There was apprehension in the Liverpool, Apapa area of Lagos on Thursday after an irate mob lynched a commander of the Lagos State Transport Management Agency, Mr. Bakare Olatunji.
Olatunji before his death was the zonal head of the agency in the Apapa area. He had led a team of officials to the area in a patrol van at about 11am to arrest erring motorists.
However, things got out of hand when on getting the information that the LASTMA officials were in the area, tanker drivers and other people who parked their cars in the area began fleeing.
It was during the process that the LASTMA van was said to have ran into an assistant driver (bus conductor/motor boy) while he struggled to escape arrest. The unidentified boy was reportedly sleeping by the roadside and died on the spot.
The boy's panic-stricken friends on seeing the shocking incident, regrouped and went on the rampage, killing Olatunji in the process.
Speaking on the matter, a mechanic in the area, Uthman Salau, who witnessed the incident said: “The drivers were relaxing around 10.30am when they saw a LASTMA van approaching. They felt the officials had come to arrest them for parking vehicles indiscriminately. So, they ran away. A motor boy, who was sleeping beside a tanker, was woken up by the commotion. Before he could escape from the spot, the LASTMA van hit him and he died instantly.
“One of the drivers, who saw the boy lying in a pool of blood, called his colleagues and they stormed the scene with cutlasses, bottles and all sorts of weapons. The officials fled with the van except their team leader (Olatunji). They stabbed him to death.”
Also speaking, another eyewitness identified as Issa said operatives were pursuing a motorist, who refused to stop, before the agency’s van knocked down the boy as they gave the motorist a chase.
“LASTMA agents are fond of extorting money from motorists on roads around here. Their leader waited behind after his men had fled, thinking that he could pacify the angry youth. But he was not lucky. They killed him,” he said.
A LASTMA official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said his colleagues had been under fire for lax enforcement which made them to intensify operations in the area.
He said, “Ordinarily, they would not have gone for operations in that area. However, two weeks ago, the management was angry that we have not performed to expectation in terms of enforcement. Each zone was asked to generate N12m by December 19. So, we are under pressure to deliver. That is the reality we are battling with.”
According to a Punch report, LASTMA spokesperson, Mahmud Hassan, said investigation had commenced to ascertain the cause of the incident. He, however, refuted the claim that the agency was mandated to generate revenue.
He said, “I can confirm his (Olatunji’s) death. We are still investigating and I will get back to you. The Lagos State Government did not set up LASTMA as a revenue generation agency. We are there to provide services to the good people of the state. So, we are not after generating revenue. What we are after is safety on Lagos roads and our men are professional. That is our primary duty and responsibility and that is what we have been doing day and night.
“No target is given to anybody. We are not compelled under any circumstance to meet certain target at a particular time of the month or year.”