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 officials are Bamidele Sheu, 48, a Level Seven traffic officer; Ope Adisa, 32, a Level Five traffic officer; and Babatunde Aluko, 37, a Level Four traffic officer.
The trio were arrested following a complaint to the agency by one Akinmolayan Babatunde, a clearing agent, of illegal apprehension of his container-bearing truck with number AA 553 NGW at Marina area of the Lagos Island and subsequent demand for N8,000 bribe by the traffic officers before the vehicle could be released.
According to Mr. Akinmolayan, he was accompanying the 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.
Mr. 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 the 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 N80,000 before its release.
It took the intervention of the zonal head and after parting with N7,000 to some men in mufti that the vehicle was eventually released and allowed to go.
In the same vein, the duo of Jimo 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.
Mr. 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 him 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.”
Mr. 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 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, 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 the hard working officers who work assiduously to ensure free flow of traffic in the State.
Mr. 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.
“LASTMA operates a cashless policy and motorists should not give money to any LASTMA official under any circumstance,” Mr. Musa.
“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 persons in mufti should be reported to LASTMA or nearest law enforcement agency, adding that any motorist dealing with the state traffic official should feel free to demand for his identity and name.
Mr. Musa urged motorists and members of the public to take advantage of the open door policy of the Agency to make complaints against any erring officer, and as such complains would not only be treated with dispatch, but also make sure justice is done.
The LASTMA boss urged motorists to exhaust all avenues available to seek redress before approaching media, as any officer found wanting on duty would be dealt with according to the service rules and regulation.
“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,” Mr. Musa said.
Over 20 LASTMA officials have been dismissed this year for various acts of misconduct that were considered to be inimical to the service of the state and agency.
This is in addition to dozens of other officials that had received various letters of warning and those that are waiting their turn to appear before Personal Management Board (discipline) for various unwholesome acts and behaviour.