By BOSE ADELAJA
Just like many before him, Olalekan Lawal came to Lagos to eke out a living and take care of his family. Happily fortune smiled on the 26-year-old as he soon found himself working with the Petroleum Tanker Drivers, PTD, Lagos Zonal office.
As a tanker driver, his job entailed lifting petroleum products from the Apapa Tin Can Island in Lagos and deliverying same to other parts of the country. At the end of each business day, he returned home to his family in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State.
Being thus employed, he was able to meet the immediate needs of his family which included his wife, three children and an aged mother.
But on Friday April 25, 2014, fate played a cruel joke on the family as the bread winner was cut down in his prime few hours after loading fuel at Tincan Island. This was no thanks to a trigger- happy cop serving with a Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS.
Although his body had been laid to rest but things are no longer the same in this family as his aged mother and widow are still mourning and lamenting over their tragic loss. But tanker drivers in Lagos are not taking Olalekan’s death lying low as they have vowed to seek for appropriate redress and have petitioned both the State governor and the Nigerian Navy to register their anger over the development and to register their protest over constant harassment and brutality of their members.
According to the tanker drivers, Olalekan and his copy boy had finished loading fuel product before midnight of that fateful day and were waiting with their colleagues when suddenly a team of OP Messa, comprising operatives of the Nigerian Navy and the Nigeria Police attached to Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS, Beecroft Naval Base Command, arrived the scene.
Upon arrival, they accosted the drivers one after the other, demanding an illegal fee of N500 from each. On getting to Olalekan, he was said to have explained to the security operatives that he did not have sufficient money on him to which they demanded that he gave them an equivalent of the amount in petrol. Olalekan was said to have rejected this, arguing that it would affect the quantity of fuel he had to deliver.
An eye witness, Taofeek Bamijoko, said this infuriated the officers one of whom fired a shot that instantly killed the tanker driver. Vanguard Metro, VM, gathered that the deceased was shot at close range by a Naval officer. Olalekan, as gathered, was thereafter left in the pool of his own blood and the security agents left after shooting sporadically to scare away a gathering mob.
VM was informed that the deceased was shot on the chest and he died before help could come. It was also gathered that the killer cop later returned to the scene to retrieve pellets from the shots fired, apparently to erase every trace of evidence of their dastardly act. It was an action that provoked the tanker drivers who barricaded both sides of the road, resulting into a serious traffic gridlock on that fateful day.
Olalekan’s brutal murder was enough to send his copy boy into coma. Three days after, he parked his bags and baggage and retired to his hometown.
Subsequently, the tanker drivers had threatened to embark on a two-day industrial strike which was later called off following the intervention of the State governor Babatunde Fashola, who asked them to intimate him of the development for necessary action.
Olalekan’s cousin, Taiwo Samuel, who also lives and works in Lagos told VM his family was greatly affected by the tragic incident which occurred barely a month after Olalekan’s elder brother died under tragic circumstances. ‘’His wife was disoriented by the incident and has relocated to the village where she is presently staying with our mother,’’ he said. As at the time of filing this report, the trigger-happy cop was yet to be fished out, while no compensation has been paid to the deceased’s family.
But both the State Public Relations Officer of the tanker drivers association, Comrades Tayo Aboyeji and his national counterpart, Atanda Adebayo, have condemned the killing. The comrades called on the Nigerian Navy and the Lagos State government to act fast on the matter. According to Atanda: ‘’We appeal to both the government and Nigerian Navy to be compassionate with the victim’s family. The deceased was a bread winner during his life time and we don’t want his family to be left without hope.
Our member was carrying out his legitimate duty when the officials of Operation Messa shot him at close range for refusing to part with an illegal fee of N500, a practice which is common among the officers.
We wish to bring to the public the constant harassment, brutalisation and extortion of our members by officials of Operation Messa and other law enforcement agents, a situation which is already taking its tolls on us as a union’’. Among other things, the tanker drivers are demanding adequate compensation to the tune of N30 million from the Naval officers. Also, they want the culprit to be fished out and brought to book.
Meanwhile, sources hinted that the State Governor has ordered the State Commissioner for Police to investigate the matter. But a source with the Nigerian Navy hinted that some senior officers have visited the PTD secretariat after the incident. But he was not forthcoming on information on the fate of the trigger-happy cop.