Chika Chima, a Nigerian resident, has come forward with a distressing account of extortion and intimidation he experienced at the hands of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officials at Apple Junction.
This incident sheds light on growing concerns about the behavior of some LASTMA officials and their alleged abuse of power, reports The Guardian.
Chika Chima, while sharing his harrowing experience with our correspondent, explained that the incident occurred when he was on his way from Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road, heading back home on the mainland in Satellite Town. He recounted how a LASTMA official abruptly stopped his vehicle, accusing him of a traffic offense.
Chika stated, “I was in line, driving home while the traffic light was green. There was a water tanker in front of me, and as the tanker was moving, I was right behind him. The traffic light was yet to turn red when a LASTMA officer bumped my front and stopped my vehicle, and it turned red.”
Chika continued, “I was already moving, and he sent two men, not in uniform, to apprehend me. My car was locked, I was wearing a seatbelt, but I wound down my window to get some air. The unidentified men rushed to enter my car, unlocked it, and forcefully pulled out my car keys. Initially, I thought I was being robbed. But the LASTMA official stood by, allowing the men without uniforms to physically restrain me inside my car. They then forced me out of my vehicle, causing a traffic jam as I was now in the middle of the road.”
He went on to describe how another official, who was not the one who initially stopped him, began videotaping the incident while claiming Chika was obstructing traffic. Despite Chika’s attempts to explain that his car had been forcibly stopped by a LASTMA coworker, his pleas fell on deaf ears. The official then seized Chika’s car keys, instructed him to sit in the back, and drove off with his vehicle to the LASTMA station at Maza Maza.
At the LASTMA station, Chika encountered a group of officials who demanded a payment of 75,000 naira. After much pleading and negotiation, they agreed to reduce the fee to 10,000 naira to be paid into the Lagos State traffic management account. While Chika was away at the bank making the payment, the officials deflated his car’s two rear tires and insisted on an additional 20,000 naira tax.
Upon payment of the fine, Chika was hopeful that it was all settled as he had paid the fine as requested, to his surprise they vehemently refused to give him the car key even though he showed them the receipt of payment as they demanded more payment.
This ordeal caused mental stress, and Chika found himself in a vulnerable position, pleading and explaining that he had been unemployed for four months.
“kneeling and telling him I am unemployed since four months, he accepted to waive the 20,000 tax fee, he also took me to another office to pay 5,000 naira as a clearance for a certificate of training at which I would be given a certificate from Oshodi LASTMA office in which she said I will go for the training, but I must pay cash not using the Automated machine, at the point I gave them the cash of 5,000 naira he threw the key at me to go home”
While Chima was yet to be out of what he described as the Loins den, he witnessed another victim like him, an elderly man in his 70’s crying and at the point of stripping himself naked to beg them that the fee was much.
Our investigation at Apple Junction revealed a pervasive problem of extortion and intimidation by LASTMA officials. A worker at Clinix Diagnostic center attested to witnessing multiple instances while heading to work or back home, where LASTMA officials had unfairly harassed innocent Nigerians even when no traffic offense had been committed.
Chika Chima mentioned that his car keys were thrown at him when an official learned that the media was on its way to their office. He emphasized that his ordeal, which began at 2:00 pm, only concluded at 5:00 pm, highlighting the lengthy and distressing experience he endured.
As if that was not enough, he was accosted by roadside touts who demanded a 1,000 naira fee for exiting the premises.