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Beware: In Lagos, wandering could send you to jail

KAI Operation official arresting an old woman
A widow living at Mowe area of Ogun State, Mrs. Justina Moses, recently sent her 18-year-old brother, Sunday John, on an errand to a relation on Lagos Island. On his way back, officials of the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences grabbed Sunday at about 9am on Monday, June 10, 2013, and within 24 hours, sent him to the Badagry Prison.

However, Moses said none of the officials at the task force office, Alausa, Ikeja, could state Sunday’s offence when she demanded an explanation while the Investigating Police Officer for the case could not be produced.

She said, “I was told that he was arrested at Oshodi bus-stop; but what they told me was to produce N40, 000 as fine for his release. They said that was the order given to them by the state government. When I didn’t have N40, 000 to quickly give to them, my brother was taken to jail.”

Lately, there have been reported cases of illegal arrests, extortion and highhandedness by officials of Lagos State law enforcement agencies, particularly the task force, Kick Against Indiscipline and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority.

Mrs.Moses, who lost her husband in November 2012, is currently unemployed. Her neighbour, Mr. Jonathan Agbeni, who has been assisting the family to secure Sunday’s release, described his recent visits to the task force office as an ‘eye-opener’ to the rot in the system.

Agbeni said many of the alleged offenders brought into the task force office each time he was there had no concrete case to answer for.

“They couldn’t produce the IPO in charge of Sunday’s case, and one of their officials who attended to us that the boy didn’t commit any offence. He said Sunday was picked up like so many others who get picked up on a daily basis for no offence at all.

“Even while I was there, a man just released from prison was picked up by the task force officials on the same day, while on his way home. He was again sentenced to one month imprisonment after claiming he had shown the magistrate his discharge papers.”

Also, Agbeni was allegedly asked by the task force officials to pay for Sunday’s release and satisfy other requirements. However, this time, the demand was N50, 000.

Highlighting the other prerequisites, Agbeni said he was asked to produce two sureties resident in Lagos with evidence of their tax payment for three years; house rent receipts; ID cards; two passport photographs each; copies of utility bills; and voter card or National ID card.

The distraught family has had to engage the services of the Directorate of Citizens’ Right, a department of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice responsible for protecting the rights of residents.

According to Agbeni, the legal counsellor assigned by the department to Sunday’s case has already dismissed the N50, 000 demanded by the task force as unnecessary.

He said, “She, however, said that we would need to get the sureties and satisfy other requirements, even though, we don’t live in Lagos.”

Agbeni added that getting the two sureties mandated by the task force to secure Sunday’s release has been a challenge for them since neither he nor Moses is resident in Lagos. Gladly, Sunday’s hope of getting released from prison has been boosted as they have got a surety, but Agbeni alleged that task force officials had earlier advised him to pay N15,000 for a professional surety outside their premises.

He said, “We have been able to get one surety; but while we were still trying to get one, we were told that we could get one on the premises for N15,000. Also, we’ve been told that we will need N5, 000 to settle the clerk and the police officer that will visit the house of the surety.”

In May, Mr. Chibike Ikegwuonu was driving along Maza-Maza road in Lagos, when he was allegedly stopped by LASTMA officials for an alleged traffic offence.

The officials allegedly took Ikegwuonu to the back of a fuel station where he met several other motorists, bribing their way out of being arrested.

He said, “I was told that my fine was N20, 000 and taken to the back of a fuel station close to their Mile 2 office. They collected my car key as I was pleading my innocence and told me that ignorance of the law is not an excuse. But I replied that I never committed an offence.

“There, I saw corruption in practice. I saw intimidation and stealing in uniform. I saw over 50 vehicles and their owners buying their way out with various amounts of money, between N5, 000 and N10, 000.

“I was taken to one Mr. Jegede who they said was their boss and he said my fine was N20,000, but that I should pay N10,000 instead, that if I didn’t, I would have to pay more in the bank and also taken for an eye test at Badagry.”

Ikegwuonu sadi he got the officials annoyed when he insisted that he was a pastor and would never give a bribe. He said his car was taken to their garage and its four tyres deflated.

He said, “It was there I realised that LASTMA has three types of payment: caution fee of N10,000 for first offenders; spot settlement, paid at the back of the fuel station as bribe to avoid stress; and N20,000, which is paid into the government purse.

“While I was there, anpun average of 50 vehicles were brought in every hour, so an estimated 400 vehicles a day. Out of the figure, only about 70 of the vehicle owners go to the bank while the rest opt to give a bribe. Also, there are thrift collectors at the fuel station used by LASTMA officials for daily contributions of between N5, 000 and N20, 000.”

Ikegwuonu said his car was later released to him the following day unconditionally.

Also in May, Mr. Kelechi John, a marketing officer for a soap industry, was apprehended by KAI officials and thrown inside their bus, along with some others.

John said the officials claimed he was hawking without a permit.

He was quoted as saying, “They all looked terrible and horrible. The guys I saw in that bus looked like touts and nothing like people working for the government to fight indiscipline; they were smoking and drinking and had tattoos on their bodies. So I actually thought that they were kidnappers.

“They made other arrests but they appeared to be targeted at some people because they left some other persons whom they should have apprehended. Once they sight someone they are interested in arresting, they would tell one another in Yoruba, ‘guy, that’s a deal for you, go after him quickly’. Some of them would run out of the bus and chase after their targets.”

John also accused the KAI officials of openly soliciting for bribe from alleged offenders and receiving between N4,000 and N10,000 from each person that offered it to them.

Efforts to reach the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, were unsuccessful as he did not pick his calls or respond to a text message to his phone.

Source: Punch News

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