A PUNCH man, Emmanuel Aigbodega, has lamented his ordeal in the hands of some officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, who allegedly brutalised him on his way back from work on Tuesday.
The 38-year-old, who was on night duty, was reportedly returning home around 9.30am when he was accosted at the Maryland area by the officials.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the Edo State Indigene was detained by the officials till around 7pm for being in a vehicle which allegedly allowed a traffic law violator escape.
Aigbodega said the officials, who were five in number, threatened to kill him after he identified himself as a worker with PUNCH Newspapers.
He said, “On my way from work on Tuesday, a friend gave me a lift at Berger bus stop. My friend was trying to connect to a road that links Maryland to Onigbongbo area, but he had to cross a BRT lane. Some vehicles on the BRT lane started obstructing motorists who wanted to cross the lane. We noticed that a LASTMA official was chasing a Toyota Hiace on the BRT lane. While the driver was manoeuvring to escape arrest, our vehicle stopped to avert a crash.
“The officer, having lost his target, stopped us and asked why we allowed the bus to go. In the process, a trailer scratched our vehicle. I alighted to check the extent of the damage done to our vehicle and my friend went to park well in order not to obstruct traffic.
“The official asked why I allowed the Toyota Hiace to go and I told him it was not my duty to stop the vehicle for them. Four other officials joined him and they said they would arrest me for allowing the vehicle to go.
“I asked if they were supposed to be arresting people and I was given a slap. They started beating me up as they dragged me to enter their vehicle. When I refused, they punched me in the face and crushed my legs with the vehicle door to force me in. While one whipped me with wire, others hit me with sticks; passersby and motorists videoed the scene with their mobile phones.”
The victim said he was detained at the Oshodi office of the agency for hours.
“When we got to their office, I was asked to identify myself and I told them I work with PUNCH Newspapers. When they heard PUNCH, they hit me more, saying we always write negative stories about them. They threatened to kill me and wanted to seize my phone. In the process of dragging the phone with them, they broke the screen.
“One of the officials, identified as Afolabi, hit me till I could no longer walk properly with my right leg. When their public relations officer called to find out what happened from them, they fabricated lies against me and said I was assaulted because I was stubborn.
“I was not the one driving; if they could not catch a traffic offender, they should have snapped or noted the vehicle’s number plate. But they chose to assault and detain me unjustly. After their PRO spoke to them, they gave me ice cubes to massage my face before I was released around 7pm,” he added.
Aigbodega said because of the pain of the torture, he could not sleep that night, adding that he had to visit a hospital for treatment on Wednesday.
The LASTMA PRO, Hassan Mamud, condemned the action of the men, urging Aigbodega to file a formal complaint for the matter to be taken up.
He said, “We have been orientating our officials to stop such acts. We are taking them through the process of being polite and civil in dealing with members of the public.
“To show that we do not approve or tolerate such conducts which are not in line with our method of operation, 14 traffic officers were recommended by the Personnel Management Board (Discipline) for dismissal on Tuesday. So, I will encourage the victim to make an official complaint so that we can take it up.
“I want to urge any member of the public, who is aggrieved by the approach of any of our officials, to write a letter to the general manager and chief executive officer of LASTMA. The surveillance and provost unit will look into the matter and make the necessary recommendation.”