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Preying on Drivers: Fake officials take over Lagos roads and extort motorists

Vaseline 1 month ago

Among the growing concerns of motorists in Lagos State at present are the illegal activities of some unruly miscreants operating under the guise of local government officials.

Recently, Bode Adepoju was heading towards the Marina Bridge towards the UBA building when he was stopped by these officials. His violation was simple: his passenger was not wearing her seat belt. So he had the choice of getting a ticket or paying a huge amount of money to the officials; they were equipped with their point-of-sale (PoS) machines.

Their main haunt is the highways, where they lie in wait to seize and tow away their victims’ vehicles for any conceivable or conceivable offense, committed unknowingly or outright intimidation.

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Often the victims of these miscreants are private car owners who unknowingly violate these traffic laws.

The state government through the Ministry of Transport has repeatedly announced a ban on the activities of these ununiformed officials who claim to work for the local government in the field of traffic management but use the opportunity to extort money from innocent motorists due to a lame or false violation of traffic laws. .

With no one to call them to order, they have recently expanded their illegal activities by positioning themselves at bus stops and along highways, and levying various fees with impunity on drivers of private vehicles.

The suspects often patrol with a rickety tow truck, accompanied by men in police uniforms, as they look out for suspected errant drivers who have to stop and tow their vehicles after dubiously detecting a case of violation of traffic rules.

They often operate Gestapo style, obviously under the influence of alcohol and drugs, all in an attempt to intimidate their victims.

Indeed, it has been revealed that transport unions operating in Lagos State under the auspices of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, reportedly earn as much as N123.078 billion annually from collecting levies.

The Lagos chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, locally called ‘agberos’, generates about N123.08 billion annually, which could serve the annual budget of Nasarawa, Niger and Yobe states, a statistical report has revealed. of the International Center for Research report has shown.

According to a recent report by the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, the estimate came from what was paid by commercial buses, three-wheelers and motorcycles in the metropolis.

Despite the enactment of the Lagos State Traffic Law on August 3, 2012, which prohibits any form of advertising, charging or activities by public officials at motorcycle parks and bus stops, recent developments have shown a resurgence of illegal activities along major highways.

Some of the notable areas where these illegal officials operate include Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Ikorodu Road, particularly at Ojota, Ketu axis, Gbagada, Funsho Williams Avenue, Obalende, Ikeja, Western Avenue, Marina, Lekki phase 1 and Ikate roundabout. .

At bus stops and along the highways, any innocent motorist who is accosted is often accused of violating traffic rules, including illegal parking, dropping passenger(s), obstructing traffic, with associated charges, among others.

The unruly attitude and methods of these miscreants often frighten motorists and other road users. They conduct their illegal operation without fear as operatives from the Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA and other law enforcement agencies are never around to challenge or arrest them.

The activities of these miscreants were previously curtailed before their current revival.

As a result of this development, more and more unsuspecting motorists are being forced to part with their hard-earned money in the form of fines and other illegal collections.

The miscreants usually emerge from their hiding places once a motorist is pinned down; they pounce on the driver, make all kinds of accusations and eventually demand bribes in amounts ranging from N50,000 and above depending on the type of vehicle the victims drive,

Motorists share experiences

A driver of private car owner Sylvanus Francis narrated his ordeal: “Last week Wednesday, I drove my boss to the office from Abraham Adesanya Estate area. When I arrived at Ikota School, my Oga accused me of driving recklessly; so he told me to stop at Ikota, opposite the Mega Chicken building, so he could take the controls.

“As soon as we got out to change positions in the car, three rough looking guys accosted my boss with a tow truck and blocked the front of our vehicle. They accused my boss of illegal parking along the highway.

“They threatened to tow the vehicle to their office unless we paid them bribes, which my boss vehemently refused, but rather demanded for their identities, which they could not provide.

“One of the miscreants had jumped into the car earlier. But when he heard my boss calling the police, he got nervous and started begging my boss to stop so he could come downstairs. My boss refused and threatened to take him to the state police command. He became desperate at that point and engaged me in a minor struggle with the moving car, while other gang members chased us with their rickety van. Finally we stopped to let the fake transportation officer out. At that point, he and the other gang members started begging my boss for money, saying they were hungry. We left quickly after that. This is how we were able to escape extortion.”

Also, a car owner, Babajide Ayeni, narrated how he was almost extorted at Cele bus stop along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway recently.

He said: “On that fateful day, I was driving from Ago-Palace towards Cele Expressway to connect Mile 2, en route to Apapa, when I stopped to check one of my tires after a fellow motorist called my attention to a manometer.

“As soon as I stopped and got out of my Highlander vehicle, two men, with no identity on them, accosted me for stopping on the side of the road. I told them what I was planning to do, but they wouldn’t listen. They threatened to tow my car to their office. I have maintained that I have not committed a traffic violation. But the moment I identified myself as a journalist, they became less aggressive and then let me go. But they also didn’t forget to beg me for money. But I told them I didn’t have any cash on me and drove away.

“These guys act with impunity, as if there is no government monitoring their activities. Their atrocities in Lagos are truly spiraling out of control, with no government agency to bring them to order. They don’t care. They immediately see a private vehicle which they approach and claim that the driver has committed a traffic violation.”

He, therefore, urged the state government to enforce its laws to curb such illegal activities, which sometimes lead to avoidable accidents.

Ayeni noted that the government’s inability to enforce the law banning miscreants from entering parks remains a major setback as fears have increased among motorists over the menace that sometimes leads to bloody brawls.

Recall that on August 11, 2022, the Ministry of Transport imposed an indefinite ban on the activities of its enforcement team, the MOT Taskforce, as part of measures to streamline transportation operations in Lagos State for better effectiveness.