•Asks critics to visit victims of havoc in hospitals
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) was on Tuesday the guest of members of the Metropolitan Club in Victoria Island at a special session on law and order in the state. On the occasion, he charged those supporting the unregulated operation of motorcyclists to take a trip to the various hospitals and medical emergency centres to see the havoc wreaked by their activities.
Fashola who spoke at the Kofo Abayomi Road, Victoria Island location of the club on the topic, “Freedom from Fear” in relation to Law and Order in Lagos State said the audience should visit hospitals and emergency wards and see those who had lost limbs, arms, those who had lost children or those who had become orphans by the recklessness of the Okada riders. Noting that a lot depended on the citizenry in ensuring an orderly society, the governor said everyone must build a consensus that the idea behind the new traffic law was one that involved the quality of life of everyone, the protection of the assets of every resident of Lagos and their businesses.
Tracing the various well-organised public transport systems that had existed in the past like the LMTS and LSTC, he said it should agitate the minds of citizens and members of the club how the state arrived at its present state in terms of the unbridled operation of commercial motorcyclists. According to the governor, in less than two decades, the Okadas had gained so much prominence that it had become a phenomenon which should not have been allowed in the first place, stressing that the elite also contributed as many encouraged their employees to run errands quickly with Okada. “The only way to stop the business from flourishing is by not patronising them. It is a business that if the income from it dwindles, the business proposition of those in it will change,” he said. Conducting an overview of various facets of life in the state,
Fashola explained that he had taken it upon himself to lead by example by shunning the use of siren to escape from the traffic, adding that as a governor he had always taken it upon himself to fight against any attempt by Very Important Personalities (VIPs) to close roads and the people must be ready to fight against behaviours and conducts that were hazardous to healthy and secure existence.
The governor who drew a comparative analysis of happenings in distant locations said the state government established the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) to allow people dispose their refuse properly but that the people preferred to still patronise cart pushers who would dump the refuse in a canal by the corner thus causing flooding. “Some people are saying they will not obey the law that protects the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) dedicated lane because they say it is draconian for the government to insist on its enforcement. “This is a law made by the State House of Assembly.
A law that I swore on oath to defend and that is my duty. I make no apologies for doing it and I will continue to do it. If we continue like this, we are on the road to Bangkok in Thailand,” the governor stated. He said there should be concerted effort by everyone to ensure that Nigeria did not reach the notorious status of Bangkok in terms of traffic because Bangkok is a city that loses about $1 million every year to traffic congestion and where the training of the average traffic police officer includes the delivery of babies from pregnant women who are trapped in traffic.
Urging business executives and corporate leaders to rethink the types of ventures being supported, the governor said the tricycles known as Keke Marwa represented the sign of India’s age of poverty which the country was striving hard to move away from as it was now manufacturing TATA buses and wondered why Nigerians were now embracing it wholeheartedly. He added that the same applied to motorcycles, which originated from China, saying currently the Chinese were making fast trains for their usage while Nigerians were helping their economy by patronising their motorcycles.
Noting that those who broke the law with impunity were often more than not, aliens with no respect for rules and regulations, Fashola revealed that in the last 24 hours, over 100 people from Niger Republic had been escorted out of the state, stressing that there was no going back on the enforcement of the state traffic law. Fashola, while speaking on the topic of “Freedom from Fear,” explained that the presence or absence of law and order in any society was what determined whether the people would live in fear or without it. He added that while the Nigerian Constitution guaranteed many rights, there was no right classified as right to be free from fear in the Constitution because freedom from fear seemed to have been the forgotten freedom.
He advocated that the responsibility to give the freedom that secured all freedom lay with every individual who must make it a point of duty to ensure they secured themselves against fear. The governor who spoke on the calibre of members that make up the Metropolitan Club, said they were part of the elite that constitute the few who constitute the critical mass that drove change when ideas manifest. Fashola who also spoke on the last elections in Lagos State said a society did need a multitude to make a difference as the resolve of the elite contributed and brought life to the move to ensure the success of the one-man, one-vote campaign. Urging a resolution on the part of all at the interactive session to become a part of the much desired positive change,
Fashola declared: “If we are to prosper and develop our national economy, we must resolve to leave here today with a consensus to lead as champion of change. I am talking about changes in the way we react to issues, changes in the way we think and in the way we behave.” He recalled that when the administration decided to stop the illegal expansion of Makoko, it was called several unprintable names by different uninformed people, adding that what government stopped was a daily encroachment on the lagoon by the squatters who were daily reducing its size and invariably the outlets for water to drain from various parts of the state.
The governor said if the administration had folded its arms and watched the excesses go on, the structures would have been built up to under the Third Mainland Bridge and someone could have just woken up one day and started displaying items on the Third Mainland Bridge. He reiterated that traffic should not be viewed as a problem but rather a sign of of prosperity in any emerging megacity like Lagos because as more people moved into the city there would be congestion.
The governor, however, explained that the traffic being complained about was the rush hour traffic which was not peculiar to Lagos. adding that in the United States of America, it is better to walk in Manhattan than to drive a car, admonishing that Nigerians should stop feeling sorry for themselves whenever they are in traffic. Giving an insight into some of the proactive steps being taken to manage traffic, he said the State Government has gone a step further by introducing the Traffic Radio to give advanced information to members of the public on how they can plan their trips adequately.
He explained that the new road traffic law has made provision against drinking or driving behind the wheels because government believes that it is only split seconds that stand between the occurrence of fatal accidents as any momentary loss of concentration could have catastrophic consequences. Underscoring the prime role of law and order in achieving a secured and stable society, he noted the fact that the Metropolitan Club has continued to be successful because of the strict observance of its rules and regulations by the members urging that they should do the same when they are outside the Club. Governor Fashola said it is rather ironic that when members of the Metropolitan Club get into the club premises they feel safe, stressing however that the club premises did not make itself safe but was achieved by the members who toiled hard.
He said what is needed from the members as responsible members of the society is for them to transfer that same energy to the larger society. Responding to some of the issues raised during the interactive session that followed his address, Governor Fashola said the government will continue to put measures in place to tackle street trading, but urged the people to also stop patronizing hawkers. On the possibility of using the Bangkok traffic experience as a public enlightenment tool for people to learn from it, the Governor said a documentary drama titled ‘Emi O laaro’ has already been designed and released for the public while he has also taken the campaign for safe driving to various motor parks across the State.
On suggestions that the Highway Code should be a subject of study in schools for children to learn at formative stage, the Governor said Government was already working on how to develop a basic curriculum that would be developed from a book on same subject without encroaching on the basic school curriculum. On the social impact of laws, the Governor said every law goes as far as those who conceived it can think of because given another scenario, a new set of people can bring up something different, he said government will always listen to genuine suggestions on how things could be done better. While enumerating the efforts of the Government in enhancing food security and job creation through agriculture, the Governor said he is reaching out to sister states for land where unemployed people can be deployed to work on farms and produce food that would be brought back to the state to be sold to its teeming population. He said this is in addition to the Agric YES programme through which graduates are trained and given entrepreneurial skills and provided with the wherewithal to practice and produce food.
Earlier in his address, the President of the Club, Chief Olu Akinkugbe commended the Governor for his efforts at transforming the State since he assumed office. He said it was as a mark of respect for the late Chief Ola Vincent who was a former President of the Metropolitan Club that the Governor postponed his first date with the Club. Prominent among state officials at the session with the Governor were the Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, his Health counterpart, Dr Jide Idris and General Manager of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, Mr Tunde Edu while among the members of the Club present were Chief Chris Ogunbanjo, Alhaji Femi Okunnu (SAN), Ambassador Dapo Fafowora and Chief Philip Asiodu.