Just a few weeks ago Nigerians viewed a viral video of an On-Air Personality (OAP) working with a major tv station caught in the snare of a BRT taskforce in Lagos in which he made frustrated outbursts of ‘I will tell the governor’ repeatedly.
Trust Nigerians, we had a grand time analysing and chastising the hapless OAP. He later paid the fine and apologized to Nigerians on air.
What we did not seek to ask was what circumstances led to his apprehension by this BRT task force.
Well, on a certain Wednesday a few weeks later, at around 11.00 a.m., I fell victim to this same BRT task force entrapment tactic at Mile 12/Owode in Ikorodu.
And as I found out during and after my ordeal, a large number of unsuspecting citizens are also victims. Practically all victims are people who were strangers to Ikorodu and were only passing through. Even yesterday, an elderly acquaintance narrated his shocking experience at that same spot. He had to part with N40,000 to the task force officials.
Unfortunately, for some reason, we all choose to bear our crosses silently and move on. This is why I have chosen to publicize my sordid ordeal at the hands of this dubious task force.
My story: I had an appointment for 12 noon that Wednesday at Imota, on the outskirts of Ikorodu, inwards Ogun State. Now, Ikorodu is a place I had not been to in over 3 years.
I set out at about 10.30 a.m. from Alausa. No traffic. I should reach Imota within a few minutes to 12 noon according to Google maps.
All was going smooth until I descended the 2-lane Mile 12 flyover inbound Ikorodu which links to a 2-lane road with the outer (left) lane designated as a BRT lane.
From the top of the flyover, I saw that the only lane reserved for non-BRT traffic was impeded by some policemen and other officials (about 7 in total) who surrounded a vehicle.
This forced oncoming traffic to cut briefly onto the BRT lane so as to bypass the impediment. I followed the flowing traffic and did the same (see attached pictures for clearer understanding).
Just as I was bypassing the impediment (one has to slow down there as the policemen spilled onto the lane), an armed mobile policeman jumped in front of my vehicle with a gun aimed at me, causing me to stop dead on that lane to avoid hitting him.
I thought it might be a checkpoint and wondered why it was set up at that spot and blocking traffic on both lanes. But then, this is Nigeria. I stopped as ordered and the menacing-looking policeman waved his gun to indicate that I should come down. I indicated with my hand that I couldn’t park there and that he should let me clear off the road and park in front of the already parked vehicle. He reluctantly agreed and after I had cleared, I came down.
The gun-brandishing mobile policeman asked me if I knew why he stopped me. I responded in the negative (I honestly had no clue). Then he said I was driving on a BRT lane. No way, I said. I drove along with other traffic unto that lane to bypass the obstruction caused by them on the lane we were hitherto on.
He proceeds to show me a picture of my car on the BRT lane as evidence. To say I was stupefied puts it mildly.
Then they moved in on me, about 5 of them, including other gun-brandishing policemen. I observed that the car I parked in front of had left. And it was my car they were now surrounding and blocking the non-BRT lane with.
Anyway, I didn’t play ball (if you know what I mean) and ended up being slammed in court by the now very hostile, abusive, and very threatening abusive gun-brandishing policemen who towed my vehicle to the LAMATA office at Ketu, where I was promptly issued a paper to Oshodi mobile court.
I guess my recording of the attached visuals didn’t rub them the right way. It was while in the court premises at Oshodi later that day that I discovered that all the BRT infractions on that day (7 or 8) were from the same spot, all apprehended and card impounded within the last 24 hours, under very similar circumstances. All strangers to Ikorodu.
While my co-accused and myself were discussing the matter and trying to decide whether to plead not guilty in unison, we were advised by some ‘helpful’ bystanders that if we want our vehicles back quickly, we had better plead guilty and pay our fines.
And that if anyone chose to plead not guilty such person should be ready for several adjournments which would deny them use of their impounded vehicle until the case is finally over. And if eventually still found guilty after the process the fine could be even worse and one might be forced to go through other processes before you get their vehicle back.
During the course of the trial, we were all charged with passing the BRT lane (count 1) and causing an obstruction (count 2). In my case, I was also charged with towing my vehicle.
We all pled guilty. Yes, we were on the BRT lane, and yes, if you are on the BRT lane you are automatically obstructing traffic.
Luckily, we were allowed to speak before the magistrate gave his judgement and fined us. A few explained that they aren’t familiar with that route as they were only passing through and didn’t see the sign (the sign is not visible from the bridge), and once you descend from the bridge you are liable to enter the BRT lane immediately if you are a stranger to that route.
Others like me only followed the traffic in front of them. Luckily the magistrate allowed me to tender the video I recorded as evidence (we had been told by the ‘helpful bystanders’ that phone videos were not admissible) and listened to my explanation that the thing was entrapment. He asked several questions about the video which I answered (he apparently hadn’t any understanding of the setup of that location hitherto my video).
He pondered for about 5 minutes the video evidence which indicated with other evidence (all the BRT infractions were from that same spot and all with similar stories) that something was not quite right.
Magistrate eventually fined us all N20,000 for the first charge (instead of the statutory N70,000), and N30,000 for the second charge as a deterrent since we were all ‘first offenders,’ and warned us to be conscious of road signs and the environment when driving. For my third charge he discharged and struck it out since the police counter video revealed that my car key was with them, but they chose to tow my vehicle for whatever reason.
The next morning I went to the LAMATA Ketu office to pay the fine and pick up my car so I could proceed to Imota.
When I got to LAMATA office around 10.00 a.m., I observed they had already brought in 5 fresh victims from the same spot that morning.
I also observed that 7 people had come in that morning to pay fines ranging from N50, 000 (one person) to N120, 000 (one person). All others were N70, 000.
The fellow in charge of the place asked me why I wasn’t billed for the towing of my vehicle. That seemed to be his main concern. I guess that sum goes directly into their pockets. I didn’t respond to his question and insisted that he process the release of my vehicle. I also alerted all the new ‘victims’ (including two elderly people) of the entrapment tactics and that it went all the way to the court, so they could make informed decisions as their arguments with the LAMATA crew would achieve nothing.
As I left and headed to Imota via Ikorodu, I saw the same scenario being played out at the same spot. The trap had ensnared another unsuspecting driver.
l am told by those who know that there is a paucity of drivers running afoul of BRT law in Lagos now, so the task forces have to set traps for people to meet their targets otherwise they don’t get paid (If this is true, it is very bad and should stop immediately).
Of course in doing so, they also line their pockets from Lagosians willing to ‘settle’ just to get out of their clutches, even when innocent. People are forced to pay as much as N40,000 to be set loose from the entrapment.
If you are unwilling to play ball (as in my case), they become very aggressive, rude and insulting. And at the point they are about to tow your vehicle, they record a video in which one of them (the ‘hit’ man) tells all sorts of lies to try to further incriminate you.
Possible solutions to this disgraceful fleecing of innocent citizens by armed criminals in uniform by a well-meaning govt will include:
1. Make the BRT warning signage at that spot (and other similar spots where the BRT lane entrance is not clear) conspicuous enough so it can be seen clearly from afar (for example in this case from the top of the flyover before descending it as the BRT lane starts immediately you are off the flyover).
2. Place visible signs from the descent of the flyover on the road so every driver can see that they are descending into a BRT lane.
3. Someone should be assigned to investigate the LAMATA Ketu BRT enforcement office books to see why nearly all the BRT infractions brought in are from that same location at Mile 12/Owode, and find a solution to it.
I doubt that the BRT law in Lagos is meant to be used to entrap citizens to meet some revenue target. But clearly, that is what is happening. And it is quite unfortunate if the Lagos State government is a party to this.
For all unsuspecting drivers going to Ikorodu via mile 12, BEWARE! BE VIGILANT!! I am told this scam has been on for a while and also happens at other locations across the state.
If you have ever been a victim of the same scam at that same spot or any other one and see this write-up, do share your story, and let’s join hands to curtail this shameful menace.
It will be well for Lagos.
It will be well for Nigeria!
Eko o ni bajẹ oh!