HUMAN Rights Lawyers on Tuesday urged the Lagos State Government to review its new traffic law to tone down some
punishments in the law.
The lawyers who made the call include Mr Bamidele Aturu, Mr Mohammed Fawehinmi and Mr Taofik Gani. However, a constitutional lawyer, Mr Fred Agbaje, rejected the notion that the law was harsh.
Gov. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on July 2 signed the Lagos State Traffic bill into Law.
Fashola said that the new law was a holistic review of the state’s Traffic Law of 2003, designed to ensure safety on Lagos roads.
“Lagos State Government did not get the law right,'' said Mr. Aturu in a telephone chat yesterday. According to him, it is good to have laws, but the current traffic law will be counterproductive.
“While I appreciate the Lagos State Government for trying to sanitize the traffic sector, this new law with intent to criminalize minor traffic offence, does not accord with modern best practices.
“Enforcement of such a law will be chaotic. I think the state should sit down with experts to amend the law,'' he said.
Fawehinmi, son of late legal icon, Mr Gani Fawehinmi, advised the government to review the law and seek other measures in terms of traffic control.
“For instance, the punishment for offenders should be toned down, while the state should open up roads to ease the congestion that drives people to disobey the laws.
“Some roads, especially council roads are dead ends for years in Lagos. Traffic in Lagos is densely concentrated hence all roads must be in use,'' he said.
Fawehinmi also urged the state government to educate the people more on the traffic rules as well as provide signs for roads that are one-way traffic.
“If these things are put in place and perfectly executed, it will achieve greater effects,'' he said.
Gani, a lawyer and Lagos State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, said that there was need for the government to make the holistic provisions of the law available to the public.
``This makes it difficult for any thorough analysis of the said law. The little we know of the law is what we read in the papers,'' the PDP official said.
He described the law as too harsh and may be misapplied by over-zealous officials of the state.
However, Agbaje said that the law was for the good of Lagos road users.
``It is not harsh. Every unusual situation, like mad driving, deserves an unusual legislation.
``The state government has every social statutory and constitutional responsibility to protect lives and properties.
``Anything short of this is an unpardonable criminal derelictions of constitutional responsibility, for which the governor can be impeached,'' Agbaje said.
The Lagos Traffic Law prescribes a raft of penalties including psychiatric, breathe and urine tests, fines and prison terms for traffic offenders in the state.
Driving against traffic attracts a psychiatric test and three-year jail term. The traffic law prohibited motorists from eating as well as making phone calls while driving.
It stipulated a fine of N20, 000 for first offender and a maximum of three years imprisonment or N30, 000 fine or both for subsequent offences.
According to the document, articulated vehicles with the exemption of fuel tankers and long passenger trucks are now prohibited from entering into or travelling within the metropolis from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Violators risk impoundment of their vehicles and payment of N50, 000 as fine or six months imprisonment.
It also compelled commercial bus drivers and their conductors to wear identification tags, while property owners are also compelled to report cases of abandoned vehicles in their vicinity or risk punishment.
Officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) are empowered to administer breathalysers on drivers to detect drunkenness.
Also owners of commercial vehicles are compelled to obtain operating licenses from government.