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Is auctioning vehicles belonging to traffic offenders the right choice?

In videos going viral on Twitter, men and women wail as they watch their cars auction for cheap prices over traffic violations. On Thursday, about 134 vehicles belonging to traffic offenders seized by the Lagos State Task Force were auctioned at very cheap prices at the task force’s yard in Ikeja. The Guardian, in a post on Twitter, showed a video of a man crying as his car was auctioned for less than ₦400,000.

As noted by The Cable, bidders stormed the venue to register, inspect and bid on a variety of vehicles, including minibuses and cars at the “derelict and abandoned vehicle” auction.

According to Vanguard, Chief Inspector of Police Sola Jejeloye said the vehicles had been seized by the state task force for violating traffic rules and regulations, especially for driving against the flow of traffic. Then, after a trial, the Magistrate Court forfeited the offenders’ vehicles to the government for auction.

Some people have commented on the auction calling it draconian, mean, bad and bad. Others say that people who drive against traffic or generally disobey traffic rules should be prepared to take the punishment imposed on them.

Let’s look at what the law says. For people who ignore traffic directions or drive in a direction prohibited by the traffic law, they risk 1-3 years in prison (depending on whether they are the first or second time offenders) and confiscation of the vehicle to the state.

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Those who disobey the traffic control personnel will pay N20,000 – N30,000 (depending on whether they are the first or second offender) and risk having their vehicle impounded.

Motorcyclists who do not have a licence, drive against traffic, on the curb, median strip or on road mishaps will pay N20,000 – N30,000 (depending on whether they are the first or second offender) or risk having their motorcycle is seized.

The law has been clear and so far the penalty is proportionate to the offense. However, there are many things to consider when talking about obeying the traffic rules in Lagos. Many motorists have complained about a lack of adequate signage and poor signage indicating a wrong or right turn in certain parts of Lagos.

In Ikeja, for example, motorists complain about faulty signposts that indicate which exit to take. It’s the same in some parts of Mushin. In the Marina and Lagos Island market, many people have complained about the lack of signage on one-way streets, leaving motorists unsure whether they are passing the correct route or not.

Many road signs are also unclear, faded and broken. Before the government can punish people for doing the wrong thing, it is important to make sure that every effort is made to do the right thing. It’s a different story if a civilian sees a clear sign and still ignores the order, it’s a different story if a civilian is unaware that that place is a one-way street or not a U-turn.

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Another thing that people have complained about is that LASTMA officials instruct them to pass certain routes, or park in certain places to turn around and accuse them of breaking the traffic rules, arrest them and ask that they they pay a fine. Some LASTMA officials will also see that you are about to take a wrong turn, instead of giving you a signal, they will watch and wait for you to fall into their trap and then pounce on you like prey. This is their own way of making money: accusing road users of an offense and then extorting them.

People have also accused LASTMA officials of quickly arresting motorists when their cars break down on the road, rather than helping out. Since when is a car breakdown illegal? When drivers refuse to pay, they are accused of breaking traffic rules and their cars are confiscated.

Such problems should be investigated. You cannot continue to arrest, seize and auction cars while your officials are running amok and chasing motorists. Or when government officials are even the biggest traffic offenders. Soldiers, police officers and political elites drive against traffic and break traffic rules with total disregard for other road users. Are their cars up for auction? Or does this rule only apply to ‘ordinary people’?

This is not an appeal to Lagosians to be unruly while driving. We see it every day in Lagos. People Overspeeding even on bumpy roads and bus drivers driving without brakes and endangering the lives of the passengers. An average danfo driver does not take traffic rules into account.

If not found reversing in the wrong place, they will climb sidewalks. People also refuse to indicate when turning. In Lagos everyone seems to be in a hurry, and many motorists don’t care about traffic rules or not.

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They won’t even wait for pedestrians to cross the road in designated places; “are you a zebra?” If you fall into this category, please stop. You endanger the lives of other road users if you break the traffic rules. Many people have been killed or disabled by reckless drivers.

Yes, there is an issue that needs to be addressed, but we still need to ask ourselves whether actions like auctioning cars are just not draconian. Is the law supporting these actions justified? Do they really solve the problems or is it just a powerflex?


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