The Lagos State Police Command has demanded the release of two officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority over their involvement in an incident which led to the death of a hypertensive Bureau De Change operator, Modibo Usman.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin, who disclosed this to PUNCH Metro on Monday, stated that investigations were ongoing into the incident.
PUNCH Metro had reported on Monday that Modibo was being conveyed by his son, Mustapha, to the Foremost Radiology Consultant Hospital on Ogunlana Drive, Surulere, to obtain a test result for his daughter, Ummu.
Mustapha said they were also to see his father’s doctor in the Lekki area of the state on the same day.
The victim’s son said on the way, they were stopped by LASTMA officers for allegedly disobeying traffic lights.
He noted that pleas by his father that they were on a medical emergency were ignored by the officers, who later demanded a N50,000 bribe to release the vehicle.
The LASTMA officers were said to have followed the duo to the first hospital, after which they took the vehicle away.
Mustapha alleged that his father died of shock after the car was taken away.
Two of the LASTMA officers were said to have been arrested and taken to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Yaba.
The state police spokesperson, Hundeyin, said two more officers had been invited for questioning.
He said, “The State Criminal Investigation Department has reached out to LASTMA to present the remaining two officials that were in the team that handled that case. The family of the deceased has also been contacted to come forward to shed more light on what happened.”
The LASTMA General Manager, Bolaji Oreagba, directed our correspondent to the agency’s spokesperson and the SCID.
The LASTMA spokesman, Olumide Filade, had earlier claimed that the agency did not have any record of the demand for money.
In a statement on Monday, he said the vehicle was impounded for violation of traffic lights.
The statement read in part, “After the incident, Usman (Modibo) and his son requested to disembark at a nearby medical laboratory for a previous appointment and later visit LASTMA’s office to resolve the traffic offence issue. The officers obliged and took the impounded vehicle to the premises of the agency.
“A video of discussions between the deceased and LASTMA officers is available and its contents are totally at variance with the incident reported in the newspaper.
“It has also become a regular practice for traffic violators to conjure untruths about LASTMA officers demanding bribes in order to release impounded vehicles. Such individuals rarely provide evidence to substantiate claims made in such instances.
“For clarification, LASTMA officers had departed the scene of impounding the vehicle and were not privy to events that led to the demise of Modibo Usman. LASTMA commiserates with the family of Modibo Usman on the sudden and unfortunate loss.
“Residents should please report any case of unprofessional conduct of its personnel to the Agency in order to curb indecent behaviour among some of its officers.”
Meanwhile, many Nigerians have slammed LASTMA over the incident, saying the death was avoidable.
As of 8pm, there were over 70 comments on the PUNCH’s website, with over 2,000 comments and 821 shares on Facebook.
On PUNCH Online, a reader, Sollyparton asked the Lagos State Government to stop the agency from impounding vehicles, adding that it had become an avenue for extortion.
The reader wrote, “The Lagos State Government should stop LASTMA from arresting vehicles; that’s the only way this bribery can stop. Anyone caught in traffic violation should be given a ticket and pay directly to the appropriate authority. The traffic offender’s license also should be flagged for the violation and noted.”
Another reader, who identified himself as Adams, said the agency should be banned.
“They are becoming a nuisance. I dread driving in Lagos because of their uncivilised attitude in active connivance with policemen and other touts,” he stated.
A Facebook user, Ayoola Bosede, said the agency was fond of covering up the corrupt practices of its officers.
He added, “It’s high time the agency is called to order. This unprofessionalism and corrupt practices of the men of the agency does more harm to the public than the good that the agency was established to create.”
The founder of the Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation, Segun Awosanya, said the agency needed to be “purged.”
“…but those feeding from the corruption are well connected and have been leading the resistance,” the #EndSARS convener added.
Another Facebook user, Gbenga Soyemi, said the state government should be blamed for turning LASTMA into a revenue-generating agency.
He wrote, “LASTMA are now microfinance bank working with target. What a State!. Please don’t let us continue puting blame on those guys, Lagos State government should re- think and discharge their duties to the citizen.”
However, another user, Everest Onyewuchi, blamed the deceased’s son for beating the traffic light.
He stated, “The deceased man’s son had no reason to jump red light; his vehicle wasn’t an ambulance. Only medical, fire and police ambulances can jump red traffic light. He’s vicariously liable for the death of his dad; if he’d obeyed traffic light stop, he’d still had gotten to the Lab, picked the result and taken his dad to keep his doctor’s appointment instead of causing a situation that instigated and aggravated his prior deteriorating condition.”