By OLASUNKANMI AKONI & IFEANYI OKOLIE
LAGOS—Apparently expressing their displeasure over Tuesday’s arrest of two army officers, including Colonel K. I. Yusuf, by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, for driving on the dedicated Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, lane, some soldiers on Wednesday, reportedly went after officials of the Lagos State Task-force on Environment and Special Offences, at the Yaba area of the metropolis.
Although the Chairman, of the task-force, Superintendent of Police, Bayo Sulaimon, said there was no clash between members of his team and militarymen as alleged, he agreed there was ‘a minor face-off.’
The soldier were allegedly said to have attacked the task-force officials who were on patrol on Murtala Muhammed Way, Yaba, using broken bottles and stones. They were also said to have punctured the tyres of a Black Maria used by the task-force in transporting traffic offenders.
An eyewitness told Vanguard that the incident occurred about 9a.m, when the taskforce officials attempted to arrest a commercial bus caught violating traffic rules at a spot close to an Army barracks.
According to reports, a soldier seated in front of the commercial bus quickly retrieved the key from the driver, preventing the task-force officials from taking the bus away.
A heated argument was said to have erupted between the soldier and the task-force officials which soon degenerated into a brawl.
The soldier allegedly called for reinforcement from the 81 Division barracks and pronto, several soldiers trooped out from the barracks and began to haul stones and other missiles at the task-force officials.
“As the clash ensued, some of the soldiers made unpleasant remarks about the governor for attempting to arrest and humiliate an Army Colonel, threatening to vent their anger on the officials.
”As the situation worsened, the task-force men also called for reinforcement. It was in the heat of the clash that the tyres of the Black Maria were punctured,” an eye-witness, who pleaded anonymity said.
Army denies attack
When Vanguard contacted, army spokesman, 81 Division, Lt-Col. Kayode Ogunsanya, he said he was unaware of any clash between soldiers and officials of the task-force at Yaba.
Ogunsanya, however, said an un-named high ranking official of the state confirmed the attack on the officials, saying it was an affront on the state government for soldiers to vandalise a government vehicle.
He said it was wrong for soldiers to attack taskforce officials on legitimate duty with stones and other dangerous weapons.
In his narration of what transpired, through the task-force’s Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Tayo, Sulaimon, clarified that there was no clash between them and the army,” but there was a slight altercation which was later settled without anybody sustaining injury.
Sulaimon said: “In the early hours of Wednesday about 9a.m, one of our men, who was on duty post at Yaba area apprehended a commercial bus driver for contravening the state traffic law.
”In the process, an army personnel in the bus prevented the task-force men from impounding the vehicle. Consequently, there was a little confusion.
”The militaryman called for reinforcement from a nearby barracks, but before the men arrived, the matter had been resolved without any casualty or clash as the commercial bus was let off the hook.”
It was learnt that the soldier came up with the action in protest of the media hype on the reports that Governor Fashola arrested a Colonel who drove on the BRT lane the previous day.