By Monsuru Olowoopejo
It was end of the road for five court officials who were arrested by Inspector-General of Police Monitoring Unit deployed to Lagos and Ogun States for parading themselves as officers of Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Enforcement Agency (Task Force) to allegedly extort motorists and residents over the use of face mask in the state.
Among the five court officials, who were led by one Henry Akintanmi popularly called Spider and deployed to Lagos State Special Offences (Mobile) Court, includes three policemen that were primarily assigned to ensure the safety of lives and property of the five mobile courts and magistrates in the state.
Before the IGP special team led by Police former Public Relation officer in Lagos, CSP Ngozi Braide, arrested the Lagos Mobile Court officials on Thursday, it was learned that the State Government had been inundated with complaints of extortions on Lagos roads by the officials who were said to have allegedly established an illegal Taskforce unit under the Lagos Mobile Court to extort residents in the state.
Theguild gathered that the officials often embark on enforcement of traffic law before President Muhammadu Buhari imposed a lockdown on Lagos to contain spread of coronavirus and allegedly arrest several motorists and commercial motorcycle operators popularly called Okada riders and tricycle operators and extort them with the assurance that they were the authentic taskforce responsible for environmental enforcement in the state.
It was learned that the officials, in order to ensure the operations achieve the targeted aim, adopted Taskforce enforcement style and painted their vehicles with a bold inscription of Taskforce on it and move in convoy to arrest and extort motorists that were not familiar with Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Enforcement Agency (Task Force).
Though the operation had been ongoing without the State Government been able to pinpoint the perpetrators inspite of complain from residents Akintanmi, a Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) former officer, and his gang, earlier in the week, stormed Lagos roads and apprehended residents for moving within the state without using a face mask.
It was learned that Akintanmi and four others hide under the pronouncement by the State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, that the use of face mask would be enforced in the state.
Ms Clara, one of the victims extorted for not using a face mask in Lagos, informed the IGP monitoring team, claiming that the officials who extorted her were from Lagos Task Force and appealed for an investigation.
The Guild gathered that after Clara’s complaint, the law enforcement officers accompanied her to the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Enforcement Agency (Task Force) headquarters in Oshodi to identify the perpetrators.
On arrival, the Chairman of Lagos Taskforce, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi, denied the involvement of his officers and disclosed that since the advent of the dreaded hoodlums, One Million Boys, his personnel had been deployed to different locations to prevent any possible attack on residents.
Egbeyemi said: “We have been manning the entry points of the state during this lockdown. We have not been engaging in any enforcement in Lagos state. And some of the places you can find my men now are Agege, Ikorodu, Oshodi, Alakuko, Lekki-Ikoyi, and Berger end of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. I know that my officers were never involved in any enforcement.”
After leaving the Lagos Taskforce office, our correspondent learned that Clara and members of the IGP team discovered the vehicle that apprehended her within the premises of Lagos State Special Offences (Mobile) Court where the perpetrators were picked by the team.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Bala Elkana, in an interview with our correspondent, said that he was not aware of the arrest made by the Braide-led team in the state.
In an interview with TheGuild, the Public Affairs Officer (PAO), Ministry of Justice, Kayode Oyekanmi, assured our correspondent that he would get back to him after confirmation.