In the Pentecostal world, One of the attributes of a practitioner of the faith is that you have to be “born again”. You have to be a new creature. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:17).
These words of the new church of Christ comes readily to mind with the commissioning last week of the revamped Edo State Traffic Control and Management Agency (EDSTMA) by the Benin Monarch, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II.
Yours sincerely was privileged to attend the ceremony put together by the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki and attended by his deputy, the Rt Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu and other dignitaries in the state. The inauguration of the revamped EDSTMA by Oba Ewuare 11 was not only symbolic but it carries both the power of tradition and the seal of government at the highest levels in the state.
This has so much implication for management and officials of the agency, as nothing short of the best is expected of them. The Oba on his part charged them to be committed to their jobs, noting that Benin City has always had a well designed layout of roads; feeder roads, streets and lanes since pre-colonial times, and added that over the years, the increase in vehicular movement coupled with bad roads and poor traffic management, resulted in chaotic traffic situations, made worse by some motorists with a penchant for disregarding traffic rules.
He equally warned that “the officials of EDSTMA must not see their appointments as an avenue for enriching themselves by accepting bribes from motorists who may want to undermine traffic rules. I am glad that the government deemed it appropriate to create a Public Complaints Department for the agency, where members of the public can lodge their complaints” and expressed his hope that such complaints will be addressed speedily.
Edo people were further encouraged by the soothing words of Governor Obaseki who posited that “the re-branded EDSTMA is made up of trained men and women who are more civil, operate within the ambit of the law and citizens are to relate with them as such,” assuring that Edo people will not be exploited by officials of the traffic control agency as “there is a Public Complaints Unit that will attend to all the complaints from road users.” The Governor equally noted that “the rebranding of EDSTMA became necessary considering the fact that the state serves as a transportation hub to the country, with heavy vehicular traffic.”
There are many things to take away from the counsel of our revered monarch and charge of our beloved Governor to the new traffic management officials which must not go unheeded. First is the issue of fairness. The born gain EDSTMA must be fair to all motorists in the state. In the past, officials of EDSTMA would jump into any vehicle whose doors are not pinned down and accuse the owners or drivers of any offence they deem fit. They struggle with the drivers and sometimes crashing the vehicles they accuse of violating traffic offence. This type of experience must be seen to be in the old and truly passed away with officials of the revamped EDSTMA. Motorists should be treated with dignity and respect, even traffic violators should be treated with utmost courtesy even when arrested. That is the beauty of the job of the traffic officials. You pamper them to appreciate their offences and lead them courteously to face justice.
The fact that there is a Public Complaints Department from the blast of the whistle this time around is a good omen for the revamped EDSTMA. Authorities of EDSTMA must give officials of this department a free hand to discharge their duties without any form of interference. The Agency must enjoy the confidence of members of the public for it to succeed. Complaints brought by members of the public which are treated with kid’s gloves or levity is capable of ruining the image of the transport agency.
Secondly is the issue of corruption. The born again EDSTMA officials must be above board. They must flee corruption and corrupt practices because that was what spelt the nunc demitis of the old EDTMA. Those ones were rotten from the head and had no respect for members of the public.
Thirdly, the agency must not be the accuser, jury and judge in its own case as was the experience with the old body. EDSTMA must give citizens or suspects the right to fair hearing. If four to five EDSTMA officials pounce on one driver with an accusation and he is not allowed to defend himself in any way, it might lead to miscarriage of justice, impunity and abuse of office. THE EDSTMA Law provides for mobile courts where suspects of traffic offences would be arraigned and if found guilty made to face the law. Suspects, who are mostly citizens of the state who have absolute confidence in the administration of Mr. Godwin Obaseki should always be given fair hearing and the right to get legal services to argue their case, if need be. This, in my considered opinion is the beauty of democracy. The previous practice of EDSTMA officials constituting themselves into the accuser, judge and jury in their own case, and collecting cash, most of which were not being remitted to government constantly pitted the people against the government.
Even with the construction work by our “wake and see Governor” around the city the agency would not have much problems to grapple with in the discharge of their duties as could be compared to the era of bad and horrible roads in the state.
The clear success story as far as the revamped agency is concerned is that it has created employment for the 351 employees by the Obaseki administration in keeping with his promise to create 200,000 jobs in the state. Much more is the fact that most of the employed are young boys and girls with good educational background.
The officials of the revamped EDSTMA must know that their image is now tied to that of the Oba and our Governor. It means that they must not do anything to undermine the integrity of both leaders as they discharge their duties every day.
When the officials hit the streets of Benin last week, it was obvious that The Managing Director of EDTSMA Oloriegbe Dennis Ade has started on a very good note as there were commendation from members of the public across the state. It was obvious that his promise that the Agency would adopt unique and advance strategies to overcome the challenges that they may face was real and deserves some early commendation.
Motorists, traders and residents in Benin City were full of praises for the Governor and his team for restoring sanity on the roads in the city with the revamped Edo State Traffic Control and Management Agency (EDSTMA) and it is hoped that the agency will carry on with great courage and professionalism as they sojourn along.
It is only important that authorities of the agency should ensure the training and re-training of Officers and men of EDSTMA to empower them with the right skills to discharge their duties with utmost civility and decency. They also need anti-graft trainings to avoid giving government a bad name through corrupt tendencies.
• Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State.