Traffic lights are signaling devices positioned at road intersections, pedestrian crossings, and other locations to control traffic flow. They assign the right of way to road users by the use of lights in standard colors (Red, Yellow, Green), using a universal colour code.
However, Lagosians are raising questions about the misson of the many traffic officials that are stationed at the same road intersections at a time, even where there are functioning traffic lights. Their multiple colours of uniforms signify their membership of different law enforcement agencies.
In recent times, the Sobo Arobiodu/Mobolaji Bank Anthony junction at Ikeja, is one point that has witnessed the invasion of multiple traffic officials almost on a daily basis. Traffic officials from the police, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), and Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) are seen there at the same time.
According to a motorist, Kayode Coker, the presence of the traffic officials at traffic lights is useful to some extent. “Lagos drivers are a special breed. They still need someone to tell them to stop even when the traffic light is bright red. I think their presence there is necessary, but sometimes they are too much and they confuse drivers, especially when they are from more than one agency,” he said.
His view is reiterated by Ijeoma Onyemem, a banker, who plies Mobolaji Bank Anthony way often. “It is sad that we still need a traffic official to tell us when to stop and when to move, even when the traffic light is functioning. Apart from a situation where a traffic light is not working, people should know how to use and obey the traffic lights. The greatest offenders are the okada riders. They act as if the traffic lights are invisible.”
Another motorist, Jude Iroha, said the reason why people disobey the traffic lights is because the lawmakers and police openly disregard the traffic lights.
“The lawmakers themselves don’t obey the traffic lights. You often see police vans leading a convoy of some politicians blowing their siren away and driving through, even when the traffic light is red. They should show a good example by obeying it. That way, it will be easier for drivers to obey the traffic light, even when there is no traffic official there,” he said.
But for Nnamdi Moses, the presence of multiple traffic officials at intersections are completely unnecessary and should be stopped.
“Sometimes, they even confuse drivers. When the traffic light is red, they will say go so that another agent hiding somewhere will just spring up and arrest you. Sometimes, police will tell you to go and LASTMA will tell you to stop. It’s so confusing.”
Beyond traffic offences
Frank Mba, the Lagos State police spokesperson, in response to the issues raised, said that the presence of traffic officials from the police at traffic lights is necessary because of the irregular power supply experienced in the country.
“The power supply is still epileptic,” he said. “We are running a system that is still developing and the power supply is not regular, therefore law enforcement agencies cannot depend on power operated traffic system or electrical control traffic system. You need men on ground in case of power outage,” he said.
He added that their presence serves in reducing crime rate by a good percentage.
“Also, to arrest traffic offenders, we do not have electronic devices to do that. The presence of the officers will act as a deterrent not just for potential traffic defaulters, but for those that will want to commit sundry crime.”
Young Arebamen, the chief executive officer of LASTMA, also pointed out the problem of irregular power supply as a reason for LASTMA’s presence at traffic lights.
“If you are a Nigerian, you will know how ineffective power supply is. If no one is there and the power goes off, motorists get off doing what they want and sometimes create chaos,” he said.
But Danjuma Maigeri, the KAI marshal general, pointed out that the presence of KAI officials at traffic points is mainly to prevent street hawkers from selling their wares on the streets.
“The KAI’s involvement, where you are seeing the LASTMA and the police, has to do with street trading. As soon as there is ‘go slow’, these illegal street hawkers start coming out and it is the duty of the KAI officials to send them away,” he said.
Responding to their effectiveness in curbing street hawkers, Mr. Maigeri said that he has insufficient personnel to effectively check their activities.
“They are too much and no matter what you do, they will still come there. My biggest problem has been my strength. I am working with below 1200 officials, and I have asked for more staff. I am sure our dynamic governor and my honourable commissioner of environment, Muiz Banire, will listen and will soon increase our strength,” he said.