Monday, 14 December 2015

Military personnel’s violation of traffic laws

CONTEMPTUOUS of civil authority as ever, Nigerian military personnel have continued to betray their disrespect for the laws of the country.
In no area is this anomaly more pronounced than in the manner they flagrantly disobey basic traffic rules. Recently in Lagos, some Nigerian Army officers, including Dickson Okpor, a Major, were caught driving on the Bus Rapid Transit lane on Ikorodu Road, which is against the law. This is wrong. It taints the military institution.

According to Punch breaches of this nature are widespread among our soldiers. They point to the crude tendencies of some military personnel, glaring in their inability to subordinate themselves to the laws of the country. According to media reports, Okpor’s action triggered chaos. Not only did he resist arrest by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority officials, other motorists – including a female banker – exploited the Major’s indiscretion, joining him in the BRT lane.

 This caused a gridlock on the reserved lane. Resisting arrest, even by a military man, is a crime. In the United Kingdom, it is an offence for an officer to resist arrest or obstruct the police from carrying out their duties. According to the UK Armed Forces Act 2006, the offence is punishable with a two-year jail term. In Norway, the punishment could be up to three months in jail.

However, the Okpor matter was exacerbated when a senior Army officer, L.A. Bello (a lieutenant-colonel), reached the scene. He prevented the law from taking its course by ordering a reinforcement of troops, who stormed the scene and assaulted LASTMA officials. This is shameful, and even criminal. The military promotes aggression towards the civil populace without just cause on the roads, blaring sirens, chastising motorists with horsewhips and bullying drivers who want to enforce their rights. The military’s siege mentality should be reserved for war zones.

Even in the ensuing commotion, other soldiers still joined in the violations as LASTMA officials arrested seven other lawless military personnel, including another Major, identified simply as Nayogo, and Mohammed, a sergeant, moments after the incident. 

A society thrives when there is observance of the law. Thus, the military authorities have to come down hard on such hooliganism. An officer who finds it difficult to subject himself to civil laws is a risk to a military organisation because he may not be persuaded to obey his superiors in critical situations. 

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, and the General Officers Commanding, in whose jurisdictions these flagrant contraventions of traffic and other civil laws occurred, should address the matter holistically.

The consequence of the inaction of past military commanders is evident in the polity. In July 2014, soldiers went berserk on Ikorodu Road, Lagos, stopped the BRT buses and burnt down some, while assaulting motorists. They cited the death of their colleague, whose corpse was found near his motorcycle on the BRT lane, as their excuse. 

But a Lagos State tribunal of enquiry on the incident, set up by Babatunde Fashola, who was then the governor, indicted military personnel from the 9th Brigade, Ikeja Cantonment, Lagos, for the mayhem. It concluded that the soldier, who did not wear a helmet as recommended by law, died after he hit a stationary (broken down) BRT bus with his motorcycle. If he had obeyed the law, perhaps his life would have been saved.

In July 2012, Fashola had apprehended a Colonel, K.I. Yusuf, and a Staff Sergeant, A.J. Adeomi, for driving on the BRT lane. Fashola had lamented, “Those officers that I caught today are very bad examples for the military. I don’t use the BRT lane, I sit in traffic and I expect everyone who wants to drive his car to do same.”

Equally horrific is the treatment military men mete out to the police, who are in charge of internal security. 

Because of this, there have been intermittent clashes between personnel of the two organisations. Though these confrontations sometimes become deadly, they are often swept under the carpet, with the police usually coming off worse. In a deadly incident in 2005, soldiers from Abalti Barracks sacked the nearby police station in Ojuelegba, Lagos, over a minor disagreement between a soldier and policemen. The soldiers burnt down the station and the police barracks. Four people died and 60 vehicles were razed to the ground in the orgy of vandalism.

In June 2011, soldiers turned Ikorodu Road to a theatre of war after policemen arrested and impounded the vehicles of two military personnel for the BRT lane violation. The soldiers involved mobilised their colleagues, who stormed the scene and subjected the police team to beatings and humiliation. 
In the same year, soldiers suspected to be from the 432 Battalion in Badagry, Lagos, ambushed and killed Salihu Samuel, the Divisional Police Officer of Badagry Police Station, the Divisional Crime Officer, Samson Okedusi, and four others. 

The soldiers were retaliating against the death of their colleague. The soldier died when the smugglers’ vehicle he was escorting while in a mufti was shot at by a policeman for resisting arrest after a traffic offence. 

This kind of persistent insubordination is tolerated only in a failing polity, where the rule of the jungle -instead of the rule of law -is entrenched, and the military lead in breaking the law with impunity. To make for a better society, the military should henceforth be subjected to the same rules as civilians. 

The military authorities should review the rules of engagement for soldiers in civil situations. Officers who issue orders that lead to criminal breach of the law must be held accountable. 

This is what happens in the US military, where an order from a commander to a subordinate to commit a crime is unlawful, and could be disobeyed. It is time to implement rules that accord with global standards.

1 comment:

  1. The military are above the law,no need sweating it.the traffic law was implemented for we the civilians and not them.