HOW GOVT AGENCY’S FAULTY POLICY LED TO DEATH OF CITIZEN MICHAEL IN CALABAR
By Ededem Ani
I read with sadness, reports of the gruesome murder of Citizen Michael on the 21st of June, 2019, on the streets of Calabar, in broad day light, by men of the Department of Public Transportation (hereafter called DOPT).
The social media equally, was flush with pictures of the gory scene, most striking of which is the one in which a lady is seen trying to carry Citizen Michael’s broken and bleeding body while pleading for help.
The questions I have struggled with in the last 24 hours are: how does a sane human being deliberately run over another human being with a vehicle and then abandon the victim on the street like a stray dog? How low have we sunk? I shudder when I remember that the perpetrators of this heinous crime, are government officials paid from our commonwealth to ensure our safety and wellbeing.
Alas the worst has happened, Citizen Michael has been killed. A man only trying to eke out a living for himself and his family, which I gather consist of 3 children. Children have been deprived of their father, a wife deprived of her husband. At this point, I must say that I envisaged that this would happen.
I had seen it coming, and I imagined it even worse. My vision of death by DOPT came to me, when I saw pictures and read reports of the current head of DOPT, chaining pedestrian gates leading into the Watt Market under the guise of stopping street hawking. I immediately realized that the fellow had no clear strategy in combating the issue he was faced with. I remember telling someone that, that move was a knee jerk approach to problem solving which would not end well.
The locking of the pedestrian gates at Watt market to my mind constituted a hazard and raised a fear in my mind, that if there were to be an emergency in the market, for instance a fire, there would be serious casualties as there would not be enough exits for traders and their customers to exit in a safe and orderly manner.
I also failed to see how locking the gates would stop street trading/hawking along that axis. At that point I knew that the new head of DOPT had (and continues to demonstrate that he has) no clear policy and strategy to execute the mandate given to him.
The events of Friday 21st June , 2019 leading to the death of Citizen Michael is a result of the clear and manifest lack of vision, strategy, direction and policy thrust of today’s DOPT.
The DOPT of today, is a far cry from the DOPT of old which enforced traffic discipline, provided policy frame work for the now defunct Blue Metro urban transport service, implemented the road maintenance Levy Law, which raked in Hundreds of Millions of Naira for the state Government in internally generated revenue.
The vision and policy thrust of the DOPT of old led to the conceptualization of the Multi Modal Transport Interchange. A Public Private Partnership Project, which had attracted the interest of an Israeli company (BARAN) which committed funds, having been adjudged the preferred bidder.
In actual fact the concept led to the passing of the Greater Calabar City Law, so the state government could better manage the forecasted cascading effect of the Multi Modal Transport Interchange upon its completion and commissioning. Those are the heights DOPT attained in the not too distant past, barely 5 years ago.
I have drawn this comparison to enable us (especially the current holder of office) understand that, issues do not have to be handled and tackled in a militant way, with whips, guns, DOPT vehicles, thugs and violence. People are now calling for the scrapping of DOPT, I do not agree. DOPT has real potential as evidenced by its past feats, the person in the Driver’s seat only has to see that potential and harness it for the good of the citizenry. The Death of Citizen Michael should never have occurred, but now that it has, it should not be in vain. The new head of DOPT should use this opportunity to go back to the drawing board and re-strategize, draw up people oriented policies to combat issues and sensitize and engage the people these policies are targeted at( that is how a sane and normal society operates). Nobody has the monopoly of wisdom, so where he is not clear he should seek clarity, others had done this job before him (with efficiency and success) without necessarily killing or maiming anybody.
On this issue of street hawking, he should visit the Attorney General for guidance, as there is a Street Hawking Law signed into law, by the current governor in his 1st term in office. The Governor while signing this law intimated that he was at some point in time in life a street hawker himself.
Finally, the killers of Citizen Michael, should be brought to book. They say it was an accident, I don’t believe that lizard crap of a story. If it were an accident, then they should have stopped and taken him to the hospital rather than abandoning him on the streets to die. What they did was plain murder, Death by DOPT.
The Drivers and his accomplices both before and after the act should all be arraigned. There should be no cover up, the law should be allowed to take its course.