Lagos: Task force records 15 attacks last year
• As residents seek harmonious relationship with law enforcement agencies •LASTMA, LASBCA to curtail overzealous officers, lament attacks on officers
Lagos residents and commuters have called for a harmonious relationship with officials of government agencies working to make the state liveable.
They lamented the events of last year where highhandedness of some officers of government agencies led to unavoidable attacks, which resulted in gridlocks, injuries and loss of lives.
Some respondents, who spoke with The Guardian called for more understanding on the part of these agencies in enforcement of laws as well as the need to adopt technology in carrying out their duties.
According to them, laws are made for humans and not humans for law.
The Lagos State Environment and Special Offences Enforcement Unit (Task Force) said the agency has witnessed not less than 15 gruesome attacks, of which it lost some members to the incident.
The Guardian investigation revealed that while some officials of the agencies often go overboard during operations, residents are not mindful of the officers’ safety, as they see them as sworn enemies and may attack them for no reason due to a long time grudges or the ugly stories they have heard about them.
While calls have been made for Nigerians to appreciate the sacrifices these agents made to ensure that everyone lives in an environment free of crime, the community-security relationship remains weak.
The task force has severally been accused of using touts during operations, who most of the time do some of the dirty jobs, the allegation the agency keeps denying.
Also, last year, a joint team of Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA) and the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) were attacked while on enforcement activities/removal of illegal PFS in Ajao Estate area of Lagos State.
General Manager of Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority, Kehinde Osinaike, said the joint team had gone to remove the illegal construction at 1, Robinson Gbagi Street, Ajao Estate, when suddenly some thugs armed with guns, cudgels, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons stormed the area and started shooting at officials and in the process causing mayhem in the area.
One of LASBCA operatives was macheted on his head and shoulder, while others who sustained injuries.
Similarly, officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) have been attacked by motorists on the ground of alleged highhandedness.
While the management of LASTMA says it is committed to improving its rule of engagement, men of the agency have been rumoured to have been instructed by their superiors on the number of arrests they need to make per day to ‘improve’ revenue generation.
While this has also been denied, the relationship between the men of the agency and motorists is one of cat and dog.
Some of the attacks on LASTMA officials have also been linked to the high-handedness on the part of the men.
Last year, under the scorching sun, in Ojodu Berger, some LASTMA officials flagged down a mini-bus driver over allegation that a passenger did not wear safety belt. This situation degenerated and the passengers, including a heavily pregnant woman were asked to get off the bus and all the passengers had to walk back to the park. While it is against the law not to be belted, one of the men of the agency was visibly overzealous which led to confrontation and traffic logjam. The men have also been seen exchanging punches with commercial drivers severally.
Speaking with The Guardian, Chairman, Lagos State Task force, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Shola Jejeloye, said: “We have suffered a lot of attacks during operations, but we try not to allow that to deter us. Some people don’t have the will to do the right thing and that is why they can attack a policeman who was carrying arm; but we do not allow the power of arms to control us because it’s always suicidal to react with the same energy. We rather employ other means to deal with many of the situations.
“Over 15 of my men have been gruesomely attacked in the last one year, but more than hundred have experienced other forms of attack.
“Instead of retaliating, we try as much as possible to make sure that we effect the arrest of anyone that attacks any of our men and charge them to court.”
On how the agency is checkmating overzealous officers, Jejeloye said: “I have made my men to understand my position on issues; if you give them the notion that they will be covered, then they will go ahead to commit illegalities, but if we make them understand that when they commit, disciplinary action is awaiting them, then they will behave. As a policeman, if you commit, I will not cover you up.”
Also, spokesperson for Lagos task force, Gbadeyan Abdulraheem, said: “Enforcement is not a Tea Party. So, we are used to being attacked but we have the expertise to combat it.
In the last one year, our men have been attacked severally and one lost his life while we were carrying out enforcement around Ajao Estate, Murtala Mohammed Airport Road, Lagos.
When contacted, LASTMA was not sure of the number of officials attacked in the last one year.
LASTMA’s spokesperson, Adebayo Taofiq, said: “Records here showed that those attacked and others who became accident victims were 20. We have the report of both together.
“Culprits have in the past been handed over to the police and prosecuted. This is in addition to payment of necessary reparations, mostly relating to medical costs where applicable. The man that poured faeces on our officials the last time was charged to court and he’s still in Kirikiri Correctional Centre.
“To prevent attacks, LASTMA officials are periodically lectured not to arrest at all cost, take evidence and arrest when convenient. In the same vein, enlightenment campaigns to re-orientate and educate the public are carried out from time to time.
On how the agency is handling overzealous officials, he said: “Overzealousness is treated with reprimand, re-training and re-orientation. Disciplinary actions through well outlined civil service rules are also applied, example is the reduction in ranks, stalled promotions, salary withholding and other sanctions.”
On measures put in place to prevent officials from being attacked, he said: “Engagement with the local communities where operatives are deployed, synergy and cooperation with security and other stakeholders, training and admonitions towards professional, discretion and safety consciousness are some methods we apply.”
Also, the General Manager of LASBCA, Gbolahan Oki, an architect, decried attacks on government officials on lawful assignments, warning that government would henceforth take decisive actions against perpetrators of such heinous acts.
He urged residents to always cooperate with LASBCA and other agencies of Government in the built environment of Lagos State as they are out to ensure a seamless development of the state through sustainable practices in building construction.
Meanwhile, the state’s Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Tayo Bamgbose-Martins, has said that government was not oblivious of the fact that while some officials act to uphold professionalism and good ethics, there might be few others who compromise their positions and collude with others to denigrate the system.
He said that the agency is investigating alleged corrupt practices by some officials of LASPPPA and LASBCA.
He said that the two agencies, which had been doing their best to sanitise the Lagos building industry, had been mandated to fish out the bad eggs within their fold, assuring that such erring officers would be made to face punitive actions in line with the public service.