SIR: Across Nigeria, traffic wardens are seen at major junctions and intersection points on our busy roads. These men and women are usually drafted from the traffic control units of the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and in some cases, other security departments of the state governments.
There are testimonies that most traffic wardens, maybe until recently, approached their job with alluring passion and professionalism. They loved and enjoyed doing the job. Their enthusiasm, the agility with which they signalled wait and/or move to motorists, and the smile on their faces, spoke volumes. Things, however, seems to have fallen apart for the traffic wardens across Nigeria, especially in Imo State in recent times.
Nowadays there is palpable loss of their professional touch on the road. The enthusiasm and hunger for doing the job effectively may have waned remarkably. What is left probably is the hunger for either tips or bribe from motorists. To the dissatisfaction of many, traffic wardens in Owerri, the Imo State capital, nowadays demand bribe from motorists to pass them to the detriment of other road users. They are seen running after drivers for tips while the job they signed up for suffer negligence. This sordid situation, together with the issue of bad roads, adds to the harrowing experience of driving within the capital city.
One can argue that this new attitude put up by traffic wardens working in Imo State on their duty posts is not without cause. There are reports that some of these traffic controllers are owed their salaries for months. In Imo State, for example, a staff of the Imo State Civil Guard who works as a traffic warden lamented that they are being owed. She said: “Our problem began with the last PDP administration. For close to eight months we were not paid. What can we do? We have families. We can only depend on the charity of the motorists. We don’t compel anyone but people appreciate what we do. If we don’t have passion for what we do, we would have been off the duty posts. But please, tell me, what can we do when we work without payment?”
Most people agree that a worker deserves his wage. The biting economic realities at present should only sound the need for prompt payment of salaries to employers. Those who, come rain or sunshine, help to keep our roads free from congestions deserve good welfare packages. A good working condition would stave-off and discourage them from begging motorists and passers-by for tips and bribes.
Nevertheless, it seems that most traffic wardens operating in the Eastern Heartland have made it a norm to chase after tips from motorists, as seen among policemen in some parts of the country, with or without the prompt payment of their salaries and sufficient remuneration by the government.
This must be discouraged forthwith. The authorities concerned must call these traffic officers to order and prescribe punitive measures for those in the habit of such misdemeanour. It is no gainsaying that when traffic wardens effectively discharge their duties without self-imposed distractions, traffic congestion is reduced and sanity is restored on our records. This does not absolve the government of the blame for failure to pay the traffic wardens promptly.
- Lancelot Obiaku, Owerri, Imo State.
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