A “serial” fake traffic officer, Omotutu Bamidele, has been arrested by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) in the Ikoyi area of the state.
The agency’s spokesperson, Adebayo Taofiq, in a statement on Sunday said the suspect was arrested at Olu Holloway Road in the Alfred Rewane area of Ikoyi.
He was caught by the agency’s monitoring/surveillance team led by a zonal head, Ashafa Moyosore, in response to complaints from two motorists.
The 55-year-old suspect confessed to have been impersonating a reflective jacket as a LASTMA officer and extorting money from motorists, particularly private car owners and drivers in highbrow areas across the state.
“Investigation conducted revealed that the arrested suspect had been extorting huge sums of money from motorists for various traffic offences ranging from seatbelt, obstructions, illegal overtaking and one-way at different locations around Lagos Island,” the statement reads.
The agency’s boss, Bolaji Oreagba, said it is “disheartening getting complaints from road users, particularly motorists on activities of these unscrupulous elements impersonating and extorting money from them”
Mr Oreagba urged the general public to be wary of fake traffic officers stating that the agency operates a cashless policy as any violators apprehended are charged to the court with a ‘Referral Notice’ issued to them.
“Let me warn the motoring public to desist from inducing traffic officers in any form (money) as both the giver and taker are liable before the law,” he was quoted as saying.
The general manager, however, warned other impersonators disguising themselves as LASTMA personnel to immediately desist from such illegal acts as more surveillance personnel have been strategically deployed to hunt for them.
The suspect, who confirmed to be living with his younger brother inside one of the army barracks in Lagos, confessed to having operated around Ikoyi, Obalende, Apongbon Bridge, Iporin, and Olowu areas apprehending both commercial and private cars for various traffic infractions including driving against traffic.
According to the statement, Mr Omotutu said he hailed from ‘Atijere Town’ in Ondo State, adding that he and his colleagues make an average of N35,000 from extortions daily.
“Any motorists, particularly private car owners I caught dropping someone at any undesignated bus stop paid between N15,000 to N20,000 while those caught for driving against traffic (One-way) paid a minimum of N35,000,” the suspect was quoted as saying.
Mr Taofiq said one Adewusi Adebola (a complainant) confirmed that the suspect apprehended him for ‘obstruction’ on 6 March, around Spac bus stop by Awolowo Road, Ikoyi and collected N20,000 from him for dropping his colleagues.
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“Honestly speaking I had written a series of negative stories about activities of LASTMA on social media, particularly on ‘Twitter’ since the ugly incidents happened until I was called by LASTMA management that the man I reported that extorted money from me was a fake traffic officer and that he has been arrested” Mr Adebola was quoted as saying following the arrest of the suspect.
Also, one Obinna Kingsley complained via one of the LASTMA social media handles (Twitter) that he was forced to transfer N50,000 to the arrested suspect (Omotutu Bamidele) for ‘obstruction’ on Awolowo Road by Obalende Bridge towards Tafawa Balewa Square.
However, Akerele Kehinde, the agency’s head of the legal department, said the suspect will be charged in court on Monday.
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