THETALK.NG reports that Lagos state drivers have expressed pain following arrest on trumped-up charges by officials of the agency.
The Punch visited the headquarters of LASTMA in Oshodi, Lagos, and revealed details about the plight of motorists, who are arrested on trumped-up charges by officials of the agency.
A commercial bus driver identified simply as Moses Salami, was seen limping and pacing along the corridor of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority around 2:55pm under the scorching sun on Friday, September 2, 2022.
Lagos bus drivers express pain LASTMA officials billed them exorbitantly
The 72-year-old commercial bus driver needed someone who would either help him add N3,500 to the N11,500 with him so he could retrieve his bus or assist in talking to one of the LASTMA officials who had arrested him, impounded his vehicle and asked him to pay a sum of N15,000.
Moses, who plies Idumota to Oshodi, said the officials stopped him and claimed to have snapped him at Ojuelegba bus stop for violating traffic rules.
Although shocked by the allegation, Salami said he demanded for the picture but his request was rebuffed.
“I was coming from Ikorodu and when I got to Anthony, this man called Yemi stopped me and put the iron across the road. I asked what my offence was but he did not answer me.”
The driver’s offence
When asked if he was booked for an offence, Moses said he was not booked, adding that proof of his offence was also not shown to him.
“They did not give me any ticket. They just asked me to go and bring N15,000 and I only had N11,500 with me. What they are doing is illegal work I know them very well.’’
It was gathered that all efforts to intervene on the driver’s behalf proved abortive.
One of the officers who arrested him was also seen to have changed from his uniform to a mufti and perhaps was ready to go home but had to wait for Moses to pay the money.
“How far, you don bring am?” he asked Moses, who led the newspaper reporter discreetly to where his bus was parked since people were not allowed to go into the yard where the impounded vehicles were parked.
It was not too long after that the officer, Akiode S. who arrested him showed up and they began another round of negotiation after insisting on collecting N20,000.
While Moses eventually paid N13,000, another driver identified simply as Godfrey paid N15,000.
LASTMA rules, background
The agency, which was established on the 15th of July, 2000, operates under the Ministry of Transportation to transform the state transportation system, ensure free flow of traffic in the state and also reduce road accidents.
With a city growing and expanding by the day, the agency has contributed in no small way in decongesting traffic in most parts of the state.
However, the high-handedness of some of these officials when dealing with motorists has become a major source of concern.
Lagos residents and motorists have accused some of them of unprofessional conduct and being unruly, especially for deliberately arresting motorists without providing evidence of wrongdoing or infraction.
This has fuelled the allegation that the officers deliberately set traps for unsuspecting motorists so as to arrest them.
Our reporter visited the yard three times. The first visit was on September 2, then on October 3 and lastly on November 3, to monitor the activities of the officials. This reporter also pretended to be an arrested driver to enable him relate closely with other victims and observe proceedings.
A large number of the commercial bus drivers at the compound seemed to be familiar with most of the officers.
A commercial bus driver, Qudus Adekunle, said he and some other drivers pay certain dues to the LASTMA officials at Anthony bus-stop to avoid their trouble.
“The money we give them is just to delay evil days. They have collected money from me twice this morning and they still arrested me because my door was slightly open.”
Pattern of arrest
The pattern of arrest by the officials and the double mode of payment by the drivers arrested for traffic offences piqued the curiosity of our correspondent.
It was discovered that some of the drivers in the corridor of the LASTMA office were arrested for offences they did not commit, as the officials that arrested them failed to show evidence of their offences or reasons for their arrests.
This added fuel to the wide held insinuation that the innocent motorists were arrested for offence spuriously contrived by the traffic officials. This mode of payment further corroborated the scam.
The PUNCH learnt that any driver arrested for a traffic offence is meant to be handed a fine equivalent of the offence but it was observed that while those who were genuinely caught and booked for a fine went about processing their payment, those clandestinely arrested were charged any amount from N25,000 naira upward.
Findings at the head office also revealed that once a vehicle is forcefully taken from a motorist for an alleged offence, the LASTMA official drives it down to the yard and will be nowhere to be found, while another official will take over the negotiation process.