Addressing an inter-Ministerial Press Conference at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre Alausa, Ikeja, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye, listed the taking over of traffic control on highways, illegal and indiscriminate placement of bill boards and painting of road kerbs in green and white saying the activities constituted a breach of the nation’s Constitution.
The Commissioner, who was accompanied his Information and Strategy colleague, Mr. Aderemi Ibirogba and his Transportation counterpart, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, among others, said for the fifth time in recent times, a group of men and women dressed in black uniforms had on Thursday taken over some highways in the State, aided by four armed policemen purporting to be controlling traffic, a job which was legitimately performed by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).
Recalling that the State Government had made series of complaints in the past about the activities of the “faceless” men, Ipaye said on one of the occasions when a policeman was attacked by the group, the Police made some arrests adding, however, that since then the activities had continued.
The Commissioner, who noted that there was no record of any employment letter, regulations, laws or a Federal circular that pointed to the establishment of the group, said the concern of the State Government was based on the probability that criminals and hoodlums could also wear the uniform and perpetrate criminal activities under such cover.
On the issue of painting of road kerbs in green and white instead of the internationally standardised and Constitutionally recognised national road colour code of white and black or yellow and black, Ipaye, who recalled that the painting was first noticed in 2014, said aside debasing the National Colours, the painting had put the lives of motorists in the State in danger.
The Commissioner, who recalled that when the incident of 2014 happened, the issue was reported to the Zonal Coordinator of FERMA and the exercise was stopped, declared,“We are, however, shocked that against all global best practices and our National Highway code, the Federal Authorities have gone so low as to debase our National colours and to put the lives of motoring Lagos Public in danger”.
According to him, “Best practice requires two contrasting colours of White and Black or Yellow and Black. We believe that the exercise is aimed to show Federal might and to intimidate the people of Lagos State”.
Ipaye, who also spoke on the issue of illegal and indiscriminate placing of advertisements on the roads and highways in the State said those were done without regards to the laws and regulations guiding such placements in the State, pointing out that placement of bill boards were “subject of regulation to ensure that the safety of the road users are not compromised”.
He explained the placement of adverts and bill boards constitutionally fell under the purview of Local Governments, who he said use the funds to augment the meagre allocation they got from the Federation Account which stood at about 20 per cent for the 774 local governments in the country.
The Commissioner stressed further, “While the Federal Government has 52 per cent, local governments, 774 of them, all share just about 20 per cent. This is inadequate, so they are expected to raise money from things like the advertisements we are talking about.
“So for a big government to come and say because its infrastructure is located in a particular local government, it would give advertisers a blanket permit to put whatever they like on it without liability to pay anything to the local government is a total breach of the constitution and it shows a disregard for law and order”.
He explained that the State Government decided that certain major areas in the State should not have posters because the posters could come off and start flying on the road a driver could be taken by surprise and an accident could occur as a result adding, “I am saying this to illustrate the fact that there are a lot of things to be taken into consideration by the agency regulating the adverts”.
Affirming that the State stands for Law and Order, the Attorney General declared, “We think that no matter the scenario, we know that we are in the political season, but the laws are never suspended because of electioneering. The laws are still in force and it is unfair to expect that our people will subject themselves to an unknown group controlling them while using the roads or that our code for painting our road kerbs will suddenly change or that advertisement will become free for all simply because we are in a political season”.
The Commissioner commended men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency for their cool headedness in the face of provocation by the faceless group in black uniforms who Thursday prevented them from carrying out their duties at the Old Tollgate saying such response was in line with their training and globally recognised civilized conduct.
The Commissioner, however, pointed out that such illegal activities including the indiscriminate placement of advertisements and billboards across the State was an invitation to chaos, adding that if the State’s agency in charge of adverts had gone round to enforce the law, it would have resulted in chaos.
“So we want to urge reconsideration by all the agencies concerned and to stress the importance of maintaining law and order no matter what else is going on in the Society. It is also a matter of serious concern for us and again it is a matter of law and order because if the local governments, in the name of law enforcement, begin to take down all of these bill boards, that could lead to a breakdown of law and order”, he said.