Ado-Odo/Ota local government: Sanitation officers act with impunity
The excesses of sanitation officers of Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government in Ogun State now constitute embarrassment to residents and other road users in the area.In the last few weeks, there are reports of innocent citizens arrested and locked-up overnight at designated cell within the Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Headquarters.
Majority of those detained in this cell were arrested at odd hours of the night and for minor offences such as urinating in open space or around bus stops. The Guardian learnt that these security operatives come in plain clothes, accompanied by Naval personnel to harass and arrest their victims, who are workers and traders returning to their homes after the day’s work.
It was also gathered that they hang around road junctions and bus stops, where there are no public toilets to carry out their arrests. And when one is arrested, he/she is expected to part with some money before allowed to go. Failure to do so means their victims will end up in their cold cell to dine with mosquitoes and other insects until the next day when help may possibly come.
Akinola Alao was apprehended around 11:30pm while returning from work. His offence was that he peed into a gutter at some dim corner of the road. Alao pleaded for mercy, but the local government sanitary officers would not let him go. They wanted him to bribe, but Alao won’t do that because he thought his arrest was unlawful. The hapless man and others like him were kept in the cell till the following morning. Citizen Alao was in tears when he shared his ordeal with The Guardian.
“We were kept in a room with iron door, close to the main entrance of the local government. Those who could bribe their way gave them between N3,000 and N5,000 that night, but I decided I am not going to pay anything because the arrest was unjust and wrong. I called Police Headquarters and their men came around, but I was not released till around 3:00am. The surprising aspect is that they were working with some Naval officials posted there.
“Is it the duty of Naval men to arrest sanitation offenders?” Alao queried, “The state government and other relevant agencies need to probe this and stop them before they turn the area to another thing,” he advised.
Another victim, Olakunle Olaoni, who was also detained in a cell for the same offence two weeks after Alao’s predicament, said the mode of arrest and the manner he was kept in the cell, means the entire state is not safe for anybody anymore. According to him, local government has employed this illegal means to increase internally generated revenue.
“At the initial stage, I ran because I thought they were kidnappers, because of the rising cases of ritual killings in this area. But I was apprehended and taken to the cell. We are in a serious problem in Ogun State, if local government officials who are not law enforcement agents can arrest and detain citizens in a private cell till the following day.
“If they had provided public toilets around bus stop, their action would have been justified; but arresting and detaining people at that time of the night is criminal. The State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, and other well meaning Nigerians should rise against this criminality,” he said.
The nearest public toilet to the bus stop, according to The Guardian finding is located opposite the Local Council Secretariat, a distance of about 700 metres away.When The Guardian visited the council to verify the story, the Director of Information, Education and Sports, Oloyede Oyeniyi, owned up that the incidents happened and apologised to those concerned, pleading they overlook the shortcomings of overzealous local government officials. He said: “Irrespective of the fact that there is a law backing the move, in this time and age, we need to be civil in our actions. There is no more chance for impunity any more.”
The council chairman, Bashiru Oladele Adeniji, agreeing with Oyeniyi noted that it is not the practice of the council to trample on the rights of people.Despite these apologies, The Guardian still gathered that the sanitation officials, under the supervision of the Council’s Director of Water and Environmental Sanitation (DWES), Alhaji Onifade, acting under the instruction of the Council’s Head of Local Government Administration (HOLGA), Engr. Babatunde Odunlami, have failed to desist from this unlawful and unjust act. They claim, according to our findings that Ogun State Public Health Law empowers them to arrest and detain anyone going against public health laws.
A look at Section 72 (a) of the Ogun State law titled, ‘Public Health Law, Ogun State Nigeria 2006,’ which officers rely on says: “A health official has the right to arrest and detain anybody who commits offence against the law,” while Section 72 (b) empowers health official to take offenders to Magistrate or Customary Court.”However, in its exercise, the officials have turned the law into an instrument to abduct and extort.