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Motorists groan under harassment by ‘police dogs’

Dozens of commercial bus drivers recently took to the streets, blocking the LASU-Iyana Ipaja road to protest against alleged harassment and extortion by police officers and officials of the Lagos State task force. During the protest, commercial buses were forced to discharge their passengers and join the march, which left many stranded.

On Wednesday, chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Worker (NURTW), Chief Unwobudu Edima Sydah, was allegedly murdered by some policemen in Rivers State. Sydah was reportedly shot to death for refusing to give some unidentified policemen N100 bribe.

According to a Facebook user identified as Gideon Murray Jnr, the incident happened at Obite police station, opposite Obite Gas Plant in Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni Local Government Area of the state. He also shared photos of the deceased, who left behind seven children.

Since the advent of social media, many cases of police brutality and extortion have become common knowledge with affected officers facing the music of disciplinary action by the police command.

This has, however, not deterred the nuisance from going away. In fact, security agencies have devised new forms of extorting money from hapless members of the public. A Danfo driver who identified himself as Sir K narrated security officials’ incessant harassment on them.

He said: “The task force block our vehicles at both front and back with hired buses and their vehicles, which are usually loaded with touts. Once they just swoop on you while waiting at a bus-stop, all the yellow buses at that moment are in trouble. We are tired of these touts accompanied by policemen who use commercial vehicles to disrupt our means of livelihood, harassing and illegally extorting form us daily.”

Another means that have been devised to extort money from commercial drivers, motorcyclists and tricyclists in Lagos is through their errands boys, usually street urchins, who are popularly referred to as Aja Olopa (police dogs). Some of them are as young as 17 years and they claim to be members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) stationed at major bus-stops in the state.

At some other locations, the police mount roadblocks at obscure and secluded roads, where they ambush road users, usually at night. The policemen take between N100 and N200 from motorists and are mostly ferocious at night towards their victims.

According to the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Chike Oti, the Commissioner of Police, CP Edgal Imohimi, has banned police operatives in the state from operating in mufti and commercial vehicles. But commercial bus operators insist they are daily harassed by policemen, many in mufti, who chase after them and overtake to stop them before ordering all passengers to alight, while the driver is taken off to a nearby spot for negotiations.

A driver who does not want his name in print told The Guardian that he was a victim of the police harassment recently when they jumped into his bus and made him their personal driver for a whole day to carry out their nefarious activity of hunting after other commercial buses. They only fuelled his bus for the operation, while he was made to go home empty without being given anything from their proceeds of extortion.

“I would have been in serious debt if I was not the owner of the bus. I can still explain to my wife why I came home empty but which bus owner would accept such stories from me when he is already expecting his daily ‘delivery’”, he said.

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