Tuesday, July 5, 2022
HomeRe: May Lagos never happen to you

Re: May Lagos never happen to you

A piece titled ‘May Lagos never happen to you’ by Dauda Busari and published in The PUNCH of Tuesday, March 29, 2022 (page 37) made interesting reading. It made allusion to supposed deficiencies in public sector service delivery in Lagos State with particular references to the health and transportation sectors.

As I read through the story, the first thing that struck me was that Busari is a passionate lover of Lagos State who wants it to work seamlessly for the people to further enjoy the dividends of democracy. The interventions of the writer on the two occasions referenced show that he is his brother’s keeper. To that extent, I share his views, emotions, empathy and sympathy.

However, a critical analysis of some assertions made in the piece makes it compelling to clear the air on some issues and further enlighten the public. I sympathise with the parents of the toddler who died, following complications arising from third-degree burns.

Although Busari did not mention the Primary Health Centre that he said was their first destination, the suspicion that the health facility might not have opened that day is unfounded. Truth is that not all PHCs run 24 hours, but in all Local Government Areas/Local Council Development Areas, there are flagship PHCs that run 24 hours. There is a need for the public to locate and register with public health facilities in their locations for easy access in times of emergency like that painted in the write-up.

Lagosians are also urged to key into the State’s Health Insurance Policy, Ilera Eko, to remove the fear of lack of funds which, according to the writer, may have informed the decision of the child’s mother to choose the public health facility. It is noteworthy that in that particular instance, even the private hospital they opted for could not help, obviously, because of the severity of the burns. With the health insurance, your health expenses for the year are guaranteed in any hospital of choice (private or public).

The allegation that Ifako-Ijaiye General Hospital did not give attention to the toddler is not fair. The hospital should be commended for quickly referring a case it knew was beyond what it could handle to a health facility of a higher grade. I also do not agree with the assertion that the staff and doctors at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital were lackadaisical in handling the case. It is just that the case was a bad one. Again my condolences to the parents and relations of the deceased.

Truth be told, LASUTH is a highly rated tertiary health institution in Nigeria with state of the art equipment and staff who are very passionate and dedicated to life-saving. LASUTH has continually promoted the development of cutting-edge surgical expertise, such as the microvascular free tissue transfer in the head and neck, to deliver the best possible outcome. It led public health institutions in October 2021 to successfully perform its first laser lithotripsy (a treatment for kidney stones). LASUTH is the only state tertiary health institution now with full upper tract endoscopic and laser facility thereby saving many lives and enhancing the quality of living to patients in Nigeria and beyond.

As regards the arrest of a driver by Lagos State Traffic Management Authority officials at Abule-Egba junction on March 23, 2022 for not wearing his seat belt, I would like to state that they worked within the dictates of the law and the ticket issued was appropriate. The Lagos State Offenders Penalty (LSOP42A) of the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law (2018) recommends a N20, 000 fine for first offender and N30, 000 for second offender. To the extent that a fine ticket of N20, 000 was issued to the offender, they have discharged their duty as expected.

Am I saying that all LASTMA officials are saints? No. Do they lack empathy?  No.  Are they under obligation to pander to the views of interventionists? No. Do they have discretion? Yes. Given the foregoing, therefore, that the pleas of some members of the public, including the writer, were not heeded is not a crime; it is a matter of discretion. And my take on the distraction of officers on duty and preventing the arrest of offenders is that it is a disservice to the good people of Lagos State. Apart from that, it is an obstruction of lawful duties punishable in law.

Oftentimes, the so-called noble interventions had resulted in gathering of people giving room to mob actions against the officials by miscreants and hoodlums.  The unnecessary interventions embolden the offenders and encourage lawlessness. We have enough traffic problems impeding the social and economic growth of our dear state and we must be united in combating them.

It is a matter of either we want an egalitarian society or we want a jungle where laws are meant to be trampled upon. We all need to know that laws are meant for the smooth running of the society and disobedience must have consequences. Thus, if we are passionate about a “Lagos that should or must happen to us” we must allow the law to take its course always.

I would like to say, also, that contrary to the view of the writer, it is not within the purview of LASTMA to help offenders seek redress at the Mobile Court or order social punishment. Theirs is to issue fine tickets as dictated by the law. It behoves the offender to seek redress in the court, if he or she feels badly treated. The court in its wisdom could pronounce judgement ordering social or monetary punishment or even jail term. It could also order the cancellation of the fine and immediate release of the vehicle, depending on the facts before it. And it is on record that the Mobile Court has decided in favour of litigants in many cases. So, let’s encourage ourselves to test the law with the aim of strengthening it, instead of attempting to circumvent it.

I also found emotions being thrown up in an attempt to seek public sympathy when Busari wrote that “N20, 000 must be paid as a fine for a single traffic offence in a nation where the average worker is still struggling to secure an average of N30, 000 monthly salary”. Contrary to the view expressed, the fine is not punitive but a deterrent. A fine is not the same as a levy or a tax. The last two are compulsory but a fine is optional. You can choose not to pay a fine by obeying simple rules and regulations.

Finally, I want to encourage the writer and members of the public to help the government with facts and not conceal the identity of officials who in their views are doing the wrong thing. Busari wrote about the truck being taken to Agege and did not mention the location. There are four LASTMA operational bases in Agege (Zones 29-Iju, 35-Dopemu, 16- Iyana Ipaja and 6-Pen Cinema). Also, in the entire encounter and the supposed observation of corrupt practices in the yard, no officer was mentioned to enable the authorities to investigate and punish erring ones.

Is it a case of A gbe fun Oba ki je ‘bi (He who pursues the cause of government can’t be wrong) as opined by the writer? No; far from it. It is not correct to say no one is checking the excesses of the officials. It is about well-meaning Lagosians assisting the government to continue to help her to fish out the bad eggs and show them the door. Reward and discipline are the hallmarks of this administration.  No fewer than 27 LASTMA officials have undergone disciplinary actions, including dismissal and termination of appointments, in recent times.

  • Ogundeji is the Director, Strategy Centre, Lagos State’s Ministry of Information and Strategy

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