Liberia: Sen. Dillon Describes New Traffic Law Allowing All Lawmakers to Use Opposite Lanes as A Bad Law

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MONROVIA – Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon has opposed the use of a “third lane” by members of the three branches of the Liberian government, including the 54th National Legislature during traffic congestion.

Members of the 53rd National Legislature clandestinely passed a law during the regime of ex-Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf exempting members of the legislative, executive, judicial branches of the Liberian government and others from traffic congestion.

The law, which is yet to be printed into handbills, among other things, gives preference to lawmakers, members of the judiciary and executive to use “third lane” during traffic congestion while on their way to execute their assigned tasks and responsibilities.

Of recent, Montserrado County District #8 Rep. Acarous Moses Gray complained of lawmakers being allegedly disrespected by traffic officers of the LNP.

He called on Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue to caution his men against what he termed as their constant denigration of members of the House of Representatives.

He alleged that Transport Minister Samuel Wlue on Tuesday said, on several occasions, some police officers intentionally obstruct members of the Legislature from discharging their legislative functions either by impounding their vehicles or attacking them physically under the pretense that they (police) are performing their duties.

Rep. Gray, who chairs the House Committee on Executive, named several incidents, one involving Rep. Vincent Willie (District #4, Grand Bassa County) and a police officer who allegedly attempted to discharge a firearm at the lawmaker.

He said several of his colleagues including House Speaker Bhofal Chambers (District #2, Maryland County), Reps. Yekeh Kolubah (District #10, Montserrado County), Francis Saidy Dopoh (District #3, River Gee County), Richard Koon (District #11, Montserrado County) and Hanson Kiazolu (District 17, Montserrado County) had all been victims of police intimidation on separate occasions.

Citing several constitutional provisions, Rep. Gray noted that although members of the Legislature are not above the law, the Police should be cautious in dealing with them in order to not violate their rights and privileges accorded by the constitution of Liberia just as the President, Vice President and members of the Judiciary.

His assertions were in response to comments made by Inspector General Sudue that the amended traffic law now gives members of the Legislature and other VIPs the right to ply opposite lane during times of emergency, but advised that they should use a single license plate assigned to them and an official vehicle, not multiple plates and cars as currently used. He also called on the lawmakers to install emergency lights and sirens on their vehicles to be easily identifiable.

But Rep. Gray said each lawmaker was assigned two license plates to be used on two official vehicles, and as such, the Minister and the Police boss should have informed their subordinates.

Col. Sudue apologized to the lawmakers and promised to commission an investigation into the alleged misbehavior of some of his officers against members of the Legislature.

Where’s the Third Lane?

But in a statement posted on his official Facebook page on Wednesday, February 3, Senator Dillon pointed out that the third lane law passed by members of the 53rd National Legislature is “bad”.

He observed that Liberia does not have a “third lane” and as such, granting such a privilege to state officials and others does not make any sense.

“The 53rd Legislature enacted a new Law that now grants rights to certain category of public officials, including Lawmakers, Associate Justices, Cabinet Ministers, etc, to use the “3rd Lane” in the vehicular traffic. I am here wondering whether we have any “3rd Lane” in Liberia or the said Law simply allows the privileged public officials the right to intrude into the free movement of the opposite traffic”.

“I hold strongly that this new Law is bad; it is against the public good and against public safety. We will be reviewing this latest Law to make sense of it, and where necessary, submit a Draft Act to assess, adjust and or repeal the same”.

No idea of law existence

Since the passage and subsequent signing into law of the new vehicle and traffic law of Liberia, there has been limited knowledge on its printing into handbills by the Liberian government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The public, especially motorists remain unaware about the existence of the law since in fact; no adequate information has been provided on the existence of the law by the government.

For this reason, citizens and other foreign nationals residing in the country are either novice or half-informed of the existence of the law exempting lawmakers, members of the judiciary, executive and others from traffic congestion.

It can be recalled that on Monday. May 18, 2020, the life of the Managing Editior of the Frontpage Africa newspaper, Rodney Sieh was endangered by Associate Justice, Joseph Nagbe,  while on his way Vai Town for an interview.

While en route on his normal routine, Editor Sieah noticed a black jeep licensed plate JUD 4 bulldozing its way toward him on heavy speed.

“I wasn’t sure who’s vehicle it was at first- it was later I confirmed with a court staffer that it belonged to Associate Justice Nagbe,” the editor wrote in a Letter Tuesday.

The Vai Town road is one of the busiest traffic routes in Monrovia. It was built as a four-lane road, two lanes going toward the Freeport of Monrovia and two opposite lanes, on the other side heading toward downtown Monrovia. More importantly, the road is divided by a center divide which is there to ensure that those on either side of the road stay in their respective lanes and do not cross over in the ongoing traffic in the other lane.

Following the incident, the editor placed a call to Chief Justice Francis Korkpor and Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue, informing them of what had happened. The Chief Justice promised him that he would look into it, but never heard from him again. IG Sudue, also expressed frustration at how officials of government have been breaking the laws by driving in the wrong lane. 

“I even heard him on the phone instructing the chief of traffic to assign officers in the Vai Town Road to keep everyone in their respective lanes,” the editor wrote.

Cllr. Joseph Nagbe, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia and a former Senator of Sinoe County, overly reacted by summoning Editor Sieh to appear before him on May 21, 2020.

Under the Vehicle and Traffic Laws of Liberia, only the President, vice president and emergency vehicles have the right to use sirens in traffic and change lanes. Under the same law, police vehicles are allowed but only in emergency situations. However, since the end of the civil war, lawlessness has taken over with government officials both elected and appointed, taking matters into their own hands by bulldozing their way through traffic drawing om commuters and taxpayers, many of whom have become frustrated with the practice by so-called government big shots.

Section 38: 10.21 under the general rule of the Liberia Vehicle and Traffic Law states that vehicles shall be driven on the right half of every road of sufficient width except as follows: “When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing such movement; when overtaking or passing pedestrians or obstructions on the right half of the highway; when the right half of a road is closed to traffic while under the construction or repair; upon a roadway designated and signposted for one-way traffic.”

Editor Sieh was accompanied to the conference called by Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe over the traffic fracas which gave the Associate Justice the right to use the third lane needs to be looked into as it may create more chaos in the traffic.

Cllr. Gongloe told reporters at the Temple of Justice after the conference that it was his first time seeing the amended law which was brought up by Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman.

“I don’t like it but I’m not a legislator but I believe that it has the tendency to create a situation where more Liberian citizens would be considered first-class citizens and will create more chaos in the traffic.”

Cllr. Gongloe who is the president of the Liberia National Bar Association said Justice Nagbe’s citation was not in any way intended to intimidate the press neither was Mr. Sieh’s action meant to disrespect the Justice or injure the reputation of the Supreme Court’s Associate Justice.

“He was only acting because of the unruly behavior of a lot of people in the traffic who take the other side of the road – sometimes they take the third lane,” Cllr. Gongloe said.

The failure of the Liberian government to create more awareness on the new traffic and vehicle law, which Senator Dillon promised to amend would lead to move trouble than solutions if steps are not taken by government to adequately inform motorists and others on the existence of such law in Liberia.

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