Policemen and officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) at the Ikeja roundabout, close to the Conoil Petrol Station oppoite the gate of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (NASUTH), are in the habit of bullying motorists and extorting money from them for minor traffic offences.
On Friday, May 18, SaharaReporters’ camera caught a policeman, with the name tag S.A. Kareem, extorting a tricycle rider he arrested for breaking a supposed traffic rule.
The commercial tricycle rider, who picked four passengers from Ikeja Bus stop, was heading to the Ikeja Government Reserved Area (GRA) when he ran into traffic holdup on Kodeosh Street, just before the road leading to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport.
One of his passengers took advantage of the snarl to hop off the tricycle, without the rider's knowledge.
Immediately, she disembarked from the tricycle, a police officer climbed in, ordering the rider to move forward and park by the police patrol van stationed by the roundabout.
“Officer what did I do?” asked the rider.
The policeman ignored the question, insteda proceeding to wrest the tricycle key from the rider and hand it over to Kareem, who appeared the most senior officer around, before returning to arrest more “offenders”.
The other two passengers and the woman, who seemingly caused the arrest, begged on behalf of the rider. However, “Commander”, as Kareem was referred to, remained unmoved initially.
After few minutes, he said he had pardoned the rider, but insisted he would not release his tricycle immediately.
“I have forgiven him,” he said, “but you people won’t just beg me and expect that I give him his Keke (tricycle) back. You should go. I will consider him. I accept your plea, but I won’t just release him.”
Kareem eventually collected N700 from the rider after a protracted haggling process.
The rider told SaharaReporters that he first offered N1,000, as the policemen were in no mood to accept N500. He added that he did not have as much as N1,000 but had to borrow from his colleagues.
“I’m begging them with N1,000 because they will not collect N500. I do not even have the N1,000, I will have to borrow from my colleagues,” the rider told SaharaReporters.
An offer of N700 eventually melted Kareem’s heart and he released the tricycle key once the money was handed to him.
'We get extorted every day'
The rider lamented the rate at which he and other public transport operators are daily extorted by policemen and LASTMA officials on that particular route.
“They arrest people every day. If it is not Police, it will be LASTMA," he said.
“I just started work and policemen have collected the equivalent of what I make from a full trip. I have not bought fuel. One of my plugs is bad.
“Policemen are better. They still collect N1,000. If he were a LASTMA official, he would collect N5,500 before returning my Keke to me. If you beg them very well, they might collect N3,000 but they are not as cheap as the Police."
Another tricycle rider, who simply identified himself as 'Starboy', told our correspondent that it is almost impossible for a rider or a bus driver not to get arrested in a week.
“You cannot go a whole week without them saying you have done something. They must arrest you for one thing or the other," he said.
"Sometimes, they will just jump into your Keke without telling you what you did and you must give them something before they let you go. If you try to resist, they will take you to the station and that is worse. You will pay as high as N30,000 for whatever offence they accuse you of."
Asked if receipts or tickets are issued for the fines, Starboy asked: “Receipt? Do the police have receipt? I have never collected receipt.”
When SaharaReporters sent copies of pictorial evidence of the incident to the office of the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer on May 24, one Sergeant Miracle said the command would follow up on the matter.
“The Command will follow up. This is an offence, which can lead to an officer being sacked or demoted,” he said.
He explained that although the officers at the roundabout work 24-hour shifts, "we will send for the teams on duty and interrogate them till we get to the particular officer".
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, has repeatedly stated that the Force has zero tolerance for bribery and corruption.
A 2017 statement issued by Mr. Abayomi Shogunle, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Public Complaints (Rapid Response Unit), quoted the IGP as vowing to “flush out those tarnishing Police image”. However, the repeated promises have not been kept, as policemen continue to extort ordinary Nigerians.