LASTMA, the highly un-loved transport management authority in Lagos has a big revenue target: hit 1.5 billion in 2020. It makes sense when internally generated revenue is the new mantra. But that is actually the problem. Yes, institutions like LASTMA, created for public safety, should not be designed to be revenue-generating just for revenue. (The Lagos state Ministry of Transportation evidently needs to bring in more revenue by operating buses, boats, etc but LASTMA, which is under the ministry, with primary purpose to ensure free flow of traffic in the state and also reduce road accidents should not). Simply, mixing revenue with LASTMA changes the incentives on the mission, and could push the agency to focus on a new problem: making money over reducing traffic and accidents. (I explained this dislocation, typical on how big firms react to disruptive innovators, in Startup Incentive Construct here.)
The Lagos State Government has given Lagos Transport Management Authority (LASTMA), the mandate to raise its revenue generation to N1.5 billion for the year 2020. It is 150% from what it used to be in the past two years.
In 2016 and 2017, the revenue target given to LASTMA was N1.05 billion and N1.3 billion respectively. Those were the only years that have come close to the 2020 target. The 2018 and 2019 revenue targets for the traffic authority were about N600 million yearly.
The development has stirred anxiety and concern among Lagosians, many of whom see it as government backed means of extortion. A Lagos resident, John Adebayo told Guardian that the decision shows that the state governor does not have the interest of the people at heart. He said “if he does, he would not drastically jack up the revenue target for an agency like LASTMA.”
People, LASTMA should focus on reducing traffic violations on the roads. Here are things to consider:
- If you put simple signs on Lagos roads, more than 40% of “illegal” fines Lagosians send to LASTMA will go. Most people make the wrong turns, not because they want to break the law, but because they do not know what is right or wrong.
- And because LASTMA is not in the business of prevention but prosecution through fines, it has no interests to reduce these obvious traps. Within this mindset of higher revenue, the government is feeding an institutionalized illegal extortion of its citizens.
Sure, this is not to say that fines are not good on traffic offenders. The issue here is that anyone could offend in Lagos because there is no order. More than 15 years ago, I had an experience with LASTMA. I came to drop somebody at Jibowu for a journey to Abia via Chisco. At Jibowu, if you are coming from the Maryland side, under the flyover, you have two options to make a u-turn. I took the first one, and quickly they impounded my car. Within minutes, the car was driven to a garage where the tires were deflated. Later, I waited and they gave me an instruction to go to a bank in Allen Avenue Ikeja to pay the fine.
I was on a night shift in a bank that day, so, to avoid being in trouble, I took a taxi and went to work; working in the IT unit of a bank does not usually accommodate excuses!. The next day, I went and paid the fine, returned to the garage and cleared the car. From the list of “certified” vulcanizers, I picked one and got the tires back.
Then, the big lesson: in November 2019, I passed that same Jibowu junction; no sign has been put to prevent people from making that u-turn. But by the side are LASTMA people positioned to catch drivers. You will then ask: why was it better for those men to lay siege on that turn instead of putting a small wooden sign that says “Use the next turn”?
Scale that Jibowu trap across Lagos and you will get the idea. Higher revenue for LASTMA is not a smart strategy because LASTMA will simply focus on money over public safety.