Kadri Rotimi, a medical doctor, has accused officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) of extorting N20,000 from him while driving on the Third Mainland Bridge around 8am on Saturday.
Kadri said he was on his way to catch up with a dying patient in the hospital when he was waylaid by two LASTMA officials. He said one of the officials wore his uniform while the other was in mufti.
He added that he wanted to pick an emergency call from the hospital and that he was moving very slowly when he noticed the officials were coming his way.
“I put on my hazard light; I wanted to make a call so I needed to reduce speed; I was moving but very slowly because I wanted to pick my earpiece,” he said.
“They saw everything when both of them entered and I explained to them that I only paused to pick my ear piece and move because I was actually late and would be on high speed soonest.”
According to Kadri, the officials did not mention the particular traffic offence he had committed; they only took pictures of him while making their extortionate moves.
He wondered if “slowing down and moving to the extreme left side of the road with the hazard light switched on” was an offence, adding that there was no traffic on the road at the time.
“When they ran into me, I even thought they were armed robbers.”
He said rather than tell him his offence, the officials told him to pay N50,000 or he would be taken to their office where he would be billed N100,000.
“They said they knew I wouldn’t have N100,000, so they asked how much I could afford.”
Kadri said when he told the officials that he had no cash on him, they drove him to a nearby Sterling Bank around Simpson Street on Lagos Island to withdraw from the Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
“They emptied the N20,000 in my account and told me to call my wife to send N20,000 to make the sum up to N40,000.”
He added that he foiled their attempts to extort him further when they asked him to call his wife for more money. Although he offered to transfer the money to one of the officer’s accounts, they declined, knowing that could implicate them.
“I was calling my wife truly, but I was hanging the call whenever she picked and told them she was sleeping and couldn’t pick the call.”
When the officers saw that he would not give them more money, they dropped him around Osborne area of Lagos Island and gave him his car key.
“They asked me to thank them for not taking me to their office and left. So, I drove away to my office.”
Kadri said the officers were good at their fraudulent job, noting that the officer in uniform did not come down from the car throughout and that he covered his face with his cap and covered the name on his badge. He however said he can identify the other officer in mufti whenever he sets his eyes on him.
NOT THE FIRST TIME
On several occasions, LASTMA officials have been exposed for extorting innocent road users, all in the name of enforcing Lagos traffic laws.
In March, FIJ reported how Muritala Kareem Last week, a bus driver extorted by some LASTMA officials, set himself and his bus ablaze in Ikeja, Lagos, out of anger and frustration. Eyewitnesses said the incident was about the fifth time in a row that LASTMA officials would extort Kareem.
On March 26, an FIJ reporter was harassed around Anthony, Ikorodu Road, by some LASTMA officers after filming them for illegally detaining a public bus driver and extorting him. His phone and identity card were seized.
In April, a frustrated commercial rider in Lagos stripped himself naked and brought out a cutlass to stop a LASTMA officer from extorting him.
Similarly in May, LASTMA officials almost extorted the sum of N50,000 from one Demian Aluya, a Lagos resident. Aluya was only saved from being extorted when he quickly contacted the LASTMA Hotline.
LASTMA OFFICIAL SPEAKS
Olumide Filade, the spokesperson to LASTMA, did not respond to multiple calls from FIJ, when contacted. Meanwhile, Oseni Akerele, the Legal Director of the agency, said victims LASTMA officials can now get justice by contacting their Complaints Response Team.
“People can now reach out to LASTMA, lodge their complaints and their problem would be resolved,” Oseni told FIJ.
He added that the victim of such extortion can meet him to resolve the problem.
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