Saturday, September 01, 2012

What happened to the LASTMA officials who publicly disgraced their boss?

The case of the killing of Hameed Balogun is slipping out of public consciousness gradually. But one person who must still be nursing his bruised ego is the General Manager of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Mr. Babatunde Edu, whose accounts of events were found to be not exactly reliable.

After valiantly defending what he believed to be the correct version of events, Mr Edu was ultimately forced to eat the humble pie with a sachet of chilled pure water following the exoneration of Mrs. Yinka Johnson, the hapless banker that he vociferously accused of killing the LASTMA official, Hammeed Balogun.

For some time to come, it would be embarrassing for Mr. Edu to stand in front of his boss, Governor Babatunde Fashola, who henceforth will be wise to take his claims with a pinch of salt and an assortment of other soup condiments.

But the fault was not entirely his. He probably did no wrong to believe what his men on the field told him.

When the first wave of doubt was cast on the LASTMA version of what transpired on that sad day that Mr. Balogun lost his life, he probably had called his men to ask them about the veracity of their claims again, and those ones swore on their great-grandfathers’ graves that they were telling the truth.

But then, the odds were steeply stacked against their version of what transpired. How possible was it for a car to hit someone and not have any dent? That was most unlikely. Even if the vehicle was armoured, there ought to have been some tell-tale signs of impact.

Then, again, there was a picture of the vehicle in question being prepared for towing by LASTMA officials. The towing vehicle was visible in the picture, parked right in front of the banker’s car, with a LASTMA official standing beside it.

This picture put a lie to the claim by Mr. Edu in an official statement that the banker drove away from the scene, and aligned more with the version of the banker that she did not leave the scene with her car.

According to reports, detectives who visited the crime scene for a reconstruction of the incident were hard pressed to correlate LASTMA’s account with what could have possibly transpired on the fateful day. As hard as they tried, they couldn’t see the possibility of LASTMA’s claims.

And lastly, eye-witnesses stepped forward to give account of what they saw, which simply was that a commercial bus popularly called ‘danfo’ hit the gentleman while trying to cross the road after apprehending the banker for one-way traffic violation.

And so it was that Mrs. Johnson escaped the rap of manslaughter that LASTMA desperately tried to pin on her.

This incident highlights what members of the public have always said about the lack of professionalism of many of the LASTMA men on the roads.

Therein lies one of the tragedies of the draconian traffic law in Lagos. You can only make a law this draconian with the assumption that it will be implemented by angels. However, LASTMA men, as we all know, are no angels.

They are members of our self-acknowledged corrupt society who are just trying to earn a living. Like the rest of us, they have children in school who need wear, books and provisions, and who may sometimes fall sick towards the end of the month when the pocket is virtually dry.

They have mothers-in-law with arthritis, aged mothers with diabetes, hypertension or some other ailments requiring consistent funds for maintenance. They have younger ones who want to set up own businesses and need financial support. Above all, they want to one day walk away from chasing after ‘danfos’ and ‘okadas’, and retire into a quiet neighbourhood, tending chickens or pigs.

There is not a very bright prospect of a LASTMA official on a consolidated salary of less than N20,000 rising to all these responsibilities without once or twice wandering off the straight and narrow path of righteousness.

How wise is the move making the minimum fine in a traffic law N20,000 when the majority of those who will implement it do not earn that much legitimately in 30 days of toiling day and night?

And when LASTMA officials publicly derail as they did in the Hameed Balogun/Yinka  Johnson case, what does the government do to warn state officials that it would not tolerate flippancy, and less than honourable conduct? The answers blow in the air.


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