The Lagos State Government on Monday has defended the enforcement method of its Special Offences Task Force which favours the removal of number plates of erring vehicles over clamping down and towing of vehicles.
The government also denied allegations of highhandedness against officials of the Task Force and those of the Special Offences Tribunal (Mobile Court), describing the coterie of complainants on social media as hypocritical and manipulative.
In a statement jointly issued by the State’s Honourable 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 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.
The new method being adopted by the Task Force, particularly for illegal parking of vehicles or obstruction of traffic, according to the statement, simply involves capturing the offence on video, removing the number-plate of the erring vehicles and putting a branded sticker on the windshield of the car to inform the owner/driver of such cars about their offence and invitation for trial at the Special Offences Mobile Court which may sitting at any proximate local Government office or at the Special Task office at Alausa in Ikeja.
It added that the Task Force is authorized 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 added 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.
The statement stresses that the essence of this exercise is not to engage in unwholesome revenue drive as being erroneously peddled in certain quarters but to deter violations of the 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.”
The statement said while the State government would not relent in its vaunted method of adequately sensitizing the public before embarking on enforcements, it added that ignorance is not an excuse in law and perceived inadequacies in car park provisions by frequently used establishments like banks, malls and eateries does not give car owners an excuse to park on the kerb or main roads thereby obstructing traffic.
For the avoidance of doubt, the statement said parking on the kerb or walkways or outside the premises where the driver has come to transact business in a manner that either obstructs traffic or constitutes illegal use of public space is a violation of the law and could attract a fine of Twenty thousand Naira (N20, 000) or a community service after a documentary evidence has been presented to the offender.
According to the statement, "Section One of the Special Offences Court Law Cap S8 Laws of Lagos State 2015 stipulates that the Court could sit at any convenient place close to the scene of the commission of any offence triable by the court. Section Two of the same law allows the Court to sit on Mondays to Saturday, whilst Section 3(1) same law states that the Court has jurisdiction over offences listed in Schedule 1 to this Law.
"A cursory look at the offences listed in the said Schedule 1, reveals that Road Traffic Offences as contained in the Lagos State Road Traffic Law Cap R5, Laws of Lagos State 2015 and Environmental Offences as provided for in the Schedule to the Environmental Sanitation Enforcement Agency Law, Cap E5, Laws of Lagos State 2015 are under the jurisdiction of the Mobile Courts.”
The state government explained that "it should be noted that most banks make provision for parking within their premises or designated car parks outside their premises where customers are expected to make use of same and not to cause obstruction to human or vehicular movement.
"There is no way a responsible and responsive government would sit idly by and watch citizens groan under the hardship of road congestion caused by infractions of a few recalcitrant drivers or those who simply think that they can blackmail the government into submission while being economical with the truth whenever government wields the big stick against such infractions.
“Parking on the road while using the ATM is a clear traffic transgression that is similar to parking on the yellow lines abroad. We wish to implore our law-abiding citizens to desist from such conducts that run foul of the law and which invariably attracts consequences and discomfort once the law is enforced.”
The Statement added that the Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration appreciates the exponential growth that the state is currently facing, particularly in the area of traffic which is why the government has been introducing several pro-people measures like the massive injection of the Bus Rapid Transport in order to manage the situation better.
It added that while it may take a while to get used to the number-plate removal technique of the Task Force, just like it did when compulsory use of seat belts was introduced or when commercial motorcycles and street hawking were banned on the highways, it says the government is happy that a large section of the public is applauding the method that retains the liberty of traffic offenders even when they have transgressed. It assured that the Lagos State government would continue to show compassion and drive enforcement through technology while ensuring that the interest of the larger society is protected at all times.