On Thursday 2nd August 2012, then Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, signed the new Lagos State Traffic Law.
Many Lagosians were excited about the law, because they were of the view that it would help to address the perennial traffic situation that seemingly spares no part of the state.
However, certain portions of the law has not have gone down well with those in the port industry, especially terminal operators, truck owners, truck drivers and Customs agents.
Section 2 of the law restricts movement of trailers and articulated vehicles to night time, with only petrol tankers and long vehicles used in conveying passengers, allowed to travel within the metropolis during the day. Vehicles with more than one rear axle or six tyres are allowed to move only between 6am and 9pm.
“Save as may be prescribed by the Commissioner by Regulation, no trailer other than petrol tankers and long vehicles used in conveying passengers, shall enter into or travel within the metropolis of Lagos between the hours of 6.00am – 9.00pm,” Section 2(1) of the law states while Section 2(2) stipulates that “any driver who is found contravening the provisions of this Section shall have his vehicle impounded by a duly authorised officer of the Authority and shall upon conviction be liable to a fine of N50,000 (Fifty Thousand Naira) or a term of imprisonment for 6 months or both.”
The exemptions to the restriction covers tour or passenger buses, fire service trucks, rescue and recovery trucks, patrol trucks, perishable farm products trucks, refuse collection trucks, cement mixer trucks, tractors and refrigerated trucks.
The general impression is that the movement restriction targets trucks involved in evacuating cargoes from the port.
While the movement restriction order had largely remained unimplemented for three years, an accident involving a container-laden truck, which claimed three lives at Ojuelegba on September 2 seems to be the tonic needed by government to apply the force of the law.
However, several maritime industry stakeholders have warned that port operations might be adversely affected the implementation. Truck owners and drivers have also withdrawn their services to protest the implementation.
Stakeholders argue that the law will create congestion at the ports, as well as constitute security challenges to cargoes and lives of truck drivers.
Members of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), National Association of Truck Owners (NATO), Coalition of Seaport Truckers (COST) and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), who have jointly condemned the law, opine that the nation’s economy will suffer greatly from port congestion as a result of the implementation of the law.
The truckers are also of the view that the Lagos State Government must create the enabling environment by providing the necessary security measures that will ensure that both the cargoes and the truck drivers are safe within the period they are allowed to operate.
They have equally asked the state government to put the roads within the metropolis in proper shape, so that vehicles do not break down at nights thereby endangering the cargoes and the lives of truck drivers.
While these set of persons are kicking against the new law, the state government on the other hand has explained that its intervention aims to reduce the alarming statistics of road accidents, especially those caused by reckless driving.
While we commend the efforts of the state government in enacting this law, since it is borne out of genuine desire to give the citizenry better lives, we equally want to say that the fears expressed by the truck owners, truck drivers, Customs agents and other port operators cannot be dismissed offhand.
We recommend that the state government should map out a gestation period of three years from now – in line with the recommendation of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) – within which to effectively sensitise the populace about the law before its enforcement.
The state government should also take a second look at the workability of restricting movement of trucks in the state to nigh time, considering the country’s precarious security situation, as well as its poor road networks.
We recollect that the social malaise of area boys syndrome has its roots in Lagos Island, the financial hub of Nigeria, before spreading to other parts of the state and the nation. For the uninitiated, area boys are grown men (and even women) running all sorts of extortionary schemes, including exacting heavy financial tolls on trucks for transiting, discharging or loading cargoes in their neighbourhood.
The Lagos State Traffic Law should compel the Federal Government to focus attention in developing the other modes of transportation.
If the other modes – rail and water – for delivering and evacuating huge volumes of ports’ consignments are developed, truck operators will have little grounds for protests against the law because at present, over 90 percent of cargoes from the ports in Lagos are moved by road.
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