The Lagos State Government on Monday defended the enforcement method of its Special Offences Task Force, which favours the removal of number plates of erring drivers over clamping down and towing of vehicles.
The government also denied allegations of highhandedness against officials of the task force and those of the Special Offences Tribunal (Mobile Court), describing the coterie of complainants on social media as hypocritical and manipulative.
In a statement jointly issued by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, and the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, the government said it was within the purview of the traffic law enforcement officers to identify violators of traffic laws and have them booked and tried according to the peculiarities of their offences without having to clamp their tires or tow the vehicles.
The new method being adopted by the task force, particularly for illegal parking of vehicles or obstruction of traffic, according to the statement, simply involves capturing the offence on video, removing the number plate of the vehicles and putting a branded sticker on the windshield of the car to inform the owner/driver of such cars about their offence and invitation for trial at the Special Offences Mobile Court which may be sitting at any proximate local Government office or at the Special Task Office at Alausa in Ikeja.
It added that the Task Force is authorised under the Lagos State Road Traffic Law of 2012 as well as the Special Offences Court established by the Special Offences Court Law Cap S8 Laws of Lagos State 2015.
“The technique that has been adopted by the task force is in line with international best practices which prefers issuance of tickets to erring offenders over clamp downs or towing of vehicles that do not only cost both the government and erring drivers money but also clogs public spaces where such vehicles would have been kept,” the statement said.
It added that once the offender honours the invitation for trial, where a magistrate presides over the proceedings, the offender is usually presented with a video evidence of the offence before he or she is charged. A fine or a community service is then imposed if the offender pleads guilty. But if the offender chooses to put up a defence and is without a defence counsel, he or she will be entitled to the services of a lawyer from the Office of the Public Defender at no cost.
The statement stresses that the essence of this exercise is not to engage in unwholesome revenue drive as being erroneously peddled in certain quarters but to deter violations of the traffic laws “which is why community service is often preferred for the offenders so that they can become advocates of the laws which seek to bring sanity to Lagos State roads and instill a sense of responsibility in drivers and car owners, particularly the elites who think they are above the law.”
It said while the government would not relent in its vaunted method of adequately sensitising the public before embarking on enforcements, it added that ignorance is not an excuse in law and perceived inadequacies in car park provisions by frequently used establishments like banks, malls and eateries does not give car owners an excuse to park on the kerb or main roads thereby obstructing traffic.
For the avoidance of doubt, the statement said parking on the kerb or walkways or outside the premises where the driver has come to transact business in a manner that either obstructs traffic or constitutes illegal use of public space is a violation of the law and could attract a fine of N20,000 or a community service after a documentary evidence has been presented to the offender.