In Nigeria, the expression ‘driving one-way’ actually means to drive in the wrong direction on a street that is
deliberately usually not marked as a one-way street. The consequence of this action is that you would have committed a serious traffic offence, be forced to pay a hefty fine and risk being evaluated by a psychiatrist as being mentally ill. Make no mistake about it, you may not want to drive in unfamiliar territory within Nigeria after reading this revealing article.
Last year the Lagos government passed a bill which meant that traffic offenders could get as much as a three-year jail term or N50,000 (approx £200 or $300) for driving in the wrong direction. First time offenders would get a measly one-year jail term. Now let that just sink in for a minute – if a tourist in Lagos unknowingly drives his rental car in the wrong direction on a one-way street, he could be going to jail for 365 days (with no chance of parole). But that’s not close to insane; I’ll get to that part now…
In my previous employment, I overheard a member of staff ranting and raving
like a lunatic because he had just come back from his psychiatric test ( ironic, isn’t it?). As the story unfolded, it turned out that he had committed a one-way offence, got his car impounded at the office of LASTMA (Lagos State Transport Monitoring Agency), was asked to pay a fine of N25,000, take a psychiatric test to confirm his mental state, and finally enroll in a number of compulsory classes to teach him how to drive in the right direction… *rests fingers and checks blackberry* The victim’s ordeal was to last him about two weeks but it would scar him for a lifetime.
This crazy law is a little bit extreme in my candid opinion. I guess the Birthday candle flame philosophy is being applied here – after you allow a toddler to go touch the candle flame on his/her birthday cake he/she will NEVER go near fire again. I can tell you first hand that motorists in Lagos are traumatized by the sight of LASTMA officials. Nobody tries to beat a traffic light on an open road when the boys in
blue yellow and burgundy are in sight. Mobile phones get unexpectedly flung from driver’s ear to passenger’s seat whenever these officials or road safety officials spring up at random checkpoints. Hands free kit sales haven’t picked up but Blackberry Z10s are flying off the shelves at close to N100,000. Hmm…
There’s only one massive loophole the government didn’t consider – offending motorists can get away with ‘greasing the palms’ of these corrupt officials then drive off into the sunset like Thelma and Louise. I’m not proud to say it but that’s the reality at the moment. In some parts of the world, flattery gets you everywhere. In Nigeria, bribery gets you everywhere (and in this case it can get you off the hook!). Issuing warnings or points on driving licences would be more reasonable. Even smaller fines seem less extortionate. I’m all for discipline and keeping our roads safe but if I were to somehow accidentally fail one of those psychiatric tests then the words ‘clinically insane’ would be going into my medical record; and my blog fans probably wouldn’t be the best candidates to get references from…
Psychiatrist: …and how did you say you know this patient?
Blog follower: Well he writes this amazing, funny blog.
Psychiatrist: Really? And what is this blog called?
Blog follower: *Insert awkward moment here*
Related article: Nigerian Police and the Art of Harassment