Monday, July 25, 2016

Lagos defends new approach to traffic law enforcement

Ambode

The Lagos State Government on Monday has defended the enforcement method adopted by its Special Offences Task Force in dealing with traffic offenders. The task force has opted for the removal of the number plates of vehicles over clamping of vehicle tires or towing such vehicles away. Under the new approach, traffic officials are expected to record videos of cars in violation of traffic laws, especially those illegally parked. Subsequently, the number plates of the vehicles are removed and branded stickers are pasted on the windscreen of the car to inform them of their offence and inviting them for trial at the Special Offences Mobile Court. The decision drew criticism from some Lagosians with members of the task force and Special Offences Tribunal – mobile court – being accused of harassing and extorting motorists. But the government denied the allegations, describing “the complainants on social media” as “hypocritical and manipulative”. In a statement by the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, and the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, the state government said it was doing the right thing. It argued that it was within the purview of the traffic law enforcement officers to identify violators of traffic laws and have them booked and tried according to the peculiarities of their offences without having to clamp their tires or tow the vehicles. According to it, the Task Force is authorised under the Lagos State Road Traffic Law of 2012 as well as the Special Offences Court established by the Special Offences Court Law Cap S8 Laws of Lagos State 2015. “The technique that has been adopted by the Task Force is in line with International Best Practices which prefers issuance of tickets to erring offenders over clamp downs or towing of vehicles that do not only cost both the government and erring drivers money but also clogs public spaces where such vehicles would have been kept,” the statement said. It explained that once the offender honours the invitation for trial, where a magistrate presides over the proceedings, the offender is usually presented with a video evidence of the offence before he or she is charged. “A fine or a community service is then imposed if the offender pleads guilty. But if the offender chooses to put up a defence and is without a defence counsel, he or she will be entitled to the services of a lawyer from the Office of the Public Defender at no cost,” it added. The state government also denied claims that the exercise was mainly aimed at generating revenue for the state. It stressed that the goal was to encourage motorists to comply with traffic laws “which is why community service is often preferred for the offenders so that they can become advocates of the laws which seek to bring sanity to Lagos State roads and instill a sense of responsibility in drivers and car owners, particularly the elites who think they are above the law.”

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