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Ajao Estate: LASTMA operatives extorting us, Keke NAPEP operators cry out

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Commercial tricycles . 					    			PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN

Commercial tricycles . PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN<br />

Tricycle operators at Canoe, and Chivita areas of Ajao Estate, in Oshodi/Isolo Local Council of Lagos State, may soon withdraw their services from the areas and relocate to another part of the state, if their claims of extortion, high handedness and brazen demand for bribe, by officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) is not stopped.

A spokesman for the operators, Mr. Hunkonnu Sunday, handed the warning recently, when he led a group of aggrieved tricycles operators to The Guardian, where they called Governor Akinwumi Ambode to call the erring LASTMA officials order.

According to Sunday, some LASTMA officials drafted to Ajao Estate area have turned arrest and victimisation of the operators into moneymaking exercise, while abandoning their main duty of traffic control.

Sunday said: “On daily basis, these LASTMA officials bully and attack us randomly. They arrest at least five tricycles daily, and from each of these our members, they collect about N5, 000 as bribe.”

He claimed that the LASTMA officials lay ambush for any unsuspecting operator who stops to pick passengers at places they call “unapproved bus stops” whereas, there is nowhere in Ajao Estate that is designated as bus stop.

The spokesperson said: “For any slight traffic regulation infraction, and even when none exists, the usual practice is to pounce on any operator, and demand for N5, 000 bribe. Failure to comply with the demand usually results in a being issued with a contravention ticket of N20, 000.”

The group further decried the insensitivity of the local LASTMA commander, who goes by the moniker, Zebra, alleging that rather than control his overzealous subordinates, he prefers to recline somewhere at Asa Afariogun Junction, waiting for his shares of the money extorted from motorists.

Sunday, who claimed that the LASTMA officials also inflict punishment on his colleagues over non-traffic issues recalled that: “On 8th October at Asa Afariogun, an official of LASTMA arrested and victimised our member in retaliation for an incident that happened between the operator, and a female commuter, known to a LASTMA official called Badmus.”

He stated that the operator was only released after he parted with a N5, 000 bribe.Sunday who lamented the constant harassment they suffer in the hands of these state officials, added that the incident involving Badmus and the lady, led to the tricycle, which was on hire purchase, being retrieved from his member, as he defaulted in the payment done on installments basis.

“Again, on Monday October 24, some LASTMA officials arrested an operator at Lukmon Atobajeun Junction, along Chivita Avenue, for parking off the main road to pick up commuters. After the incident led to public outcry among passersby and bystanders, the LASTMA officials were forced to release the tricyclist. But that same day, another operator, Mr. Ben Ugochukwu, better known as Bencash, a graduate, was arrested and made to suffer for the offence of the previous operator who escaped their trap.

According to Sunday, Ugochukwu was issued with a ticket of N30, 000, and tax clearance of N10, 000, to bail his rickety tricycle, with registration number LND 433 QB.The group also alleged that on Thursday, October 27th, some LASTMA officials arrested and issued a ticket of N20, 000 to Mr. Longinus Ozowara, better known as Oloye, for allegedly driving against traffic, “an offence he did not commit.”

The tricyclists stressed that the LASTMA officials in the area constituted a thorn in their flesh, by perpetrating the highest level of extortion against them.Last week, this reporter witnessed a tricycle that suddenly broke down in a traffic snarl, close to Asa Afariogun Street junction in Ajao Estate, in the evening. Ogunmodede, without any concern for the lives of the commuters, arrested the rider and ordered him to park by the roadside, without stating his offence.

He was, however, forced to release the tricycle operator after all the passengers volunteered to accompany him to whatever quarters, to prove his innocence.The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of LASTMA, Mr. Mahmud Hassan, in his reaction to the allegation of extortion against officials of the command, said personnel deployed to the Ajao Estate Area are professionals with great work ethics and integrity, who are disciplined and honest.

While expressing doubt that his men committed the offence, he encouraged motorists and other road users to report erring officials of the command to the nearest LASTMA office, or come to their Headquarters at Oshodi to file a report against them.
He said: “We operate an open door policy. Anybody with complaints on the conduct of our officials can come forward and make a report on their activities to us.”

Hassan added that there are monitoring teams deployed to every part of the state to observe officials and arrest those caught involved in illegal activities.Stressing that the command does not tolerate rogue officials, the PRO said that LASTMA usually sets up a panel to investigate allegations leveled against any official and apportion appropriate punishment to those found guilty. He appealed to members of the public to respect traffic laws and be civil to LASTMA officials who may stop them on the road.


In this article:
Keke NAPEPLASTMA
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