By Evelyn Usman
A commercial vehicle driver, yesterday, set himself ablaze in Ajao Estate area of Lagos, to protest seizure of his bus by officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA.
Eyewitnesses said the driver whose identity could not be immediately ascertained was arrested for alleged traffic offence.
Two LASTMA officials were said to have dragged him out of the vehicle and started the ignition for onward movement to their base at Oshodi.
As they were about moving, the driver, according to eyewitnesses, poured fuel on his body and struck a stick of matches.
While efforts was on to put out the fire, other commercial bus drivers and conductors, including passers-by, started hauling stones at the LASTMA officials, a development that degenerated into a fight between the officials and hoodlums.
Fear stricken drivers, according to one of the eye witnesses, who identified himself as Tajudeen Onipekun, hurriedly made u-turn to avoid escalating the fire.
Onipekun said: “The LASTMA officials were attacked because they never cared about the victim that was on fire. Rather, they were more interested on moving the vehicle away. The driver was eventually rushed to the hospital. Other drivers around said the victim lost his job last year and just got the commercial bus last November.”
Another commercial bus driver who simply gave his name as Wadada, said: “LATSMA officials are treating us like slaves. They arrest and extort us at will. We go through hell in their hands and those of agberos and local government officials. How much do we make?
“Out of the money we make daily, we will buy fuel, return money to the vehicle owners and at the end of the day we are left with little or nothing. We are appealing to the state government to wade into the matter and save us from the hands of LASTMA officials.”
Vanguard gathered that the intervention of policemen attached to Rapid Response Squad, RRS, who were deployed by their Commander, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi, saved the situation from turning bloodier, as the LASTMA officials were rescued.
Two patrol vehicles from RRS were stationed at the scene while another vehicle from Ajao Estate division was seen patrolling the area.