By Eveln Usman, Bose Adelaja & Monsuru Olowoopejo
Soldiers yesterday went on rampage, grounding human and vehicular movements along Ikorodu road, Lagos, following allegations that a commercial bus belonging to the Lagos State government ran over one of them, killing him at the Palmgrove bus stop at about 9:00 am.
The soldiers alleged that a Rapid Transport Bus, BRT, vehicle killed one of their colleagues at Palmgrove,
They reportedly burnt any BRT vehicle on sight during the rampage. The soldiers barricaded both sides of the road in the process. Some persons were also injured following the ensuing rampage.
There were different accounts as to how trouble started. Some eyewitnesses told Saturday Vanguard at the scene of the mayhem that the soldier who was allegedly knocked down was on the BRT lane but however, did not die. It was alleged that the said soldier made a telephone call to his colleagues after he was knocked down and refused to listen to the pleas from those at the scene to forgive the driver of the bus.
The incident reportedly caused massive traffic leading all the way to the Berger area of Lagos- Ibadan road.
Another version of the incident, had it that the soldier with an unknown identity was riding a commercial motorcycle popularly known as okada along the BRT lane when he was crushed while another claimed the motorbike the deceased mounted was being chased by traffic officials. Driver of the bus was alleged to have abandoned the soldier, an action said to have angered his colleagues who subsequently went on rampage and allegedly attacked any BRT bus on sight.
Miss. Adeola Sehinde, an eyewitness said, “I cannot say if the soldier was dead or not. But all I saw was when he was lying on the floor.”
Sehinde further explained that the accident occurred at about 9:00 am at Palmgrove axis, towards the Anthony Village adding “the BRT bus rammed on the soldier who was riding okada with his colleague.”
It was gathered that his colleague, who was with him on the motorcycle however, mobilised other soldiers from a nearby barracks who on arrival to the scene, immediately swung into action, taking laws into their hands by vandalising BRT buses.
Other eye witnesses who spoke also said that there was pandemonium in the area when about 100 soldiers suddenly emerged and blocked the express way on both sides of the road, smashing BRT buses and causing traffic gridlock. They said that following the development, some drivers abandoned their vehicles on the road and took to their heels to avoid being killed by the soldiers, who vandalised any BRT buses on sight before setting them ablaze.
When Saturday Vanguard visited the scene, the entire road was deserted, even as only empty vehicles were abandoned on both sides of the road with their ignition keys on them. Commercial buses coming from Ojota refused to pick passengers to Yaba area as they avoided Ikorodu road to avert danger.
However, Saturday Vanguard observed that the soldiers beat anyone that obstructed their activities. They beat drivers and passengers or anyone who moved closer to take their pictures.
Mr. Tayo Olawale said two civilians were beaten up, adding that another who took pictures of the scene with his phone was beaten mercilessly and his phone smashed on the express road.
Olawale said, “I do not know where the soldiers got sticks because they began to smash windscreen of passing vehicles with them.”
Another eyewitness, who identified herself as Mrs. Okwo said she saw five BRT buses being burnt by soldiers and described the situation as pathetic and unpleasant for the soldiers to have taken laws into their hands.
Spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Gen. Olajide Olaleye, was quoted by agency reports describing those who vandalised the BRT vehicles as “area boys,” and not Nigerian soldiers.
“It’s not true that soldier destroyed buses or set any bus on fire. What happened was that a BRT bus knocked down a soldier and killed him. As usual in Lagos, area boys gathered and a few soldiers stopped at the scene as well. The GOC has dispatched military policemen to the scene to help restore law and order.”
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos state condemned the sudden attack by soldiers and other public property in the state following the death of their colleague allegedly crushed to death by one of the buses.
Reacting to the development, Fashola said: “It is really disappointing that public servants and that is what soldiers are, paid with tax payer’s money, will act in a manner that is been suggested because I am waiting for official report to let me know who play what role and what happened.
“If the action of the soldiers turns out to be true, it will be very irresponsible conduct to put it very mildly. I remember in 2006 when soldiers stormed barracks and set ablaze the Area C Police Command.
“We just managed to reconstruct the command. If buses that citizens are complaining that were not enough are set ablaze, I do not know how setting ablaze buses recompense any injury that one may have suffered. I do not know how damaging public property is the restitution for the injury that may have come.
“For now, the only thing that I can say to you is that when I get the full fact, I will address the residents, to let them know what happened and what the state action will be.
We are yet to ascertain number of buses affected- LAGBUS
Head of Operations, LAGBUS Asset Management, Mr. Tunde Disu disputed the claim that a soldier was hit by one of the buses, adding that ‘’to the best of my knowledge, somebody who was riding a motorbike rammed into the back of a broken down bus. He was in mufti so nobody can say if he was a soldier or not.’’
Disu further said that the incident involved both the blue and red buses pointing out that it was difficult to ascertain the number of those affected. ‘’We are still collating and cannot really determine the number of affected buses now,’’ he added.