MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Usman Bello
A good number of motorists plying Cele-Okota Road in Lagos are now living in constant fear as officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) in collaboration with vehicle towing agents have chosen to subject them to nightmare on flimsy excuses of committing traffic offences.
Some of the motorists whose vehicles were impounded by the officials and towed to the Agency’s office in Ire Akari Estate area told AtlanticNewsonline at the weekend that they could not really understand why they were arrested and their vehicles taken away to the office where some huge sum of money were collected from them without official receipt.
One of the victims who identified himself as Henry Odafe said he had merely slowed down at Cele Bus Stop and about to negotiate his entry from the Oshodi Mile Two Expressway when two men wearing uniforms that looked like mechanic uniforms seized his steering, commanding him to pack well.
He was trying to ascertain their identity when a LASTMA Official on uniform came and ordered him to come down from the vehicle and allow one of the two guys to driver away his Corolla vehicle.
Initially, Odafe hesitated to alight from his vehicle as he was trying to ascertain what his offence was. As he delayed for some seconds, more of the towing agents clustered around him, threatening to jack up his vehicle and tow it away.
A partner with Odafe in his vehicle alighted from the vehicle trying to intervene, but the LASTMA official told him to advise Odafe to hand over the key to the guy who was making attempt to take over the steering. He assured the gentleman that once the vehicle was taken out from the scene, Odafe could settle with the man who was later discovered to be a towing driver..
Both Odafe and his friend believed the LASTMA man and voluntarily yielded the steering to the LASTMA agent. They drove off and the man at steering opened up a discussion as they were going, asking both men what they wanted him to do.
They told him that they lost a relation and were going to Ijegun for her burial and would not like to be delayed since they already behind schedule. The LASTMA agent told them they had committed offence by slowing down at the link between the Express way and Cele-Okota Road. Since Odafe and his friend were not ready to argue much to avoid delay of their movement, they asked the LASTMA agent to show some concern over their bereavement and allow them go.
The man still driving towards Ire Akari Estate, urged them to “settle” to enable him hand over the steering. Effort to convince him that they were bereaved and needed assistance fell on deaf ears. They pleaded with him to allow them go but the more they pleaded the more hardened the man became.
Since Odafe and his friend were truly in a hurry to meet up with the burial they were going for, his friend gave the LASTMA agent N5000, he rejected it and asked for N10,000. The man told him that all he had on him was N10, 000 and told the LASTMA agent that it would be difficult to part with the entire amount as he had nothing again on him.
As they were arguing, the agent drove straight into the Agency’s premises at Ire Akari Estate.
He quickly parked the vehicle and promptly reported to an official on mufti that Mr. Odafe and his friend committed offence and were trying to bribe him. The official turned to them and asked audaciously who made the attempt to offer bribe. Odafe and his friend boldly confronted the official and narrated how the entire incident occurred.
At the end, they were asked to pay N16,50O before the vehicle could be released. Odafe had to go elsewhere with his ATM card to withdraw N650O from a POS which he added to the N10,000 on his friend. They paid without receipt before the vehicle was released. Some other victims whose vehicles were impounded and taken to the station paid different sums of money.
AtlanticNewsonline reporter who witnessed the incident and traced Odafe and his friend to the LASTMA office noticed that the cash payment was collected by a young man who was clutching a mini bag that served as their treasury. Some uniformed officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission were seen in the same premises, which suggested that more than one agency is occupying the place.
Other motorists who spoke to AtlanticNewsonline on the basis of anonymity recounted their experiences in the hands of these people whom they described as criminals in uniform.
They urged Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to quickly intervene and do away with the towing agents who are collaborating with LASTMA officials to intimidate people and ripe them off. According to the motorists, these agents are enriching themselves (not the state) at the expense of innocent citizens.