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45-minutes with LASTMA boss, Retired AIG Chris Olape (Part One)

Acknowledging that his job is daunting though not insurmountable, the general, sounding rugged and fit as fiddle, started with some of the aches he inherited when he assumed office.

“Yes I inherited a LASTMA that was looking abysmally very low in discipline with lots of allegations of corruption; that is, indiscipline borne out of not really carrying out the dictates of the mandate of LASTMA, some irresponsibility in colluding with some itinerant members of the public to interface with commuters and cause problems.

“So I came in with a nine-point agenda ostensibly structured to drive the road map to change the nomenclature and to change the personality involved and aim at zero tolerance for corruption and attitudinal change – and that is ongoing as I speak.”

Acknowledging that a team is as good as its captain, the LASTMA boss gave a brief chronicle of his nine-point agenda:

“To conduct what I call ‘operation keep moving traffic’ that will make LASTMA visible and accessible; that will re-engineer the rescue team, invigorate it and make sure the PPP (public private partnership) approach is working. The rescue team is to go on the roads from 6pm – 6am, making sure that any broken down vehicle is rescued or dealt with – particularly when such broken down vehicle is deliberately left unattended to by members of the public.

And also to enamor the PEED (Public Enlightenment Education Department), to step up their conduct by taking the enlightenment campaign to garages, bus-stops, schools, universities and catching the young ones in the nursery schools in our drive to enunciate, inform and educate members of the public more than ever before: that is in the template.

“And also I instituted a very strong security team made up of a combination of LASTMA and Policemen to go on surveillance for anti-corruption crusade and that is really biting deep into the system.”

LASTMA in anti-corruption crusade? How do you mean?

 “This unit would be looking out for those who are corrupted by members of the public or corrupting members of the public as the case may be, and those LASTMA officials who are not properly dressed and derelict to duty. In this template is a very vibrant team ably led by a Provost-Marshal which I instituted to try and dismiss anyone caught breaching the laws.”

 When you try and dismiss, is that enough punishment, do you think?

 “The normal template is you try, dismiss from service and take them to court. Section 98 of the Criminal Code is just waiting for any erring LASTMA man to be dealt with.”

On twitter, Gabriel Agulimen asked to know why LASTMA officials ignore the menace of okada riders even on roads they are prohibited from plying.

“This is being looked into because when I came on board, I instituted collaboration with all security agencies; we are partnering with the Special Task Force, RRS and the Federal Road Safety Corps to get these men off the roads; in due course you will see the result.”

Onyeka Chijioke says LASTMA cannot seem to control the traffic gridlock at Mile 2 for so long, but since the soldiers arrived, the road is totally cleared.

“When I talk about collaboration, it is not a LASTMA activity exclusively, every man must come on board; the people who are indiscipline and causing havoc on the road must change their attitude. People driving recklessly against traffic must also change their attitude and so we’re going around doing public enlightenment with vigour to ensure that people change their modus operandi in driving along the highway.

“Meanwhile we are happy with the government of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode who has given us increase in numbers of LASTMA personnel; we’ve been with 2,300, now he has given us opportunity for recruitment into LASTMA to increase our personnel so we envisage three duty-sections that will cut across all the roads in Lagos in due course. We’re going to give them training in security management, in security and monitoring of the environment. In the template LASTMA will also collaborate more than ever before with the police in sharing of information and intelligence in public theft.”

They’ll be bearing arms?

“No, just in sharing intelligence.”

While a commendation came from Christopher Folajimi for a job seemingly well doing, Lucky Lola Onyemare says, convince us that Lagos State government is not using LASTMA to raise money.

“That is out of the quesion because firstly, we’re not out to raise money, we’re out to ensure traffic moves and ensure enforcement will only take place when people violate traffic regulations.”

Solomon Edukugo from Badagry says your men just harass and extort drivers instead of controlling the traffic. The LASTMA boss disagreed absolutely.

“That’s quite incorrect because, remove LASTMA from the template of traffic management in Lagos and there will be chaos; and you should know that many states are emulating Lagos State and to draw out of the wisdom of Lagos. They have even set up their own traffic management institution. Delta has just established one, for example; we were called to come and train them; Sokoto and Kano have tapped into the template; the states are watching and emulating Lagos, so I disagree with Solomon.”

Process Advocate is taking you back to leaving damaged vehicles on the roads; the main culprits are waste management trucks: what is LASTMA doing about this?

“We don’t spare any vehicle that is dropped without constructive activity of moving the vehicle out of the road way; if you drop any vehicle, that amounts to willful obstruction and you will be fined, ticketed and prosecuted.”

Recruitment

 Do you agree that the recruitment ground is where the problem starts?

“Quite appreciated, that’s why I have brought into the template a very serious training manual which I call Tradop, Trading and Doctrine Process, re-orientation from the civil to paramilitary life that will help them do their job better. We’re going to increase the tempo of drills, unarmed drills, structured learning in surveillance techniques and intelligence gathering, sociology, anthropology, public relations, etc. Those are the things that would be introduced into the training manual so that people will begin to see a new evolving people friendly LASTMA very shortly.”

Lekan Oladele asks to know when LASTMA stop enforcing the law without pictorial evidences.

“In the law of evidence, pictorial evidence will give credibility to evidence so we will not stop until people stop violating traffic laws; we must have pictorial evidences to make prosecution smooth.”

The LASTMA boss revealed that the body has concluded their recruitment and actually in the process of commencing training. The men have been screened by the Civil Service Commission and any moment from now, they are expected to be collecting their letters of employment.

 Purging LASTMA effectively

We will be talking about deepening enforcement to release and purge impurities by drivers, the impurities by the yellow painted vehicles and some private car owners are also involved in the impurities. I heard about the FRSC doings, that is switching fromlane to lane, not observing the road caution, what I mean by this is that you must have a think-and-stopping distance between one vehicle and another, but not so in Lagos: it’s bumper to bumpercausing minor accidents to be rampant, so let us observe the road caution so that it will reduce the minor and fatal accidents on our roads.

Street trading

“Here, we are partnering with other bodies such as KIA, FRSC, Special tasks force in terms of street trading.

Street trading is another cause of menace as you keep on moving, because once you stop to buy, the traffic slows down so we are partnering to shed down street trading and making it a thing of the past.

This is not to say your men are concerned with street traders and all that?

“No! No! We are passing buck to our other partners, that is Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), the special task force and others so that they intensify raids on street traders and those trying to cross the road without using the pedestrian bridges; they are a menace also, but KIA is up to it; they are dealing with them and people have began to respect the use of the road by going through to climb the pedestrian bridges.

Where there is no foot bridge?

“Well, I think government is doing it’s best to increase the number from time to time.

And we must give it to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode who is doing his best to ensure that every other 100/200 meters you have a foot bridge. I think that is good and overtime, we will be able to cover as many places as possible.”

That could reduce traffic robbery cases, do you think?

 “In a way, yes, but more so, this is going after those who are corrupt and corrupting members of the public as the case maybe; and those LASTMA Chaps who are not properly dressed. are derelicts to duty so they go after them and so we have in the template this very vibrant team ably led by a  Provost Marshal  which are instituted to try and dismiss anyone caught or found guilty.

During rush hours in Ojota with just one pedestrian bridge, is encouraging robbery and pick pocketing. What are commuters expected to do?

“Well for now, since that’s an expressway, Zebra Crossing cannot work there; traffic there is free flowing now, but what we can introduce is, put surveillance men in mufti, to patrol that area to curb the menace of crooked people and petty robbers.

So that will be brought to the notice of the commissioner of police to place surveillance on the pedestrian bridge.”

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