Like similar mega cities such as New York, New Delhi, Tokyo and Beijing, Lagos equally has to grapple with enormous challenges as it relates to maintenance of law and order. Lagos’ rising population brings with it, huge socio-economic challenges which make governance a tough call in the State.
It is a known fact that the Lagos State Government has continued to make massive investment into the upgrading of existing infrastructure across the State. However, being a cosmopolitan city with a growing population, the attitude of recalcitrant motorists as well as a penchant for environmental abuse among residents are some of the factors that pose serious threat to the whole-some growth and development of the City-State.
Road traffic offences, in particular, are quite prevalent in Lagos. Flagrant disobedience of traffic rules and regulations is especially widespread among recalcitrant commercial bus drivers, ‘Okada’ riders and motorists. Despite provision of designated bus stops and lay byes constructed all over the state by government. Commercial bus drivers with no regard for the law, continue to pick and drop passengers as they so desire, thereby impeding the free flow of traffic. This consequently leads to needless traffic gridlocks on our roads and loss of man-hours, with resultant effects on the socio-economic lives of the residents.
Universally, no society thrives on disorderliness and other such irresponsible acts. Any society that disregards law and order cannot attain much growth and development. It is the responsibility of every government to enforce law and order in the society. This helps to prevent anarchy and provides for a peaceful and just society.
It is on this basis that the Mobile Courts, five (5) in all, were inaugurated in Lagos State on Friday, February 5, 2016 by the State Attorney General, Mr Adeniji Kazeem and the Chief Judge, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade. The introduction of the Mobile Courts is one of the ways the State Government planned to ensure the preservation of civility, as a culture in the society. The Courts were inaugurated with a mandate to carry out on- the- spot trial of traffic as well as environmental offenders and mete out immediate punishments to those convicted. This also forms part of the reform agenda of Government to fast track Justice Delivery and in the long run, decongest the Courts and the Lagos Prisons.
The operation of the Mobile Court as the name connotes, is a court on the move. For now, there are five Mobile Court Buses in operation with five different Magistrates presiding over the Courts. Aside the Magistrates, the Mobile Courts have other personnel who work together as a team. These are the Court Registrar, a Prosecutor from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), a Defence Counsel from Office of the Public Defender(OPD), an Accountant and 2 Police Officers, for the protection of the Court while on the move and while sitting at any location. The Mobile Court sits or adjudicates on cases/matters brought before it by Officials of the Special Offences Task Force.
Before the Mobile Court moves out on its daily operation, a detachment of policemen from the State Task Force with Paramilitaries and LASTMA Officers are deployed to the Mobile Court for enforcement of the Road Traffic Law, Illegal street trading and other laws contained in the Schedule to the Special Offences Court Law Caps S8 Laws of Lagos State 2015. The main goal of having the compliment of these security agents is to ensure the safety and protection of the Mobile Court officials.
After each Court sitting, where fines are awarded the offender (defendant), proceeds to the designated Bank for payment and if it is community service, Offender is directed to the Officers from the Community Service Department of the Ministry of Justice.
The Mobile Court has no doubt contributed to making Lagos metropolis a sane and orderly City to live in. According to the State Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem, the Court since inception has had Four Thousand, Four Hundred and Twenty–Six (4,426) offenders arraigned before it. The Court, working in partnership with other enforcement agencies like KAI and LASTMA has been able to successfully reduce street trading and traffic gridlocks, occasioned by unethical / anti-social conducts of recalcitrant motorists and Commercial bus drivers as well as environmental nuisances, thereby improving the socio-economic well-being of the residents of Lagos State.
However, it must be stressed that the Lagos State Mobile Court initiative is by no means meant to dehumanize law abiding residents as it was initially misunderstood by some members of the public. It was essentially a creation of necessity created to make life more meaningful and comfortable for all residents of the State.
It is true that there have been complaints by some aggrieved individuals on the mode of operation of the Mobile Court and the over bearing attitude of a few of its officials. However, members of the public need to be reassured that such complaints have not gone unattended. In fact, such feedback from residents is most welcome, as it would serve to further deepen the fine tuning of the operational system in order to provide better service delivery to the people of Lagos State.
To build an orderly society that we all can be proud of, Lagosians, and indeed Nigerians must come to term with the need to respect and uphold the laws of the land. Circumventing rules that are meant to entrench orderliness in the society is, to say the least, counterproductive and will do no one, any good.
The urgent task before every Lagos resident, therefore, particularly at this time, when Lagos State is celebrating its 50th year anniversary since it was created, is to ensure that our “Centre of Excellence”, the State of Aquatic Splendour does not become a centre of anarchy. The time for all to embrace attitudinal change is now!