The Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) has arrested five of its traffic officials for extorting motorists last week at various parts of the State.
The traffic officials were Bamidele Sheu, 48, Officer and resident of 68, Oke Popo Street, Lagos Island; Ope Adisa, 32, of 8, Freeman Street, Lagos Island and Babatunde Aluko, 37 of 15, Oriwu street, Ikorodu.
The trio was arrested following a complaint to the Agency by one Akinmolayan Babatunde, a clearing agent for the illegal apprehension of his container truck with number AA 553 NGW at Marina area of the Lagos Island and subsequently demanded N80,000 as a bribe before the vehicle could be released.
According to Akinmolayan, he was accompanying the container truck on Monday morning to deliver goods at Walter Carrington Street at Victoria Island, when the truck was forced to stop at Marina close to the State House by the three LASTMA officials in uniform working with some other men in mufti for driving the vehicle at unauthorised hours.
Akinmolayan said all pleas to allow the truck to go in order to meet up with delivery time fell on deaf ears as the traffic officials and these men in mufti engaged him in fisticuffs, and the vehicle was eventually taken to Olowu removal yard of the Agency on the Island, where they demanded the said sum before its release.
It took the intervention of the Zonal Head and payment of N7, 000 to the unidentified men in mufti before the vehicle was eventually released to Mr. Akinmolayan.
In the same vein, the duo of Jimoh Olaosebikan and Emmanuel Padonu were arrested during the week by surveillance unit and provost officials of the Agency at Okokomaiko and Mile 12 areas of the State respectively.
While Olaosebikan was arrested by men of LASTMA surveillance team unit at Okokomaiko along Lagos- Badagry expressway for illegally collecting a sum of N20,000 from a female motorist whom he alleged to have made an illegal u-turn at Okokomaiko.
According to the motorist, “all explanations that other vehicles have been turning there before failed to convince him and efforts to see his superior officers in their office were frustrated by him, only for him to collect the sum of N20,000 from me before their surveillance team emerged from nowhere to arrest him.”
Padonu, on his part, was picked up by Provost Officials for using men in mufti to collect money from commercial drivers at Mile 12 area of Kosofe Local Government of Lagos State on Wednesday morning.
The arrest was as a result of a tip-off from members of the public who informed the Agency that some traffic officials were conniving with men in mufti to arrest and collect money from commercial drivers in the area.
Speaking on the arrested officials, General Manager of LASTMA, Mr. Olawale Musa expressed dismay at the activities of unscrupulous elements within the Agency and assured that with the assistance of members of the public they will be eased off from the Agency to protect the good name of officers who work assiduously to ensure free flow of traffic in the State.
Musa expressed his appreciation to members of the public for alerting the Agency to the unscrupulous activities of these officials, just as he advised motorists to always report any LASTMA official found wanting on duty.
According to him, “LASTMA operates a cashless policy and motorists should not give money to any LASTMA official under any circumstance. Furthermore, LASTMA officials on duty are always in uniforms with names conspicuously displayed on the breast pockets and motorists should disregard anybody not in uniform claiming to be Agency officials”.
He said such person in mufti should be reported to LASTMA or nearest law enforcement Agency, adding that any motorist dealing with the State traffic officials should feel free to demand his identity and name.
The LASTMA boss urged motorists to exhaust all avenues available to seek redress before approaching the media, as any officer found wanting on duty would be dealt with according to the service rules and regulations.
“I want to assure motorists that we have put everything in place to ensure free flow of traffic during the yuletide period and I want to implore motorists to imbibe the culture of voluntary compliance with traffic officials’ directives, obey road signs and laws so that we can have seamless traffic during this yuletide period,” Musa said.