Metro

April 16, 2024

Illegal traffic enforcement: Miscreants take-over Lagos roads

Illegal traffic enforcement: Miscreants take-over Lagos roads

•Motorists, residents lament, seek govt’s intervention

•Govt vows to clampdown on suspects

By Olasunkanmi Akoni

AMONG the growing concerns for motorists in Lagos State at the moment are the illegal activities of some unruly miscreants operating under the guise of local government officials.

Their major haunt are the highways where they lay in wait to impound and tow away the vehicles of their victims for whatever imaginable or conceivable offence.

Often times, the victims of these miscreants are private car owners.

The state government, through the Ministry of Transportation had repeatedly announced a ban on the activities of these ununiformed officials claiming to work for local government on traffic management, but who use the opportunity to extort money from innocent motorists over flimsy or spurious violation of traffic laws.

With no one to call them to order, they have recently expanded their illegal activities by positioning themselves at bus- stops and along highways, imposing various levies on private vehicle drivers with impunity.

The suspects often patrol with a rickety towing van while on the look out for perceived erring drivers to stop and tow-away their vehicles after dubiously establishing a case of contravention of traffic laws.

They often operate in gestapo style, obviously under the influence of alcohol and drugs, all in a bid to intimidate their victims.

Indeed, it has been revealed that transport unions operating in Lagos State under the aegis of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, reportedly, make as much as N123.078 billion yearly from collection of levies.

According to a recent report by International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, the estimate came from what was paid by commercial buses, tricycles and motorbikes operators in the metropolis.

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Despite the enactment of the Lagos State Traffic Law on August 3, 2012, banning any form of touting, levies or activities of officials at motor parks and bus stops, recent developments have shown resurgence of illegal activities across major highways.

Some of the notable areas where these illegal officials operate include Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Ikorodu Road, particularly, by Ojota, Ketu axis, Gbagada, Funsho Williams Avenue, Obalende, Ikeja, Western Avenue, among others.

At bus-stops, and along the highways, any innocent motorist accosted is often charged with violation of traffic laws such as illegal parking, dropping of passenger(s), traffic obstruction, among others, with corresponding levies.

The unruly attitude and mode of operation of these miscreants often terrify motorists and other road users. They carry out their illegal operation without fear as operatives of the Nigeria Police Force, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, and other law enforcement agents are never in sight to challenge or arrest them.

The activities of these miscreants had earlier been curtailed before their current resurgence.

On account of this development, more  unsuspecting motorists are being made to part with their hard-earned money as fines and other illegal collections.

The miscreants usually emerge from their hideouts once a motorist is pinned-down; they pounce on the driver, making all sorts of allegations and at the end of the day, demand for bribe in amount ranging from N50, 000 and above, depending on the type of vehicle.

Motorists recount experiences

Narrating his ordeal, the driver of private car owner, Mr. Sylvanus Francis, said: “Last week Wednesday, I was driving my boss to the office from Otedola Estate area of Lagos–Ibadan Expressway to Apapa,

“On getting to Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, my Oga accused me of driving recklessly; so he told me to pull over around Toyota, opposite the Guardian Newspaper building for him to take over the steering.

“As soon we alighted to swap positions in the car, three rough looking guys accosted my boss with a towing van and blocked our vehicle in front. They accused my boss of illegal parking along the highway. “They threatened to tow away the vehicle to their office or unless we pay them bribe which my boss vehemently refused but rather demanded for their identities which they could not prove.

“One of the miscreants had earlier jumped into the car. But when he heard my boss making call to the police, he became jittery and started pleading with  my boss to stop for him to get down. My boss refused, while threatening to take him to the state Police Command. He became desperate at this point and engaged me in a minor struggle with the car in motion while other gang members pursued us with their rickety van. We eventually stopped for the fake transport official to alight. At this point, he and the other gang members started begging my boss  for money, saying they were hungry. We sped off thereafter. That was how we were able to escape from being extorted.”

Also, a car owner, Mr. Kunle Awolere, narrated how he was almost extorted at Cele Bus-stop along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway recently. Awolere narrated thus: “On that fateful day, I was driving from Ago-Palace towards Cele Expressway to connect Mile 2, enroute Apapa, when I pulled over to check on one of my tyres after a fellow motorist called my attention for pressure gauge.

“As soon as I stopped and alighted from my highlander vehicle, two men, having no identities on them, accosted me for stopping along the road. I told them what I intended doing but they wouldn’t listen. They threatened to tow my vehicle to their office. I maintained that I had not committed any traffic offence. But the moment I identified myself as a Journalist, they became less aggresive and subsequently allowed me to go. But they also did not forget to beg me for money. But I told them there was no cash on me and drove off.

“These fellows act with impunity, as if there is no government to check their activities. Their atrocities in Lagos are really getting out of hand with no governmental authority to call them to order. They don’t care. Immediately they see any private vehicle they swoop on it, claiming that the driver has committed a traffic offence.” He, therefore, urged the state government to enforce its laws to curb such illegal activities which sometimes result into avoidable accidents. Awolere noted that government’s failure to enforce the law restraining the miscreants from parks remained a major setback, as they have heightened fears among motorists over the menace which sometimes leads to bloody brawls.

We ’ll will continue to carry out sting operations unannounced to apprehend suspects-Giwa

When contacted, Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Sola Giwa, expressed government’s determination to clamp down on all unauthorised traffic enforcement agents acting under the pretext of M.O.T taskforce across 57 councils in the state. He said in the event, some suspects were arrested.

Earlier, the state government arrested a fake traffic agent, simply identified as Batula Tiwalade, who claimed to be acting on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation,  M.O.T, Taskforce, while on illegal duty in parts of the state.

The arrest followed series of complaints over his illegal activities. While handing over the suspect with many illegal documents to security operatives, Giwa stated that his Office has been inundated with series of complaints over the rampart activities of unauthorised traffic operators, adding that: “The state government will no longer tolerate such criminal act but bring down the full wrath of the law on any phoney operator.

“Lagos State is governed by laws. The Transportation Sector is regulated by the Transport Sector Reform Law, TSRL, 2018 and thus does not leave any room for any hanky-panky or space for charlatans to operate.

“My office will continue to carry out sting operations unannounced to apprehend suspects, their collaborators and sponsors of the act. It is no longer going to be business as usual, enough is enough.”

Giwa, therefore, urged the public to report the activities of any unauthorised enforcement team to the Ministry of Transportation for onward report to the Police for possible prosecution.

Recall that on August 11, 2022 the Ministry of Transportation placed an indefinite ban on the activities of its enforcement team, the M.O.T Taskforce, as part of measures to streamline transport operations in Lagos State for better effectiveness.

Also, the State Taskforce in an operation led by the Chairman of the agency, CSP Shola Jejeloye, apprehended 51 notorious members of a highway gang known for harassing truck and private vehicle drivers along the Apapa/ Oshodi and Lagos/Badagry Expressway.

These criminal elements have been identified for their brazen tactics, coercing truck drivers to part with money under the pretext of working for the defunct Lagos State Parks and Garages Agency.

Operating with impunity, the gang often subject many drivers to physical harm and acts of bestiality when they resist extortion attempts.

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