Recently, there were speculations that Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has directed the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to stop arresting motorists in the state.
LASTMA, the state’s top traffic law enforcement agency, is widely known for its aggressive enforcement of traffic laws.
The message circulating on social media suggests that Sanwo-Olu has watered down the agency’s powers.
“Henceforth, no LASTMA Official should arrest any motorist, either commercial or private. The duty of LASTMA is to manage traffic and not to arrest anyone. I have heard a lot of complaints, any official that violates the rule will be severely dealt with,” the governor’s purportedly said.
Notably, the same quote has circulated on social media for many years.
What are the roles of LASTMA?
LASTMA is a Lagos State-owned agency under the Ministry of Transportation.
The agency was established on the 15th of July, 2000 to transform the state transport system to ensure the free flow of traffic in the state and also reduce road accidents.
The authority’s main roles are to control, manage, and regulate traffic-related matters within the Lagos metropolis.
However, the act that established LASTMA does not grant it the power to arrest motorists.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in July 2022, the agency’s General Manager, Bolaji Oreagba, admitted that officers were not mandated to arrest violators of traffic laws but to “apprehend” their vehicles.
“We don’t arrest, we apprehend vehicles of violators of the traffic laws,” he said.
Oreagba, however, said LASTMA officials could arrest a motorist found assaulting any of the agency’s officers.
“The only occasion where we arrest people has to do with when anyone assaults our officers, and it will not be immediate arrest at that particular time,” he said.
“There must be video evidence to show that the officer is truly assaulted, and arrest is later by the police.”
LASTMA’s reaction to latest speculations
In a statement on Friday, Director, Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA Mr. Adebayo Taofiq, dismissed the latest speculations as “recurring fake news.”
Taofiq quoted the agency’s general manager as saying the false speculations are the “handiwork of faceless mischief makers.”
According to Oreagba, the false claim has been repeatedly circulated online since February 2020 despite being severally refuted by the management of LASTMA.
He warned Lagosians, especially motorists, to be wary of online reports aimed at causing chaos and mischief within the society.
“I wonder why some individuals choose to always mislead others to contravene the traffic law of the State as amended by the State House of Assembly in 2018,” he noted.
“The General Manager hinted that part of the Agency’s responsibility is to uphold and enforce the traffic laws of the State, maintaining that the officers and men of LASTMA will not hesitate to enforce those laws whenever violated to transform the State’s transportation system towards ensuring the free flow of traffic and reducing road accidents,” the statement added.
CLAIM: Sanwo-Olu directed LASTMA officials not to arrest commercial and private motorists in Lagos.
VERDICT: While LASTMA officials are not empowered by the law to arrest motorists for traffic violations, they are mandated to seize their vehicles if laws are broken. Since the agency has never had the power to arrest motorists for traffic violations, the governor’s purported directive would have been unnecessary or aimed at correcting an anomaly. Moreover, there is no evidence that Governor Sanwo-Olu made such directive. Therefore, the claim that the governor directed LASTMA officials to desist from arresting motorists is FALSE.
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