..Motorists, commuters stranded
…Taskforce arrests 16 miscreants
By Olasunkanmi Akoni and Onozure Dania
Two commercial bus drivers, popularly called “Danfo” and a commercial motorcyclist, “Okada” were injured at Cele Bus Stop, along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos on Tuesday, following a protest by the former over alleged extortion by security agents.
The victims were allegedly wounded on the hand by invading hoodlums who seized the opportunity to to cause mayhem as they wielded machetes, knives and sticks.
The protesters were said to be angry at the highhandedness and alleged extortion by officials of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Unit, taskforce and the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, LASTMA.
The protesters who stormed the highway, set up bonfires on the expressway, inward Oshodi and prevented commercial vehicles and motorcyclists on both side of the expressway from operating, thus making commuters to resort to trekking.
According to them, taskforce officials routinely and indiscriminately seize their vehicles, for which they are made to pay huge sums of money before they are let go.
However, the protesters did not stop other private motorists from operating.
Passengers who succeeded in boarding commercial vehicles or motorbikes were ordered to disembark. The vehicles were set away empty or commandeered to the protest.
A motorcyclist who attempted to defy the stop work order, was slashed on the hand with a machete by a miscreant as he sped off with his passenger.
Also, another hoodlum struck a defiant driver with a knife.
“No more taskforce”, the protesters chanted as they displayed placards with inscriptions such as: ” End LASTMA brutality” “End Taskforce wahala”, “End LASTMA blocking, blocking with Taskforce and End Taskforce in Lagos State.”
A bus driver, who gave his name as Sefiu, narrated his ordeal in the hands of LASTMA and taskforce.
According to him, two of his buses were recently impounded “for no reason” by Taskforce officials.
He recounted: “I paid N55,000 to recover one of them.
“They are always harrassing us. The road we follow to the airport has been blocked for repairs, yet when we follow the alternative route, which is one-way, they will arrest us.”
Another protester, who simly identified himself as Kingsley, claimed they were being intimidated by government officials.
“Their wahala is too much. We want Governor Babajide (Sanwo-Olu) to help us,” he said.
Chibuike, who identified himself as a bus driver and member of the National Union of Road Transport Worker, NURTW, also accused the officials of extortion.
He therefore, urged the state government to intervene.
Another driver, simply identified as Samuel, said he was a media consultant, but because of Covid-19 pandemic last year, he bought a mini-bus (Korope) and started commercial driving.
He lamented that he had not been able to pay the owner of the vehicle, because of taskforce and LASTMA intimidation and harassment.
Samuel said: “They have arrested me two times; the last time they wanted to arrest me, God saved me. When they wanted to arrest a driver, and the driver climbed an Okada man with his passenger and fled, the LASTMA and Task Force operatives also ran away.
“Whenever they come to terrorise us, they always come with a device they use to shock somebody and also tear gas us,” he said.
On his part, Mukaila, who claimed he recently paid the sum of N22,500 to get his bus back, added: “If we struggle with them, they would beat us up and tear gas us, we are tired. Do they want us to start stealing and be carrying guns? We are tired of their extortion, and constant harassment”.
Another driver Habib Opeyemi said he was also protesting because a vehicle he got on hire purchase not up to two months ago was impounded by taskforce officials.
“I paid N250,000 to get the vehicle back on Monday,” he claimed.
Opeyemi also alleged that three commercial drivers were killed on Sunday at Cele Bus stop.
Meanwhile, the state taskforce, said it has arrested 16 suspected miscreants believed to have masterminded violence and robbing of commuters in Iyana-Cele and Iyana-Isolo area of the state on Tuesday.
Chairman of the Lagos State Taskforce, Chief Superintendent of Police, CSP, Shola Jejeloye, who confirmed the the arrest said miscreants, who capitalized on the peaceful “no work” protest embarked upon by drivers of commercial buses on Oshodi–Mile 12 Expressway to unleash mayhem on commuters, were caught molesting passersby and destroying public facilities.
Jejeloye, who was in the area to maintain law and order as well as listen to some of the aggrieved protesters called for calm that government would address their grievances.
According to him, no official of the state raskforce operates between Toyota and Mile 2, adding that the agency is presently rejigging its operation in order to prevent reported incidences of illegal taskforce operatives in the metropolis.
Jejeloye added that he had listened to all complaints against the officials of the agency, noting that genuine complaints would be addressed.
He explained that report had it that drivers decided to protest the installation of road signage on roads that used to serve as bi-directional ways as One–way.
Jejeloye listed attested miscreants include: Lekan Fatai (29), Tosin Ajakaye (32), Sakiru Lanre (38), Lekan Salaudeen (36), Hakeem Oyetoro (47), Daniel Adeojo(38), Ramon Moshood (30), Lekan Nureni (37), Okolawon Oluwaseun (39),Olajide Qudus (24), Uchenna Idima (28), Dada Hamid (23), Tega Monday (28) Rafiu Pelumi (20) and Wike Odigbi (27).
Recovered from the miscreants were machetes, charms, cudgels and other harmful weapons.