By Evelyn Usman
The Police Unit of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority(LASTMA) has arrested a 45- year- old man who posed as a policeman attached to the unit, using the devise to extort money from unsuspecting members of the public who contravene traffic rules.
The suspect, Daniel Iremiren, as gathered, usually operated around Mile Two area of the state, clad in full Mobile Police uniform.
His modus operandi included standing by the side of the road like a lion waiting for its prey. Immediately any vehicle contravened traffic regulation, Daniel would spring out from his hiding to accost the offender .
Identifying himself as a LASTMA official, he would threaten to take the defaulter to the agency’s office at Mile Two. However after much plea, the erring motorist would part with some money ranging from N2,000 and N10,000 depending on the type of vehicle involved.
Like every other day, Daniel, stationed at Mile Two on Thursday in his Mobile police uniform with the rank of a Sergeant. But unknown to him, fate had an unpalatable bargain , as he was swooped on by policemen from LASTMA Unit , immediately he accosted a motorist.
However, during investigation, it was discovered that Daniel was dismissed from the Nigeria Police Force last year.
His arrest according to the Officer in-charge of the Unit, Mr Afolayan Oladapo, A Deputy Superintendent of Police, revealed that his likes were responsible for some trouble purportedly caused by policemen attached to LASTMA.
Oladapo who noted that this was not the first arrest made by the unit, said such persons usually collected money from their victims before their vehicles would be released. At times, he said , they would threaten to take the impounded vehicles to LASTMA offices in order to make their prey part with reasonable amount.
However, investigation as reliably gathered, revealed that Daniel was not the only dismissed policeman involved in such illicit dealings. Some of them were discovered to be working hand-in-hand with their colleagues who are still serving, thereby making it impossible for anyone to notice their true status. Sometimes also, some serving policemen were also discovered to be on illegal duty , as some of them are not attached to LASTMA.
Again, it was discovered that some dismissed policemen who indulged in this kind of dealings connive with LASTMA officials, all in a bid to instil fear in erring road users.
It was reliably gathered that sometimes, some impounded vehicles are taken to LASTMA offices but would not be parked inside the yard, apparently to give the erring motorists an impression that they meant business. This however , occurred when a huge amount is demanded.
In this interview with the father of five, he simply said, “ I was arrested because I was trying to look for something to eat.”(keeps mute) Effort to get him to speak further proved abortive and he maintained that he never did what was leveled on him.
When asked if he was a serving policeman , he shook his head . After a while, he stated passionately , “ you should all take me as your brother and son. I have done something wrong which I admit. I did what I did because of hunger. I am a father of five and cannot watch my children go hungry.
“Yes, I am no longer serving. I was dismissed last year. But my uniform was not collected from me.What I do to eke out a living is to liaise with some policemen at Mile Two . I was working with one Sergeant who is also on illegal duty at Mile Two. But he did not know I have been dismissed .
“Anytime a vehicle drove against traffic and the driver is caught by him, I would act as a peace maker by approaching the driver and ask how much he could give in order for his vehicle to be released. At the end of the day, we would all reach a compromise and the man would go his way.
“Yesterday (Thursday), I was not negotiating. Rather, the vehicle was impounded and brought to a compound where the policemen usually took impounded vehicles to . Then , as usual, I came in as a solicitor and immediately he handed the keys of the vehicle to me .But as I attempted to speak with the man , an Inspector came and asked if I was a serving policeman and I shook my head. Before I knew it, I was whisked away.”
Asked why he was dismissed, he simply said he was on his way to Seme border when the vehicle he boarded developed fault and while its owner was repairing it, the then Area commander ‘E’ who was in a convoy, stopped and asked that he be taken to the station.
He further stated that he was tried at the area command and subsequently dismissed. Asked how that was possible considering the fact that policemen were tried by the Provost at the state command before necessary action would be taken, he kept mute.
Just then, a plain cloth policeman walked in and on sighting Daniel, he shouted, “Ah!, I know this policeman. He ran away from duty and had not been seen since then.” His disappearance as gathered, led to the demotion of some policemen who were on duty with him on that day.
However , in a bid to check the excesses of some policemen attached to LASTMA unit as well as dismissed and fake policemen who masquerade themselves as one, head of the unit, Oladapo disclosed that those attached to LASTMA had extra identification on their breast pocket, advising members of the public to always look out for it.
He further disclosed that like the Rapid Response Squad, Policemen attached to LASTMA would soon be seen with badges on their sleeves.
“He was arrested by Inspector Nurudeen Usman attached to this unit. We have started surveillance around Mile Two and other areas where cases of harassment , intimidation and extortion of motorists by persons who claim to be policemen attached to LASTMA unit are rampant. In Daniel’s case , he was arrested while the victim was begging him with N10,000”, Oladapo stated.