By Iheoma Obibi
FEW DAYS ago, the LASTMA patrol team caught me as I did an illegal U-turn in front of Glendora book store at Falomo roundabout; I had not seen the “No U-Turn” sign and for added measure the LASTMA officials had hidden themselves at the back of a concrete pillar and in front of the book store. It was roughly 4pm in the afternoon and I was ordered to pull over into the bus stop slot. I had left the house to get diesel, just 50 litres.
The LASTMA official clearly had been at it all day and wanted money. He said the fine was N20k but he will “help me” asked for N10k and when I said I did not have it he asked how much I had in my wallet. I had N1,250 and a visa card, and I added that if he collected the money I’d like a receipt. He eyed me, smiled and said “madam”. I responded, “LASTMA!”
He said I should open the door so that he can get in, I replied that rapists are in uniform and he was not coming into my car. That if he forced his way in, I will come out of the car. He changed tack and asked me for anything, but I should not give him the money in public as people were watching. The people watching, since it was a live film show were those attempting to get on the buses in whose lanes I had been ordered to park.
So I folded the only money I had which were in denominations of N500, N200 and N100 notes, he collected and placed in his lefthand pocket of his yellow shirt. Meanwhile, he had tried desperately to get into my car and when that failed had asked for me to drive to the Zenon petrol station, to meet his oga, that failed as well. We had spent more than 20 minutes in this mindless conversation, he smiled with satisfaction of collecting my money and retorted, so “madam, who is your husband”.
Like the spider to the fly, I responded with, my husband’s creditials Chair, National Human Rights Commission and the most amazing thing happened. First he abused me in Yoruba – I have no clue what he was saying but there were mutterings of English and I heard “wicked woman”; he tossed the money back into the car through the window that was still open, I had not even got round to closing the window. He said I was a plant and had planned on getting him and his colleagues sacked.
Then in the chaos, his colleagues started running and as I entered traffic wondering what was going on. They started begging me that I should not worry and I should not stop. As I attempted to enter ZENON petrol station, they blocked the way and would not let me in (they had parked the patrol car there and the team was made up of plenty LASTMA people), infact the LASTMA officials scattered and those remaining hid their faces. The man that had spent 20 minutes in a mindless conversation could not beg me enough to go. I tried explaining that I want to buy diesel, he said try another station and that madam, we have given you your money back o!
My question is, if they knew what they were doing is illegal, why bother. I was so stressed out I could not even laugh well. Silly prats. Eko ni baje o!
…Iheoma Obibi is Executive Director & ASHOKA Fellow Alliances for Africa