Some residents of Lagos State have lamented the continued extortion of motorists by traffic officers attached to the Central Business District, Agidingbi, Ikeja.
In a viral video posted by a popular blogger, Tunde Ednut Kingtundeednut, on Instagram, on Wednesday, an unidentified motorist accused the traffic officers of taking an advantage of the zebra crossing at the axis to extort money from motorists.
He noted that the traffic light was stationed close to the zebra crossing, which made stopping on the line unavoidable during traffic congestion.
“There are CBD traffic officers who for a long time have been taking an advantage of the zebra crossing at that Lateef Jakande Road, which is just before the filling station when you are coming towards Mega Chicken.
“The zebra crossing was placed too close to the traffic light such that when there are traffic congestions, it is often very difficult for a vehicle not to step their tyres on that zebra crossing.
“Normally, cars are not supposed to stop on zebra crossing, but when there is traffic congestion, the car in front of you suddenly stops due to the traffic light changing from green to red, so the car behind cannot just move out of that position because there is a vehicle at its back already.
“So, what these guys do is that they just move to you, open your door, enter your car, and lead you to the Point-of-Service agents around Fela shrine and the minimum you will cough out is N20,000.
“We know that CBD officials have the right to manage traffic and all that, but when traffic officials set out with the sole target of extortion, it becomes very worrisome,” the man stated while capturing the officials harassing motorists at the spot.
On Thursday, our correspondent visited Agidingbi Road, from the Lagos Television/Eko FM end of the road through to the Mobil Filling Station down to the Mega Chicken area.
Although the CBD traffic officials were not seen on the road between 11.30am and 2.45pm when our reporter visited, two officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority were sighted at a corner of the street.
However, our reporter saw several CBD officials stationed on Hakeem Balogun Street, not too far from the Fela Shrine, Alausa.
A shop owner in the area, who gave his name simply as Ben, described Agidingbi as an extortion zone for traffic officers and urged the government to do something about the situation.
He said, “These traffic officers deliberately wait for drivers that will fall into their trap and when they are done extorting you, they will go to the shrine to enjoy.
“Though they are not there today, those ones who wait at the traffic light close to the Coca-Cola factory inward Agidingbi when you are coming in from Shoprite, are worse. It seems that the U-turn has been stopped but many people don’t know, so they use that to extort people when you are about to make the usual U-turn because they are not informed.
“I have seen several of these people being made to part with their money for taking the U-turn. These guys are evil. At that traffic light, you have the police, LASTMA, and the Lagos neighbourhood safety officers working together. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu should do something about these guys.”
A Point-of-Sale operator close to the Fela Shrine, who refused to disclose his name for security reasons, claimed that the traffic officers usually demanded N150,000 from their victims and allowed them to negotiate.
“Usually, when they catch you, they will take you to a corner and the first sum they throw at you is N150,000. They will allow you to negotiate to lesser amounts but the least I have seen them collect from people is N30,000. If you refuse to part with the money, you will remain here for a long time and not everyone can afford to waste their time,” he said.
A media consultant, Mrs Bose Akindele, whose office is in the area, told our correspondent that she nearly fell victim recently.
She said, “I was going to the office and I took the U-turn leading into Agidingbi, only for a LASTMA official to jump into my car and said I took a wrong turn. I was infuriated because it was unfair. While we were arguing, he saw my workplace sticker indicating I am a media person. That was what made him leave me alone that day.”
More residents share experiences
As the video of the CBD traffic officers went viral on social media on Wednesday, several residents also shared their experiences along the route.
One Ebenezer Dami described the Agidingbi route as a lion’s den.
“They stopped an elderly woman’s car three weeks ago because the traffic light suddenly turned red and her car was in front of ours.
“She didn’t see well, but thank God for me and my Bolt driver, because we saw what happened and we knew they wanted to arrest her. I started recording them and when they saw this, they quickly dismissed the old woman and let her go,” he added.
An Instagram user, Its_tegadominic, wrote, “Yes they have met with me before, but I refused to pay them anything. I even bought food and ate it in the car and they said I was not a normal human being. We delayed ourselves and they lost other victims that day. Let’s all be crazy please.”
Another user, thatgirldoyindomina, wrote, “Even the police work with them, they have chased us before. I don’t even know what they do (their uniform is grey or something). The fact that these policemen used a bike to chase us was another thing. But those ones had to let go of us.
“We went to park inside the mechanic village along Dominos and we felt they might enter there. Let’s assume we were caught that day, we wouldn’t drop anything less than N20,000 to N30,000.”
An Instagram user, Pteeluv, also wrote, “These officers are evil and they are out to rip people off. I was stopped and taken to their coded office to collect money. They told me to drive, and that they wanted to scan my car if I have an offence on my car. Thank God I was recording everything on my second phone and quietly followed them. I wanted to show them that I am on my rights.
“When I got to their office, they deflated my tyres and I insulted them with every word I knew. Unfortunately for them, they met their match as we eventually ended up at the governor’s office. After all their lying, I just played the recordings I made and they were shocked and left speechless.
“I collected the N10,000 they said they used to tow my car to their park; that was a car that I drove by myself into their office. But on a serious note, something needs to be done because they stressed me for almost an hour and 30 minutes. Another lesson: always have your phone on record immediately you see any officer coming towards you.”
A lawyer, Bayo Akingbohun, faulted the placement of the zebra crossing and urged proper sensitisation and regulations to be put in place.
He said, “You are not required to stop until a pedestrian has moved on to the crossing. That is the original intention of the creators of the sign. However, the issue is that our laws, for example, the highway code (amongst other traffic laws) are clear on zebra lines — these are used to indicate where pedestrians can cross the roads. You must stop for pedestrians that have stepped on the lines.
“When there is a traffic queue, you should leave the pedestrian crossing clear. This is what they are enforcing, but it doesn’t make sense given the current traffic realities. Maybe the law/regulation/code should enforce that a car must stop either in traffic or otherwise once there is the presence of a pedestrian. There should also be a proper sensitisation of the public to these things.”
A Lagos resident, Alade Owolabi, confirmed that the zebra crossing along the Agidingbi Road was not properly placed.
He said, “Usually, zebra crossings are placed in between two traffic lights and not only behind the traffic light. And zebra crossings are supposed to be between two stop signs, not behind a stop sign. They have that there in order to extort motorists.”
In his reaction, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, told Saturday PUNCH that the viral video on Instagram was an old one and such extortion was highly frowned upon by the state government.
He said, “That video is an old one, I don’t know why they are just bringing it out. There is also another video in which three officers in Ogun State were harassing a motorist and the person filming it was mentioning Lagos State.
“This particular one you are talking about is an old video and those involved have been dealt with. We do not encourage our people to do that. The government has no tolerance whatsoever for extortion.”
In November 2022, the Office of the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Central Business Districts disengaged three of its operatives serving in the Lagos Island Central Business District for extortion.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on CBD, Mr Gbenga Oyerinde, at the time said the three officers, identified as Mr Orishadipe Kolawole, Mr Bakare Saheed, and Mr Oguntayo Abiodun, breached civil service rules and regulations.
Oyerinde also warned other operatives of the CBD to eschew extortion, corruption, and other inappropriate acts that could ridicule and tarnish the image of the agency and that of the state government.
The General Manager of LASTMA, Mr Bolaji Oreagba, was contacted by our correspondent for comments but he rejected the calls made to his phone.
He did not also reply to a text message sent to his line as of the time of filing this report.