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LAGESC officers assault, detain journalist for covering agency operation

By Barakat Odegbola

Officials of Lagos Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC) on Wednesday brutalised and arrested a journalist, Benjamin Anaja, for allegedly recording and taking pictures during an enforcement operation at Meiran bus stop along the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway.

Despite the journalist, a staff of Guild Press Limited, showing his Identity Card during the act, the over nine aggrieved enforcement officials went ahead to brutalise Anaja and held him in their blackmaria for allegedly violating their law.

The attack on the journalist came hours after the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Tunji Bello, directed the Corps to dislodge recalcitrant street traders on the major highways and go after residents dumping refuse indiscriminately across the state.

Anaja was at the bus stop capturing the dilapidated state of Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, from Abule-Egba to Sango tollgate, interviewing commuters and traders on how the bad road had continued to affect their businesses and others activities when the LAGESC officials stormed the axis to enforce the state’s sanitation law.

A few minutes after the sanitation officers’ arrival, a melee was said to have ensued between the hoodlums and the law enforcement officers, with the hoodlums faulting the officers for dispersing traders and restricted them from carting away goods impounded from the petty traders.

While capturing the face-off between both groups which allegedly crippled activities within the axis, the sanitation corps attacked Anaja, manhandled and hit him with different items as well as threatened to stab him after showing the officials prove that he is a journalist.

The LAGESC officials, inspite of the journalist’s explanation, detained him and allegedly went further to destroy his identity card and claimed that they were acting based on the instruction from their superiors to ensure that they remove any hindrances to smooth operations in the state.

Anaja, in an interview after been dropped off at Ikeja-Along bus stop, said that the officials never listened to his explanation, just as he identified three of the nine officials as Tijani Mustapha, Elegbede Samson, and Razaq Ismaila.

“One of the officials held my trousers and the next I saw was a slap, asking if I am a journalist and I said yes. After my response, he said why was I recording their activities. I showed him my identity card to further buttress my claim. And I narrated further that the content was to show the public how LAGESC personnel were been attacked by hoodlums for doing their legitimate duty.

“After the explanation, he dragged me towards the stationary blackmaria, where his colleagues were standing, and shouted at me that I will be made their first scapegoat for the day. On sighting me, the others came towards me and vent their anger on me, hitting my shoulders with any items they could lay their hands on.

“While the beating was on, they demanded that I handed them my phone which I refused. At this time, they were yet to release my identity card. As the beating continued, another official grabbed my private part and pushed me into the blackmaria.

“Inside the blackmaria, the beating still continued with a threat to stab me for taking their pictures and their visuals during the enforcement. At this time, I realised that they were not interested in my explanations. I was later released after their truck arrived at Ikeja Along bus stop and they returned my damaged identity card to me”.

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