Olawale Musa is the General Manager of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority. He had a Bachelors degree in Chemistry and Masters in Business Administration. Mr. Olawale is a man who has paid his dues. He has worked and served in the different post. He once worked as a Hospital Secretary. He was a Director of Finance and Administration Office of Special Adviser of Taxation and Revenue and he was also the Private Secretary to the Governor of Lagos State before he became the General Manager of LASTMA.
Two weeks ago, City People’s trio, Tajudeen Adigun, ISAAC ABIMBADE and Photographer, JIMMY ABDURASHEED paid him a courtesy visit at his office, where he opened up on how he runs the affairs of LASTMA as the GM. He also spoke on yellow buses and other Germaine issues. Enjoy.
Can we get to know you, sir?
Olawale Musa is my name, the General Manager LASTMA.
Tell us some of the activities revolving round your office as General Manager of the organisation?
Our activities is to control traffic; Our activities involves different scenarios. As the General Manager, you monitor the activities of your men, you also monitor traffic on the road, then you also relate with the public; you have correspondences, requests, complaints and you have to find solution to each problem. Basically, that’s what I can say.
How quick is the response to the complaints made by the public when they are being ‘harrased’?
Don’t say harrass, its relative! Yesterday, I was in a place where somebody was passing one-way, my staff told him to turn back and he was shouting at my staff. I had to intervene. That person would see it as harrassment, do you know why? Because they pass that one way everyday; so the day LASTMA Officer comes there, he feels that why should LASTMA Officer come and stop him from doing what they normally do. So, he might term it as harrassment. And if you look at it well, many of us don’t want to obey the rules, we don’t want to obey laws.
So, when you are compelled to obey law, you can term it as harrassment. But when we have complaint, it depends on how we want to handle it; we might want to investigate, we might want to monitor our staff; we have the monitoring and surveillance unit. They will monitor and see the genuines of the complaints. We also have another unit that can arrest our men on the road. So, we invite the complaint. We invite the Officer they complained about because we need to balance the two. Generally, we are quick to respond to complaints.
Could it be because of absence of sign post or inadequate information as regards people plying one way?
No. Lagos/Ibadan Expressway for example, you know which way is heading to Ibadan and you know which way is heading to Lagos and you know the way come from Ibadan. If you are on the other side of the road you are not suppose to be, its definitely one way. You don’t need signs for that. We can’t put signs on every road. People tend to day there is no sign at a particular place but people don’t just want to follow the rules.
What if somebody is coming to Lagos for the first time?
Traffic rules is universal. If you go to Ibadan today, if you are on the roundabout, you must wait for the traffic on your left but here in Lagos, you don’t. So, that Ibadan man will now come to Lagos and says he doesn’t know the rules! Traffic rules are universal.
Tell us more about yourself?
I have a degree in Chemistry and Masters in business Administration. I joined the service 25 years ago. I have traversed different sectors; I was in the education sector, health but I am a Human Resources Manager. Basically, that is what I do as GM of LASTMA. I am not a Traffic Officer, I manage the human resources of the office and men on the field. I have held different post.
Why do you ask people to provide his/her tax clearance after he or she has paid the fines?
Tax is compulsory for everyone that works and if you have a vehicle, its assumed that you earn a living. It’s just a means of assisting the government if they have been taxed because the road you put that your vehicle, some people pay for that road. It’s a way of assisting government to collect revenue people are suppose to pay.
Sometimes, if you commit offence, we don’t fine you, I have done it severally. If the offence is not too grievious, we will let you go but we still have to make money for government. And whatever money will generate will not come to LASTMA, it goes to government. We don’t have control over the money.
What are you putting in place to check the abnormalities among the yellow buses drivers?
The basic functions of LASTMA is to control traffic. The problem of the yellow buses is a general problem; they are not the only one committing offences; if you go on BFT lane, you will pick 10 vehicles and seven are private driven. If you go where you have traffic light and people beat traffic light, seven are private. So, it’s a general problem. Its a societal menace. That’s why you see a proper young man who drive yellow buses would start driving mad, it is because it is in him. It’s something he grew up with. So, the problem on the road it’s a societal thing. When we all decide we want free of traffic, we will have it. When we all decide that we will obey laws, we will have a good country.
Is there a way you can re-orientate them on how to be good drivers?
Yes, we do meet with them. We talk to them. We try as much as we can to educate them; you all listen to traffic radio, listen to LTV. We keep complaining and educating. We have several social media, facebook pages, twitter pages and the likes where we educate them. But these people don’t even look at signs on the roads and you want to educate them! So, it is a bit complex. Like I said, it’s a societal thing; naturally we don’t want to obey rules. Nigerians, Lagosians don’t want to obey rules and that is why you see people want to resist when LASTMA tries to make sure people obey the rules. Everybody wants to resist obeying the rules. The Danfo driver that stops to pick passenger where he suppose not to. Those passengers are also guilty. If a LASTMA Officer attempts to apprehend that vehicle he is contending with 18 passenger, plus conductor and driver. All these people on one LASTMA Officer. And none of them will ever support the LASTMA Officer. When the vehicle is passing one-way, there are passengers in the bus now?
That type of attitudinal or hostile attitude, is not spurred by the law enforcement agency because they are easily compromised; knowing quite well they have a price?
I don’t agree with you. I will not compromise. I, Olawale Musa will not compromise. Even sometimes when I am not in uniform and I ask them to turn back they always turn back they attack me. They wouldn’t know if I was a LASTMA GM. Is that a matter of compromise? It’s a matter of attitude. We don’t want to obey the laws.
Yes, we don’t have perfect system anywhere in the world. We have corrupt officers. Yes, we could have them but I don’t believe it’s a matter of compromise, but the type of people we are.
What other punishment can you adopt to curb this menace caused by yellow buses drivers?
Let me answer the question like this; passing a BRT lane is 20,000 naira. When you fine them, the same person will still be on the BRT lane the following day. So, we now add obstruction of 70,000 naira and you don’t get your vehicle till following day to punish them. So, those are some of the things we put in place. But at the end of the day, you now see people calling you; an offender will now go and meet a ‘big man’ and he would now be calling you and when you don’t answer him you will offend him. That is the kind of society we found ourselves.
When you have the effrontery to be asking for help for somebody who has committed offence; somebody that passed BRT lane where the Governor of Lagos will not pass, where I will not pass, where the Commissioner of Police will not pass. This is the type of society we are. It’s a societal problem.
People encourage corruption. Corruption does not necessarily means I collect money on the road. Corruption of the mind: corruption of the mind is an issue because you believe you can go away with anything.
The truth is that, those yellow buses are going to go. There is a programme on ground but I believe that by the time they go, things will be fine. But it might take 3 years because we can’t just take all of them at once; it’s going to be gradual. It’s going to be a gradual process but those buses had to go. So, new people that we will bring will have new orientation. Those red buses (LAG-BUS), if they commit offence we don’t run after them. When you commit offence, we will just take your photo, we don’t need to run after them. But those yellow buses, some of them are not registered. And some of the plates no are fakes. We have discovered them. We have one that the plate numbers on it belongs to somebody in Port Harcourt. So, those are the problems we have on the roads. We also have the system where somebody offend and we have to cease the vehicle because we can’t locate you. We shouldn’t apprehend the vehicle, we should have sent the (fines) to your house but your house address and your vehicle doesn’t tally. So, we are forced to pick the vehicle and take it to our yard. Our yard is full already.
You strongly believe that taking the yellow buses out of the roads will bring sanity. Is that not so?
What I am saying is that, it’s the beginning of sanity and it won’t be total. If you stop any how where you are not suppose to stop, I don’t need to run after you, I just take your photograph and your number plate with evidence, I send it to your office. By the time you pay today, your pay next tomorrow, you will comport yourself. Sanity starts from there and our people will start going to bus stops to board buses, and buses will go to bus-stop to carry passengers.