The present Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is acknowledged to have contested election and ascended to power on the tripod objectives of improving security, fighting corruption and rebuilding the economy. This necessitates the ambitious effort to fill every existing gap in the hitherto ineffective ways of managing government businesses and strengthening existing policies and laws to match national developmental goals. Among the obvious visions gasping for breath and demanding quick intervention which perfectly align with the above government objectives is the Traffic Warden Service (TWS) which needs urgent resuscitation.
Established by the Decree No 21 of 1975 to among other responsibilities control traffic in our urban areas and cities as well as generate rev- enue for government from road network across the country, the TWS impeccably fits well into the ambitious manifesto of the present regime.
For instance, TWS takeover of the traffic man- agement and control from the police is supposed to tremendously free a good number of police- men and make more personnel available to con- centrate on their core responsibility of fighting crime which is gradually taking over the country in the form of armed robbery, kidnapping, ban- ditry, terrorism etc
Similarly, properly engaging the TWS in its mandate of generating revenue from the road net- work is expected to boost the revenue profile of government and reflate the economy while its expertise in traffic control will at the same time usher in a new dawn in the sub-sector that we see to reduction in man hour commuters spend on traffic gridlock thereby enabling the city population to get to their destination much faster and increase productivity. Strictly speaking, time is money.
Anyone who has visited Nigerian cities like Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, Port-Harcourt or Onitsha will no doubt attest to the excruciating pains and huge losses people encounter when they spend lengthy hours on traffic and the need to develop efficient traffic management system which the traffic warden holds the ace.
On the anti-corruption benefits of getting the traffic warden properly engaged in their functions.
It is a common knowledge that excessive interface of our police personnel to vehicle control especially in area of traffic management has drastically exposed the bad eggs in the force to the habits of demanding and collecting bribes which undermines their integrity.
Instances abound where combined impact of bribery; compromise of duty and the resultant abuse of traffic regulations by cab drivers and other road users have given rise to dread- ful gridlock we see in most cities.
This is why in the last 18 years, a non-governmental organisation, NGO by the acronym VANC- TRAWACT has been on the driver’s seat in fighting for the cause of this relegated, neglected, and almost moribund and severely marginalized Federal Government established paramilitary organisation.
Indeed, it is the belief of the NGO that whatever that is worth doing at all is worth doing well and that what is good for goose is good for the gander. An organization established by law with well-defined mandates and staffed with well trained and ambitious personnel should not be allowed degenerate into oblivion.
It is unfortunate In spite of the excellent roles it is supposed to be playing in the socio-economic life of the nation, the TWS has been allowed to remain a parasitic organisation, virtually unknown, unheard of, severely exploited and oppressed to abysmal opprobrium that has robbed the service of a level playing ground with its peers in other Para-military organization or generally in public service.
Those familiar with TWS will realise that they are even mocked with the name ‘Yel- low fever’ ostensibly because of the misery they are undergoing. In fact, to appreciate what led to the present state of affairs in the TWS, it is resourceful to understand the following developmental trajectory:
The TWS was established originally to takeover the intra-city road traffic control function from Nigeria Police. This was at a time the country was experiencing the oil boom and highs influx of vehicles flooding the nation’s intra-city roads combining with the attendant negative effect of geometric rise in crime wave and other anti-social activities, beyond what the Nigeria Police could cope with, in addition to maintaining the road traffic control functions.
It therefore became reasonable for the federal government to come up with a policy to get the Police focused on crime prevention, internal security of lives and property and the prosecution of criminals and, set-up a separate Organization to handle the road traffic control service in the country.
Essentially, the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing that conceived the idea to establish the TWS had the vision to use it to have firmer control of the revenue generated daily from the roads that was allegedly unaccountable and unremitted hence ending up in private pockets of some bad eggs in police.
According to Federal Ministry of works and housing, the income that is supposed be ploughed into the maintenance of the vast net- work of federal roads that cut across the length and breadth of the country. The TWS therefore has the road traffic control and revenue generation as her dual-primary functions to contend with.
By implication, there was transfer of the road traffic control function forthwith to the Traffic Warden Service from the Nigeria Police. That also infers that the Federal Government wanted to create division of labor, inject specialization and uphold professionalism in Nigeria Police particularly and other Paramilitary Organizations in the country in general.
Consequently, with the establishment of the TWS, the Nigeria Police were supposed to have vacated the road, more so, after training and transferring the needed experience to the new organization. But, that never came to be.
Police had continued to subsume the TWS as an inferior unit under its command. Apparently, the Police are uncomfortable with the establishment of the TWS and see it as a threat to the huge revenue they were exposed to collecting from commercial Vehicle Operators and other Road Users on daily basis. It also means that, the Police have to inevitably loss the traffic department, considered as goldmine, to the warden service.
As expected of any organisation about to los- ing valuable asset, the negative perception, suspicion and unhealthy rivalry that ensued made police deploy all sorts of administrative strategies to tactically influence the conscription of Traffic Wardens to remain with and work under Nigeria Police authority, as an appendage and dependent organisation, rather than allow them to operate separately as an entity of its own.
The advocates and planners of this all important policy have all been silenced while the underlying objectives of grooming TWS as a government policy have been disillusioned.
What we are seeing today is that government has completely lost sights of the Service it established and handed over to police for training. As a result, the TWS is not provided with the necessary Leadership structures and other incentives to grow it effectively or root the Service firmly on ground.
Like the colonial masters and their help- less subject, 46 years on the line, the Traffic Warden Service remains perpetually an appendage and wholly dependent on the Police.
The Traffic Warden Service is still crippling without officially appointed Leadership in place. No office accommodation, no budget allocation, no logistics supply, no career progression.
All available opportunities opened for Wardens to excel and enhance their potentials in the public service and the pur- poses for which they are establishment have been overlooked.
–Apla is a public affairs commentator and writes from Abuja