headway in traffic management. Policies need to be consistently enforced over time to compel positive attitudinal change.

“Ambode should, first, robustly enforce existing traffic, environmental and trading laws. The success of his predecessor was hinged on his enthusiastic building on the foundation laid by Bola Tinubu. Babatunde Fashola did not create LASTMA or conceive LAMATA, or the Lagos rail; but he pursued sound inherited master plans with vigour. Ambode, who belongs to the same party with these two, should vigorously implement what he met, improving where necessary and adding value.

“LASTMA should be improved to undertake strict enforcement without distracting it from its primary duty of ensuring the free flow of traffic. This requires creative deployment of personnel. Officials should impose the maximum penalty on those who face oncoming traffic especially. A great number of offenders are actually state officials accompanied by siren-blaring escort vehicles.

“State officials should strengthen cooperation with the military and police at the highest levels to arrest the impunity of security personnel who break laws and assault traffic officials. Many motorbikes illegally plying roads are now painted in military and police colours on the assumption that laws do not apply to them. Owoseni should exercise greater oversight over his men who are sabotaging the law by their addiction to bribes, illegal tolls and reckless driving.

“Issuance of tickets to offenders who will pay fines later is the ideal we should strive for. But such enforcement modes are backed by infrastructure. London (population: 8.6 million) is estimated to have 500,000 closed circuit television cameras and United Kingdom has one CCTV per 14 persons. There were, by 2006, 7,300 cameras in Seoul (population: 10.01 million), South Korea’s capital, while CCTVs enabled Johannesburg police to make 260 arrests per day by 2009. Lagos should speed up its ongoing programme of installing CCTVs and traffic lights, while retooling LASTMA to have volunteer marshals and more motorcycles, towing vans and other modern equipment.

“Lagosians will take Ambode’s pledge to re-sanitise traffic in the city seriously only when they begin to see results.”

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