Why you should NEVER drive ‘one-way’ in Nigeria

one way sign 3In 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 



12 thoughts on “Why you should NEVER drive ‘one-way’ in Nigeria

  1. Bribery and corruption, eh? So how does one bribe an official in burgundy and yellow? Is it a subtle palming over of the money or does one wave it around and say “i heard this will get me off the hook?” or is it more… “I hear your son’s birthday is coming up” and slide over the dough? I don’t know that I’d have it in me to bribe someone. Reason being that if you get the wrong cop who does not accept bribes, will that be another nail in your coffin?

    • What tends to happen is that the corrupt official gets into your vehicle and stalls until the you eventually bring up the issue of ‘negotiation’. He’s usually trying to get something for his pocket in private so that his nearby colleagues don’t know exactly how much he has to share with them. Alas, motorists driving by know exactly what is going on when they see a car parked by the side of the road with one driver and one front seat passenger dressed in yellow and burgundy (and now you do too, lol).

      ‘…get the wrong cop who does not accept bribes’ – yet to see one!

      • HAHA you are such a cynic! I’m sure there is at least one non-corrupt cop out there! lol. Have you seen Serpico? (except it’s pronounced with a New Yawk accent – Soipiko…) it’s about corruption in the police force years back.

        • Goodwill hunting in progress, lol. I’ve heard of Serpico but I never thought it was about corrupt cops – I thought it was a sci-fi movie about an iminent alien invasion (that’s the cynic talking again 🙂 ) Will put it on my to watch list and put my feedback on this thread in the near future, thanks!

  2. Yikes! this is scary! an unmarked road could get you a jail sentence and a record for being a psycho ? Do people therefore creep around corners hesitantly a few meters checking frantically which way the traffic is headed with their hands on the gear lever for instant change into reverse should the situation look iffy?
    Guess what, one thing is for certain… i’m not driving in Nigeria any time soon!!

  3. Pingback: Why You Should NEVER Drive ‘One-Way’ In Nigeria | greenlight

  4. I’m new to the driving game and I haven’t gotten enough confidence to move onto the main roads because of these guys! They creep my out! Al my fiends have different tales about them.

  5. A friend once told me how she refused these louts entry into her car and they detained her at the point for over one hour! They couldn’t get in; she couldn’t drive off. Stalemate, if ever there was one! They finally let her go after she had fried their heads off with some legal jargon. That certainly took some doing, but they did let her go! Trust Nigerians!

    • I did a similar thing when I was stopped for not having a road worthiness certificate – I mean seriously, how many drivers have those??? Anyway, I kept the guy frustrated for about 45 mins and when he realized that I was occupying valuable hostage space he returned my driver’s licence and let me go. Clown!

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