LASDRI Targets Safer Lagos Roads, mulls expansion of scope

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rs. Afusat Tiamiyu the General Manager Lagos State Drivers Institute (LASDRI), has harped on the importance of free traffic flow and the need for drivers to take caution, so as to ensure the safety of Lagos State motoring public is guaranteed, she also gave an hint on the Institute’s next big leap, which bothers on training partnership for firstline drivers and other noble moves, She spoke with National Daily. Excerpt:

Can we have a background knowledge about your person?

I am a responsible house wife, a diligent civil servant and a determined officer, very friendly accomodating and a goal getter.

How has the journey being thus far knowing fully well that you have put in many years in the public service?

It has been so wonderful, I joined service as a young graduate in the year 1993,then I was a traffic officer saddled with the responsibility of making traffic flow in Lagos State and I have head so many positions there,then it had been a very serious issue, you are coming out in the morning to face motoring public with a lot of issues bothering on how to move the traffic and you know majority of Lagosians then are not ordinarily patient,evesźn i⁰⁰f you are doing the right thing they would still want to challenge you. So the experience back then was a mixed one, we have the bad,the good and the bitter but to the glory of God we are able to sail through that period with positive outcomes.

What is happening relating it to traffic issues,you can’t not treat it in isolation without considering human behaviour and error, had it been all these motorists are doing it right on the roads,we won’t be having issues. The problems that we are facing is human problem if you and your vehicle are okay,if the person behind the wheels is not okay not because they have mental issues or anything but the attitude of Lagosians on the road, who are the major factor are not doing the right thing.

I think that is the main reason why government in its own magnanimity believes that Lagos State Drivers Institute will make a huge difference if put in place, we believe putting drivers through continuous training and retraining yearly could make a kind of readjustment in their behavioural pattern, because if we are not getting it right from the road users, we are still going to be having issues, so in all I think human behaviour informs the problems we are facing on Lagos roads and that is what we are trying to address in the Institute here.

What are the areas of focus in your training programmes and are you in partnership with LASTMA and other agencies,how do you know the specific areas of focus ?

No, we are dealing with professionals not only commercial drivers anybody earning a living through driving job, whether employed by Lagos State Government, Corporate Organisations like banks,companies and commercial drivers are just a fragment of our focus, their’s bothers only on training,any professional driver on Lagos state roads are our major focus.

How do you determine the areas where you think the training should focus on and how do you get statistical data to work with, any synergy with other related agencies?

Let me clarify what we are doing here,we have three major courses that we are offering  here aside other unclassified ones, the first one is enshrined in our law,which says anybody driving to earn a living in Lagos State on daily basis must pass through LASDRI every year, that is called Mandatory Professional Drivers training course for one day in a year that is where we usually address all those identified issues with drivers, first you take them on their responsibility,what is expected of them to do on Lagos roads to make our roads  safe for all road users.

Apart from that we take them on how to drive in different situations maybe it is raining,the way you drive when it is not raining is not the way you are going to drive when it rained,then behaviour, driving etiquette you see some drivers go half naked behind the wheels, some will put on bathroom slippers, some will put on singlet, we have a topic addressing this too that at the end of the trainings the driver will know that they need to be  very responsible citizens. The statement like you are but a common driver should not suffice here, at the end they would have a change of attitude and their behaviour,their dressing and everything about them will change. Trainings that would make them turn a calm person on the road is what we focus on and the issue of good grasp of road sign too because a driver that does not know road sign is a potential danger to him or herself and to other road users.

So we don’t joke with the issue of taking them on road traffic signs. At times apart from interactive sessions we show videos, to let them know that if you see triangular shape this is what it means, it is not only communicated verbally, we have what we call multilingual video that will show them all the signs and interpretations, meanings and what each sign connotes on the roads, so any driver that comes to LASDRI for training will not leave empty handed.

Our core focus is to make sure we develop drivers, just as we are being trained in Alausa yearly to aid capacity building of drivers, we are exposing them to what is required for them to be a better driver that people will not down rate them as ordinary citizens.

Aside that we have the second one which we called Structured Training Programme that is a certificated training program, we have advance,we have for people that are driving emergency vehicles like ambulances,firefighters vehicle even healthcare vehicles,  anybody that is on emergency. The way you are going to manoeuvre while in emergency is different from normal driving, we usually take our time to expose them to all those things,then finally we have the one we call rehabilitation for drivers. That brings us to the partnership thing with LASTMA and other agency, the law expressly stated that LASTMA and VIS are to enforce and here we are not operating outside what the law says, that as a driver if you refused to come for recertification yearly at LASDRI,  such should be given a fine of N10,000 by LASTMA or VIS as enshrined in the law and as a company all this big multinational companies,private companies, if you employ fleet of drivers in your company and you refused to send them for LASDRI retraining and recertification yearly, the law place a fine of N250,000, but here we are not witch hunting anybody or trying to make things difficult for our clients.

We do a lot of visitations at times we visit companies to tell them that, if for one reason or the other they were unable to bring their drivers here we have an on-site training arrangements, we have mobile teams that would leave this place on demand. We have the ICT units, we have training department and corporate affairs all are part of the team that usually goes out and make our facility,training accessible to as many people as possible.

Is the training duration just a day or can it last for more days?

No, mandatory one is only one day but the structured one starts from two days upwards depending on organisations demand, some will tell us that they are not satisfied with the way their drivers are behaving, some might want us to take them for a week or two, it depends on what they demand but the structured training starts from two days and above.

You earlier stated that your scope covers any organisation linked with professional drivers,does it includes school bus drivers?

Yes, let me be more specific I said government and private drivers,  in as much as you live in Lagos or you visit Lagos from neighbouring states and you are driving for a living for you to be on the right side of the law make yourself available for LASDRI training, at the end of the trainings we usually issue if structured – certificate of completion but if mandatory that is one day duration, we issue what we call Lagos State Drivers Institute recertification card which last for a year. By law if you are apprehended we renew it every year and it has been subsidized by Lagos State government, for recertification card after training is N2000,it is a meagre amount compared to the trainings we are giving to them but Lagos State government love everybody and quite sensitive to the plight of the citizenry,you know the THEMES agenda of the present administration is with the first pillar transportation and traffic management of which we are an integral part under ministry of transportation, so we key into the agenda to make sure traffic flow unhindered,we educate drivers so that we won’t be having accidents and challenges plying our roads, people won’t be killed unnecessarily.

Your intermediary role between the people and government how well have you played it, have you been giving feedbacks at and when due as it bothers with the roads users ?

Definitely.

A two in one question here for you,what is the capacity of your agency in a state of 30 million people and what is the level of compliance to elicit patronage from your targeted clients?

I don’t want to mention specific people that are not complying presently as  they don’t default in time past, I don’t know the reason for the change now but majority are compliant, certain categories of people as we are talking now,we are doing everything possible to make them realise that they need to bring their drivers here.

Do you have the required capacity to cover the huge chunk of professional drivers in the state as we speak?

When I assumed office as General Manager here we have five centres in the five divisions in Lagos State; namely Ikorodu, Badagry, Lagos Island,Ikeja and Epe but immediately I entered we increased and improved on what we had, we are expanding now we have annex office at Ikotun Igando LCDA, we opened another one  at Ojodu Berger near the VIS office then at Suara the licensing office there is another one we are operating at Agric in Ikorodu and we have the mindset that we are still going to open more annex offices so that we can expand, you know Lagos is a very large area we want to cover every areas within the confines of the law,we are restricting ourselves to professional drivers but if the law now changes and insist that we train everybody across the divide we have the capability and capacity,our instructors are seasoned. Soon we will be doing capacity training for our staff because what you don’t have you cannot give, we are always thinking outside the box to ensure we compete favourably with what obtains as standard globally.

So what has been the feedbacks from your trainees?

Though I won’t mention the company or organisation they have been sending letters of appreciation to us, that they have seen some kind of changes in their drivers who before often cause accidents on the roads but after LASDRI training their behaviour changes, one of the bosses in the company even confide in us that his driver’s attitude has changed because before he used to gossip alot but after our training he changed, the guy even came here,I was even the one that personally trained him, I told him you need to manage your boss very well, not to go and start exposing confidential information about your boss, do the right thing at the end of the day you are going to enjoy the person, he later came after a year to ask how the said driver was repackaged, that he now reports early to work and stays at assigned points and everything about him has changed. So I believe we could do a lot of things,  the ones we have done we are receiving positive response and at our level here we are not going to rest on our oars to make sure that drivers get the best from LASDRI, it is our call.

With the knowledge of how low our security has sunk in this country,are you giving the drivers training in form of security measures to stall kidnappings and other nefarious activities?

I once told you our advocacy here is safety of lives property of pedestrians and even security, so we often tell our drivers to avoid involvement in anything that can inhibit public peace, that translates to problem for the family and even the country , it is more of an advisory from us not in our curriculum but we are inculcating current trends in what we pass across to them because anyone holding our LASDRI cards we believe such owe us a lot of responsibility. For that reason we use to tell them that that card you are holding is an emblem with which you must not be found wanting, so I tell them often now that the country is not safe so they need to ensure their safety by all means, we have no curriculum on that but because of the present situation we now emphasize more that they need to be security conscious same goes for their vehicle too, it must be maintained very well. We also let them know the importance of checking the vehicle wherever it is packed early in the morning before moving it, maybe somebody may have gone to drop something there.

Different vehicles access Lagos on a daily basis being a metropolitan state, they come from the north,east and even south south, driving within the city without adequate training on how to ply our roads,do you see this as a challenge?

The only time we do have encounter with those ones is only when they are apprehended by LASTMA having committed one traffic offence or the other they do send them for rehabilitation courses, that is the only time we have access to train them as well, so it is not all of them if they are going about their business without committing any offence there is no issue, but immediately they commited an offence they are brought here and we train them.

The challenges is none compliance from our people and I believe we don’t need to start chasing people around to enforce that, we are always on traffic radio to talk, we do jingles to educate people about our activities but I believe we are not relenting. Most of the challenges have been appropriately communicated to our helmsman in the ministry of transportation and prompt actions are in view, I believe very soon when next you come,you won’t have a place to pack your vehicle given the turn out to access our services. Our advocacy is not a one off thing,we have lined up already locations like Mile 2 and other areas where we are taking our advocacy to harping on the needed caution while driving in the rainy season as well as the importance of putting your vehicle in good condition. We are not waiting for them to come but rather taking our services to their door steps. To ensure we have seamless traffic situation and that Lagos is safe for everybody.

Doing this do you also ensure you tighten the loopholes so that your staff are not in anyway compromised?

That is the major challenge that I face when I came in,I saw a lot of loopholes and I told them since government is paying us our salaries as and when due so no corrupt moves is allowed, I use to tell people on our radio programme go to bank pay your money don’t give cash to LASDRI official bring your tellers here and don’t even chunt,  some who come and say they want ‘express’ that is avoiding training but still be get certificate, so insist that LASDRI is not a card issuing centre,LASDRI is a training Institute where you come every year to update your knowledge, improve your driving skills so that by the time you are outside Lagos they see the uniqueness of drivers from Lagos, they are not common,they are professionals.

I use to say driving too is a noble profession as it gives you opportunity to cater for the needs of your immediate families and more such cannot be classed as ordinary.

When I was in LASTMA then we use to clear a lot of accidents scenes daily but now the story have changed,people are calm now,I believe what we are doing is a contributory factor to what obtains on Lagos roads now.

How do you evaluate the impact of your training programmes?

We have monitoring and enforcement unit they often go to companies and corporate organisations to do drivers audit, to assess from the company what observations they have about their drivers after attending our trainings. Through that avenue we have been able to get information that things are getting better compared to what we had in time past. Apart from that we don’t only collaborate with government agencies alone we collaborate with the public like the Driving School Association in Lagos State, not quite long ago we had our safety week, our collaboration with other agencies have been yielding fruitful results for us as an agency and for motoring public.

As the one in charge of LASDRI what are your targets to ensure more efficiency and prompt delivery in your agency? 

There is something big coming up that very soon we are going to blow it open ,that is the concept of firstline drivers training, this means learner drivers.  What we do presently is retraining and recertification, we are not training first line, learner now. God has helped us with our Governor Mr. Babajide Olushola Sanwo-Olu who has graciously approved our driving range that would be of international standard, where LASDRI will be collaborating with driving schools in Lagos State to train firstline drivers. So that one will come up very soon,another thing is that I believe if you can expand so many people will be saved, so we are planning that before I leave this sit we are going to have more centres we have only five at the moment and all the annexes are not standard like our centres,so we have a mind of upgrading, aside that we are going to deploy sophisticated training equipments. I know the Governor is always available and what he wants is greater Lagos, we’ve already keyed into his vision so I believe before I leave this post LASDRI will be the talk of town. Also by then given our activities we are going to see better reduction in traffic accidents owing to drivers education on what to do and what not do, advocacy,training all the times, even if you are stubborn one day you will have a change of mind, that what are this people saying? Let me key into what they want. We are going  to improve on our trainings which will result in reduction of congestion on our roads, accidents and reduction of travel time. At our level here also we are going to contribute to the economic growth of Lagos State.

We are charging drivers especially those whose livelihoods depends on it,not to see driving as a common man’s job,that they should rather see it is as a noble profession that can be passed on to their children, so therefore they should do the needful and be on the right side of the law, which says that if you are driving to earn a living in Lagos state roads you should make yourself available at any LASDRI centres for annual training and retraining, so I want to appeal to motoring public especially professional drivers to come and be part of the moving train as experience is the best teacher, knowledge remains the key to the future once you are equipped and sound, things will be done with less hassle on our roads.

There is what we called simulators which we normally deploy to train people that are here for structured training programmes, then we have seat belt convincer as well it is part of our equipments but after the trainings we take their data with the use of biometric equipment, we do take their finger prints and all that, with finger prints and other biometric data with us they should be very careful because if they go and commit crime or any nefarious act on the road from here they can get them,even if they don’t live in Lagos anymore we will find them to their closet.

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