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Over 50 Arrested As Lagos Swoops On Illegal Taskforce

Apr 4, 2008 - No less than 50 men operating illegally as local government taskforce have been arrested by members of the Lagos State Environmental and special offences enforcement unit.

The men, who operated under the guise of local government taskforce, were arrested at different locations in the Lagos Metropolis where they were engaged in illegal arrest and detention of members of the public for crossing the Expressway.

The arrest was sequel to a petition to the State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), The Nucleus Group, which reported of illegal activities being perpetrated by some local government areas in the state.

The petition dated March 4, 2008, complained particularly that these local governments have, in addition to establishing the illegal task forces, also created illegal courts and cells where members of the public caught crossing the expressway were prosecuted, detained and made to pay fines or jailed as the local governments deemed fit.

In the petition signed by its General-Secretary, Mr. Adeleye Abimbola, the Group, which named Oshodi/Isolo and Shomolu Local Government Areas as the notable culprits of the illegal act, called on the Governor to take immediate action by calling the Executive Secretaries of the named local governments to order.

Acting on the petition, the Governor, in a letter dated March 13, 2008, directed the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and the Chairman of the Lagos State Environmental and special offences enforcement unit to investigate the matter immediately.

The outcome of the investigation was the various raids at Onipanu, Ketu and other bus stops within the various local governments by the State taskforce officers where the illegal taskforce members were apprehended in the act and their illegal detention camps broken open while scores of their victim were set free.

Speaking to newsmen after his release by State taskforce officers at Ketu bus stop, a victim, Mr. Henry Osunbor said he was apprehended when he crossed the express road to board a bus to Ikorodu. According to him, a man approach him as soon as he got to the other side of the road and held him saying he was under arrest for crossing the expressway. He was led to a waiting kombi Bus where he also met some other victims. They were told that they were going to be taken to the Local Government Secretariat unless they paid the sum of N3,000. It was while they were at the point of being driven to the secretariat that the State taskforce officers swooped on the illegal men and arrested them.

The account of another victim, Mrs. Peter Tolu was even more pathetic. A nursing mother, Mrs. Tolu was going for treatment when she was arrested for the same "offence". In the process of pleading with them for understanding, the woman lost her purse and handset. Pastor Joseph Adeniyi, another victim, told newsmen that after being arrested, the illegal taskforce men demanded N2,500 threatening that if he refused to pay, they would take him to Alausa where he would pay N7,000.

Other victims included Ademola Adeyemi, a student of the Lagos State University (LASU) who said the men took N500 out of the N1,000 he was having in his pocket, Miss. Moyide Adesola and Mr. Olufemi Adebanjo, a security officer with a firm in Ojota, who said he stood his ground and refused to follow them to anywhere.

However, when interview, some of the illegal taskforce members claimed that they were operating with authority from the local government areas.

Mr. Olawande Ogunmolu told newsmen that he was a staff of the Shomolu Local Government and was duly assigned to arrest people for not using the pedestrian crossing at Onipanu Bus Stop. He said they were assigned to the duty by one Mr. Adeki Omiyewo who, according to him, is a Shomolu Local Government official.

Other culprits include Mr. Edet Akpan, Lanre Daniel, and Segun Sobanwan. All of them claimed to be Shomolu local government staff. When the State taskforce officials demanded to be taken to the head office of the illegal taskforce men at Ketu, they were taken to a dilapidated building with burglary proofs used as detention cell for arrested victims. On opening the cells, scores of detainees were freed.

Showering praises on the Lagos State Government, the victims, who narrated their ordeals to journalists, said their captors told them that they would be transferred to Alausa by 5.00PM that day. One of the victims who gave his name simply as Maxwell, said his suspicion that the people were operating illegally heighten when they said they would transfer them to Alausa by 5.00 O'clock because, according to him, " I know that offices would have closed by 3 O'clock at Alausa".

Arrested along with the culprits both at Onipanu and Ketu bus stops were no less than 12 handsets, ID cards, cash and several receipt booklets of bearing some Local Government imprint and several amounts ranging from N500 to N7, 000 on the sheets already issued to members of the public who had fallen victim to the nefarious act over time.

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