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.”
In 2018 and 2019, when LASTMA was given a target of N600 million yearly, the governor then, Akinwunmi Ambode explained that the reason for the reversal of the annual target is because the transport management authority was formed to control and ease traffic movement on Lagos roads, not to generate revenue.
The Chairman, Center for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Mr. Debo Adeniran said that with the 2020 target, the Lagos State Government has set LASTMA against road users. And that is the concern every road user in Lagos has, everyone is liable to be a scapegoat in the course of time.
Justifying the revenue target, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Gboyega Akosile said the transport management body needs to live up to exorbitant welfare demands it is making.
“Since they (LASTMA) needed more personnel and other equipment, the Budget and Economic Planning Ministry now challenged them that if they want government to give them the things they need, they should be able to perform better in their revenue drive,” Akosile said.
Lagos State Government led by Babajide Sanwo-Olu appears determined to deal with the terrible traffic situation of the state; it was part of his campaign promise. One way he aims to achieve that is by giving LASTMA more powers to arrest and fine traffic offenders.
The 2012 Lagos State Traffic Laws stipulated punishments that ranges from N5,000 to N50,000 fines or jail terms and forfeiture of vehicles for traffic rule breakers in the state. But the new government feels the fines aren’t punitive enough and has been aiding traffic violations as a result.
Therefore, the Governor Sanwo-Olu led government decided to up the penalties and fines. One way offense now attracts a fine of N200,000. Other offenses like ‘use of seat belt, unclosed doors, standing on the doorway of a moving vehicle,’ that had no penalties attached to them previously, now has a handsome reward of N20,000 each. And so it is with obstruction of traffic, parking on the highway, picking or dropping passengers in places other than designated bus-stops – they all attract a fine of N50,000 each.
Driving on the BRT lane is an offense of N70,000, driving on kerbs and parking on walkways N50,000, dropping passengers on laybys attracts N90,000. In case your vehicle is impounded, you have less than 24 hours to pay the fine or bear additional penalty of N1,000 for every night the vehicle spends in LASTMA’s custody.
The reason given for the hike in fines and penalties by the transport authority is that it will deter road users from breaking traffic rules.
“It is to ensure that apprehended violators do not easily get out of the offense, unlike before. The law says we should impound a vehicle that drives against traffic, which is the most common traffic offense these days.
“But giving them a fine of N50,000 is like a slap on the wrist. But with N200,000 fine or risk of impounding and being shown on camera during mobile court trial, they will think twice. The essence is deterrence,” said a high ranking member of LASTMA.
While this claim appears to be a measure by the government to punish and deter traffic violation, the recent N1.5 billion revenue target is revealing something else. It appears to be an avenue to ensure that the revenue target is met.
When an alleged traffic offender is arrested (in case of one way), he is charged to a mobile court where no one is ever found not guilty. The accused is then required to deposit a court bond of N100,000 or N150,000 while on trial. His vehicle is then released to him on the condition that he keeps appearing in court till the case is closed. If he doesn’t have the bond he will forfeit his car to the state government. In the end you are guilty of the alleged offense without evidence, only their words against yours.
The best you could get is being charged for a lesser offense which carries a lighter fine that will in the end amount to about N200,000. In cases where an offender can’t afford the fine, he is expected to forfeit his vehicle to the state government.
Many feel that such punitive measures are deserving because no sane person should drive one way, but there is more to it than meeting the eyes. LASTMA has notoriety in accusing road users wrongly just for the reason of extortion. Almost every motorist in Lagos has had a bitter encounter with officers of LASTMA who tried to extort them when they have committed no traffic offense. Uber and Bolt drivers have more sad tales to tell.
Additionally, in many places like Shomolu and Yaba, the roads are so confusing that anyone could go one way without knowing it. For instance, Herbert Macaulay Way Yaba is a double carriage way where a side of it has room for vehicles going to and fro. But then, the arrangement started halfway down the road, and so it is with so many other roads in the Yaba area. So if you don’t know it, your chances of going one way is high, and that’s exactly what the traffic officers want to see for the sake of their revenue target.
Moreover, most Lagos roads were built without laybys and spaces for pull over in case of emergency. This has offered opportunities to traffic officers to victimize road users. A motorist could pay as much as N20,000 for having a flat tyre, the same goes for making a U-turn where you are not supposed to. In most cases, the signs indicating all these are hidden so that many will fall victim.
LASTMA was instituted to ensure free flow of traffic in Lagos State not as revenue generating agency. The 2017 Lagos State revenue report showed that VIO and LASTMA generated a combined N11.35 billion in revenue, 0.6% of the state’s annual revenue portfolio. In a state where the minimum wage is N31,000, it will cost a worker seven months’ salary to pay a traffic offense fine. Concerned residents say it is insouciant and authoritarian for Lagos State Government to convert LASTMA to a revenue generating agency and increase traffic fines to such high amounts.