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Graffiti: LASTMA don vex o!

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Have you seen the new LASTMA patrol cars? They have been cruising the streets of Lagos very recently, “helping mitigate traffic and catching traffic offenders. This should be a very exciting development but someone like me can’t help but think its ill advised. Here’s what I think.

A new government is coming in and many government appointees do not know if they will be retained (likely there will be a change at all levels) and have decided what’s the best way to cash out without being criminal about it. The solution: I would contract the delivery of hundreds of brand new KIA RIO cars- estimated at just under 3 million naira each, to a close ally and get a sizeable cut. This is how it’s always been played, hence no surprise.

What surprises me though is the fact that this seems a very rushed decision without much planning and a detailed cost-benefit analysis. Most of the working class citizens in Lagos spend most of their productive hours trying to navigate through traffic. We already lose millions daily in traffic, and now we are going to be adding hundred plus more cars to mitigate traffic and traffic offenders. What an irony!

Have you seen the average police patrol trucks and how battered and ill managed they are? Now with that picture, imagine what these cars would look like in a few months. If there is a traffic jam ahead, how would our LASTMA car get in front to help clear the traffic?

Here is what I would have thought would be a better solution: invest in power bikes and a couple of helicopters. I am certain that power bikes are easier to navigate through traffic and hence won’t add to the already crazy traffic jam that has become a national pastime.

I am also sure that just like the police have invested in bikes to track down traffic offenders, this would have helped in the same way. The bikes are cheaper and more effective. The helicopters I had suggested, say a max of 3 or 4 would have been used to effectively give air support to the men on ground and tell them where the most needs are on a daily basis. You can get a decent helicopter for as low as $120,000.

I have to say though, that if we are sticking to these cars (as is the case) I have to say I like their look and colour. I pray for their management where officers are accountable for his car and if not well maintained, he is punished for it.

On a flight from Montreal to Frankfurt in 2010, I met an Italian city planner who has developed a keen interest in Lagos and has visited so many times. He told me something which really struck me.

He said, “The traffic jam in Lagos does not have a solution…except the population is reduced”. If we already have a problem with how the city was previously planned, adding these cars would not help us get better.

Eko O ni Baje! O baje ti!

-Okegbemiro Oluwaseun

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