Reform of Necessity

01 Apr 2013

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 Governor Babatunde Fashola

For a better service, the Lagos State Government seeks a reorientation for its traffic and sanitation enforcement officers, writes Gboyega Akinsanmi

Just about fortnight ago, Mrs. Nkechi Omakagu, a pregnant woman, raised a critical allegation against some operatives of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI). She drew the attention of the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, to the manner she was apprehended for alleged violation of the state’s sanitation law, which restricts movement of persons during the monthly environmental sanitation exercise, which takes place every last Saturday of the month. She said she lost her pregnancy in a struggle with the KAI officials.

The state government ordered an investigation into Omakagu’s allegation. The Office of the Public Defender (OPD) has already taken up the case. But the state government promised “to await the outcome of the investigations,” saying, “We remain committed to unraveling what actually happened in order to establish the link between her arrest and alleged loss of pregnancy which she claimed she suffered as a result.”

But Senior Special Assistant on Transport Education to Governor Babatunde Fashola, Dr. Mariam Masha, said law enforcement “is not about the use of force and abuse of people’s rights. It has not been established if KAI’s officers actually apprehended a pregnant woman; the investigation is also on-going.” Masha thus said the administration of Governor Fashola had commenced reforms, which are expected to bring about lifetime transformation.

So, a definite change has started in the Lagos State Traffic Management (LASTMA) and KAI. It all started shortly after the Lagos Road Traffic Law became effective and perhaps due to huge complaints the motorists daily lodged on the approach of LASTMA’s operatives to their primary duties. The motorists always complained about their overzealousness. Of course, they complained about their highhandedness and notoriety as well.  

But the state government is actually looking far beyond what might be the motorists’ complaints about LASTMA’s officers. The state government is challenging the status quo in the real sense. It is indeed engaging the future of the metropolis with a current population of 20.19 million. It is also responding to the daunting needs of Lagos status as a megacity, whose population will hit 35 million by 2020, according to the UN-Habitat.

This explains why Masha said a definite change “has dawned on the authority with a well-defined mandate to build a culture of institutional character and a community service relation.” And the agenda in the main, according to him, is to build a team of enforcement officers, who will discharge their core responsibilities with regard to the relevant legal instruments.

The reform is already underway and evident in the career evaluation training programme, which Masha said the state government had put together for its key law enforcement officers from three institutions. The institutions basically include LASTMA, Kick against Indiscipline (KAI) and Neighbourhood Watch. Masha said the state government focused on the three institutions because of their pivotal roles to making the metropolis work daily.    

About 7, 916 law enforcement officers are brought into the evaluation programme, which Governor Fashola said was designed “to inculcate in each of the participants the core values of integrity, courage, commitment, pride professionalism, teamwork spirit, self-respect as well as respect for every citizens.” He therefore said the law enforcement officers “do not have to infringe on people’s rights to get their jobs done.

The governor specifically explained that applying the core values “will ensure that they are worthy not only to themselves, but to their employers and the citizens they serve on daily basis. This evaluation programme has been particularly designed for the law enforcement officers. It will be as successful as you allow it to be. You are the one that will need to take what you learn during the training and put it to good use in the field.”

Of this number, Masha explained that 1,800 traffic operatives and KAI’s officers “have already undergone the evaluation programme. It is designed to enhance the capacity of about 2,749 traffic operatives, 1,011 KAI’s officers and 4,156 neighbourhood watchers”. At the same time, Masha said the state government was also responding to the challenges, which she said normally accompany cities with megacity status across the world.

Masha therefore pointed at the ideal of selfless service, robust culture of community service relations and the thrust of inter-agency relationships, which core values, according to her, are being systematically inculcated in the operatives of the state law enforcement agencies in order to improve service delivery to the people of the state.

“We know what we want as a government and we want the right people in the right places. All the participants were grouped and assigned specific areas with various traffic and environmental challenges that need to be addressed. They developed plans to address these and work with the community to effect positive change and promote law and order. This project will form a significant part of their assessment. The key objective of the programme was to equip participants with a better approach to law enforcement.

“The focus places premium on the need to change people’s behaviour and demands that we train our law enforcement agents to respond to challenges in line with global standard, the state government will continue to invest in training of its law enforcement officials by building their capacity to achieve their statutory responsibilities. It is to empower the participants on how best to do their job and relate with the public through advocacy.

“We will continue to invest in manpower and build capacity of our officials. We will always found one or two infractions but there are channels now for people to raise issues, either to complain or commend. The avenue is a good way of contributing and improving the capacity. We will not relent. We will continue to train them, build their capacity. The emphasis of the law enforcement agents should be on advocacy and enlightenment.

“If people have observed very well, through the community service the participants rendered, our approach lean towards advocacy and enlightenment. It goes a long way in effecting positive attitude change and not forcing people to ensure compliance. Our emphasis on advocacy and enlightenment, if properly applied, will reinforce a culture of voluntary compliance to law and order in the state,” Masha explained.

She specifically linked the notion to the rationale behind the inclusion of community service in the career evaluation programme. She said that was why it was mandatory for the participants “to visit such places as orphanage homes, hospitals, major motor parks and other areas to other sides of life. The programme is therefore worthwhile, and the reform of the state’s law enforcement agencies is imperative given the status of the state.

The reform has got international approval, and this perhaps might be attributed to adherence to the best practice, according to Masha. During an assessment visit to the state last year, a United States Homeland Security Coordinator, Mr. James Russel Sharpe rated the state’s on-going law enforcement reforms high, which he described as the classic approach to traffic control and environmental management in Africa’s biggest metropolis.

Given an estimated population of over 20 million, Sharpe thus recommended the model for emerging mega cities in the world and explained that from their experience, participants from LASTMA and KAI “are great sets of dedicated and motivated personnel who exhibited strong will to do the job. The field-based module, which exposed to field operations in Mile 12, Ojota, Apongbon and Obalende areas of the state also equipped the participants with solutions to challenges encountered on the field which he described as excellent”.

With the continued training of the law enforcement agents in the state, he explained, traffic control, environmental management and security governance will be a reference point and good case-study for other states to emulate. The participants have been exposed to modern approaches of engagement. The residents of the state should therefore be ready for a new LASTMA and KAI when they get back to their field operations.

Tags: Life and Style, Babatunde Fashola

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