Due to the incessant moves by the top echelon of the police to crack down on corrupt officers, some policemen in Lagos, especially those deployed in some busy roads in the metropolis have devised new means of extorting money from commercial bus drivers as SUNDAY ROTILEFON found out recently.
EXPOSED! How Policemen in Lagos Use Street Urchins to Extort Money from Commercial Drivers.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that because of the fear of being caught in the act by members of the public who may be secretly recording police extortion with their mobile phones, policemen stationed at most road intersections in Lagos now employ street urchins popularly called Area Boys to collect money from commercial bus drivers on their behalf.
Some of the bus stops notorious for these illegal activities include Oshodi, Ikeja Along, Iyana Ipaja, Ile Epo, Abule Egba, Kola, Iyana Meiran, Alakuko, Mile two, Iyana Iba, Ketu, Ikorodu and Ojota. These points are manned by ruthless, abrasive and violent young men who force commercial bus operators to part with various amounts of money on every trip.
Drivers Recounts Ordeals
Mr. Bayo Eniola is a 35-year-old commercial bus driver who plies Oshodi to Toll Gate along the Abeokuta Expressway every day. According to him, the development has become a daily nightmare and each time he conveys passengers through that route, his prayer is to avoid harassment from the boys waiting to demand the illegal fees from them at every bus stop.
Despite the efforts by the top hierarchy of the nation’s police to stop the menace, extortion on Nigerian roads continues unabated and has become a thorn in the flesh of drivers working in the road transport sector in Lagos as all the bus stops in the metropolis have been turned into revenue generating centers for the police.
WESTERN POST investigations revealed that the police operatives through their accomplice get huge financial returns running into millions of naira on a daily basis.
A commercial bus driver, who identified himself as Sope, told our correspondent that he pays as much as N300 as police fee at different bus stops every day. “You can imagine how much these policemen are making from all bus drivers. Sometimes, I evade the payment at some bus stops but one cannot escape all the others,” he said.
WESTERN POST Correspondent’s Personal Encounter
At Alakuko and Kola bus stops along Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, WESTERN POST correspondent observed the scenario, which took place each time a bus was stopped as drivers who had paid once at the same point that day would demand to know why they had to pay again. But each time, the street urchin answered with the words, ‘Owo Olopa’ (meaning police money) and the bus driver would hand him N50 reluctantly while the traffic policemen sitting nearby looked the other way.
At Ketu bus stop, our correspondent noticed a policewoman wearing a reflective jacket with the inscription, “Police Traffic Inspector. While she controls buses picking and letting off passengers at the bus stop, the policewoman kept an eye on a young man, who held a marker pen and a wad of cash. Our correspondent observed the scene for about 30 minutes during which period there were intermittent exchanges between the policewoman and the “toll collector”.
A bus conductor, however, confided in our correspondent that the young man was the policewoman’s collector.
Street Urchin: ‘We Work for the Police’
A young man, who gave his name as Kayode, told WESTERN POST: “Most times, we are the ones who tell the police to allow us collect the money on their behalf because we know we are likely to get good returns.
“The policemen who are in charge of traffic at the bus stops in Lagos collect money with caution, they cannot force the drivers because their bosses now keep an eye on their activities.
“But we are able to run after the buses and sometimes intimidate the drivers. This is more effective than the police demanding it themselves. We get our share when we decide to go and rest in the evening. I get more than N1, 000 per day sometimes,” he said.
Most of the drivers WESTERN POST correspondent spoke to seemed to be helpless in the face of the situation. One of them, Saheed Idowu, said: “You have to pay the police money. The policemen standing at the bus stops use those street urchins because they know how to use aggression to demand the money. The boys can destroy part of your vehicle if you don’t pay.
“Apart from that, if the policemen noticed that you are notorious for not paying when you get to their stop, you’re likely to suffer a lot because they will regularly impound your vehicle on flimsy allegations,” he said.
Going by the various accounts of drivers who spoke to WESTERN POST, the activities of the urchins could be raking in millions monthly for the police across the metropolis as commercial drivers who ply Lagos routes said they pay on average N200 per day to the police. And when that amount is multiplied by 2,000 commercial vehicles in the state in 30 days, the amount runs into millions.
WESTERN POST could not get comments from the police spokesperson in the state, Ngozi Braide, on this new trend as calls to her line went unanswered.