Police traffic wardens, officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and Federal Safety Corps (FRSC) have been scanty on major roads across Lagos State since Monday, in what has triggered fear and worsened traffic situation.
In some parts of the state, they were completely absent from their duty posts, leaving ‘area boys’ and members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to man and control traffic at road junctions/roundabouts.
At Okota Roundabout, Jakande Junction, Cele U-turn, Mile 2, and First Avenue in Festac Town, policemen and LASTMA officials who usually control traffic movement in the areas were conspicuously absent, as NURTW and ‘area boys’ were seen with long sticks in their hands controlling vehicular movement.
Driving and commuting experience in the sprawling city is now a lot more difficult and stressful. Technically speaking, nobody is in charge of traffic management and control, leading to chaos and longer hours on roads. BusinessDay checks reveal that the situation is not any better on Lagos Island than it is on the Mainland.
Pockets of military personnel were also sighted in areas where public assets are located, including the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos Island, international airport, Ikeja, Lagos State secretariat, multinationals, foreign embassies, among others, in what is further fuelling a sense of uncertainties in Nigeria’s economic capital.
“It is now three days since the Inspector General of Police (IGP) gave directives to the force area commanders to reclaim public space by taking charge and ensuring that the ongoing burning and looting of public and private assets were stopped,” Timothy Agboola, a public affairs analyst, noted in an interview with BusinessDay.
“That directive is yet to take effect and so we don’t see any police officer on the streets and that is encouraging the hoodlums to continue with the burning and looting, and motorists to drive anyhow,” Agboola said.
Expectation was that with the IGP’s directive and the adjustment of the curfew imposed on Lagos by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu from 6am to 8pm, policemen would be everywhere on the streets to ensure there was no further breakdown of law and order, and also to enforce the curfew.
But going through major roads in the metropolis on Monday and Tuesday morning, it was discovered that policemen were not on their duty posts. LASTMA officials were not anywhere to be found too.
The whole stretch of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway from Agbara to Doyin in Orile Iganmu, had no single police officer or LASTMA official to control traffic. The same thing on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Lekki-Epe Expressway, and Agege Motor Road. On each of these routes, motorists did not find it easy.
Lagos, in the last few days, had come under severe attacks arising from the #EndSARS protest that led to free looting of Covid-19 palliatives, destruction and burning of private and public assets, including about 17 police stations, local government secretariat, hundreds of BRT buses, court, shopping malls, tollgates, among others.
In some of the police stations torched and vandalised, arms and ammunition were said to have been carted away by the arsonists.
Tukur Buratai, the chief of army staff, had charged senior military officers manning various formations across the country to beef up security around public assets and deal decisively with any person that constitutes a threat to national interest.
It could not be ascertained what was responsible for the scanty presence and total absence of policemen in different parts of the state, as Muyiwa Adejobi, spokesperson of the Lagos police command, told BusinessDay his colleagues were working.
“They (policemen) have been asked to resume to their respective duties following the directive of the IGP. So, policemen are all over, except you don’t notice them. We also have convoy patrols, they move round the state, area command by area command. So, we are fully on ground,” Adejobi said.
Lagosians are at a loss why LASTMA officials are off the roads, more so when Sanwo-Olu said Lagos had started the healing process after all that happened in the state in terms of loss of lives and destruction of public and private places, which the governor said, would require over N1 trillion to rebuild.
The general manager of LASTMA, Olajide Oduyoye, did not take his calls nor respond to text sent to his GSM phone inquiring about the absence of his men on the roads.
But Agboola reasoned that LASTMA officials might be off the road for fear of attack by hoodlums, or because of the warning that their boss issued to them on how to conduct themselves in the course of their duty in order to avoid public opprobrium.
On the flipside, while motorists and commuters are lamenting the absence of these officials and the challenging traffic situation that follows, mini-bus (Danfo) drivers, tricycle and motorcycle (Okada) riders are happy with the way things are on the roads.
“We are happy with the absence of these officials on the roads; see how the roads are free everywhere; you can see that these people are the cause of the traffic (gridlock) we have in Lagos. Now, you can even drive closing your eyes,” a Danfo driver who identified himself simply as Oliver, said Monday night in Ejigbo, a Lagos suburb.
Motorcycle riders are even happier. “We see hell in the hands these police officers who sometimes seize our motorcycles and charge us a lot of money to get them back. Sometimes, they will seize your machine and never give it back to you,” a cyclist at Cele Bus Terminal said on Tuesday.