In the last few years, activities of officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, and the Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, had become a source of worry to the Lagos State Government. Though, LASTMA and KAI have been doing their best in terms of traffic control and sanitizing the environment, overzealousness and corruption have been major problems of both outfits. For instance, hundreds of LASTMA and KAI officers have been dismissed by the government over cases of indiscipline, brutality and overzealousness, among others.
Last year alone, almost 200 LASTMA officers were dismissed after the Personnel Management Board, PMB, found them wanting. The state government had vowed that it would sanitise the outfit and make it better so that it could render better and more efficient service to the public. It vowed to get rid of the bad eggs and reposition the outfit.
In the Lagos metropolis, southwest Nigeria, many motorists do not like LASTMA officers, despite the fact that they contribute immensely in unlocking the traffic bottlenecks and control traffic all over the city Lagos.
Undoubtedly, LASTMA, in the last 13 years of its existence has been one of the greatest innovations to have happened in Lagos. Activities of the officers have been able curb recklessness on the city’s highways. Unruly commercial bus drivers have found LASTMA a hard nut to crack as the outfit constantly ensures that traffic law violators were brought to book. Both private and commercial vehicles owners dread LASTMA officers, especially when the motorist is on the wrong side of the law.
On the other hand, KAI officers have been instrumental in enforcing the environmental sanitation laws of the state, though some bad eggs in the outfit have smeared its name and that of the state government. There have been cases of stealing by some KAI officers, while some cart away traders’ wares for personal use. Corruption among some members of the outfit has led to many being dismissed.
With the introduction of the Road Traffic Law, which was signed by Governor Babatunde Fashola on 2 August, 2012, the need to reposition LASTMA and KAI officers for better service delivery came to the fore. To be able to enforce the traffic law effectively, traffic officers needed to be re-trained.
This informed the decision of the Lagos State government to train 7,916 officers comprising 2,749 from LASTMA; 1,011 from KAI; and 4,156 members of Neighbourhood Watch. The training for the Neighbourhood Watch has not started but that of LASTMA and KAI officers is still ongoing in batches of 200. Each batch comprises of 150 LASTMA and 50 KAI officials are being trained at the Lagos State Public Service Staff Development, PSSDC, Magodo, Lagos for a duration of four weeks. It would take 20 months to train them all.
The career evaluation training programme involves two weeks of classroom work and two weeks of field work. The career evaluation training, which kicked off on 24 September, 2012 is aimed at equipping the officers with the requisite skills to ensure law and order in the state. It is also expected to enhance the capacity of the officers to effectively implement the recently passed Lagos Road Traffic Law.
Government also intends to achieve maximum output delivery from the officers by continuously improving the quality of personnel in its enforcement agencies and maintaining a professional status by instituting training programmes that are practical, effective and consistent with international best practices.
The training is put together by Dr. Mariam Masha, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Transport Education. So far, 1,600 LASTMA and KAI officers have undergone the four weeks training and have come out of it well refined and pruned to deliver effective service to the Lagos populace.
The 1,600 participants trained so far have undergone the training which involves aerobics, classwork, community service relations visits to orphanage homes and hospitals, while the field report aspect of the training had seen the participants visit Mile 12, Ojota, Ladipo, Apongbon, Agege and Obalende areas of the state and report presentation.
At one time, one of the batches visited the Agbowa Relief Camp and cleaned up the camp buildings, arranged beddings, besides donating materials, including foodstuffs, for the use of the centre and the inmates. The visit by the 200 LASTMA and KAI personnel is an integral component of the career evaluation training programme designed to improve skills of the officers of the two agencies.
According to Masha, the training would also determine the suitability and ability of each personnel for the assigned job as officers entrusted to promote law and order in the state. It would also help the government to achieve appropriate re-orientation of the officers and professionalism in the discharge of their duties. Masha added that “government appreciates the difficult, yet important position law enforcement officers are exposed to in their efforts to promote law and order.
“The officers, who will undergo the training as a team in order to promote espirit de corps among them, will be trained through seminars and scenario-based sessions which are designed to enhance learning and build trust in the people they serve. The project areas are community service, where officers will work in communities to tackle issues ranging from traffic, environment and security as well as volunteering in homes, orphanages and rehabilitation centres across the state.”
Masha stated that the core objective of the programme was to equip all the participants with a better approach of law enforcement, which she said, largely de-emphasised the use of force while placing premium on the tools of advocacy in changing the way people behave. She said LASTMA officers go through a lot of travail in order to enforce the law, adding that “there is nowhere in the world that people like those enforcing the law. This is because they are trying to change people’s behaviour and make them do things in certain ways that may not be comfortable, even though it will benefit the larger society.”
On community service being rendered by the officers, she disclosed that the ongoing reform of the outfits was designed to improve the operatives’ sense of community services and achieve law enforcement with a human face.
“The on-going reform is to enhance capacity of the traffic and environmental operatives with the central goal of making a life-time change in the state’s law enforcement as well as their agencies. The ideals of selfless service, humility, enterprise, interaction, trust, inter-agency relationships and other sound values are being inculcated in these participants towards improved service delivery to the people of the state.
“We know what we want as a government and we want the right people in the right places. The officers were grouped and assigned specific areas with various traffic and environmental challenges that need to be addressed. They developed plans to address these and work with the community to effect positive change and promote law and order,” Masha explained. She added that this project will form a significant part of their assessment
One of the participants in the programme, Mr. Rasheed Sulaimon, expressed satisfaction with the evaluation programme, noting that it would definitely enhance the capacity of the participants to discharge their responsibilities more effectively.
Another participant, Mrs. Mosunmola Agboola commended the state government for introducing the programme, saying it offered them a rare opportunity, which she said, would help them respond to environmental, social and traffic challenges differently and with clear mastery.
Other participants commended the totality of the training programme, especially the Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, visit to the Agbowa relief centre, describing it as an indelible experience in the quest of serving the people of Lagos State.
They added that the initiative had really prepared their mind on how best to relate with the people while appreciating the challenges others might have in the day-to-day commuting in the state