Last Wednesday, around 12 noon, at Maryland Bus Stop, along Ikorodu Road, Lagos, peace was temporally disrupted by rampaging miscreants, otherwise called, “Area Boys”, over alleged killing of a hawker by a fast moving truck.
The yet to be identified middle-aged hawker, while fleeing from law enforcement agents for fear of arrest, suddenly ran into the truck and died on the spot. Consequently, Area Boys around mobilized and started attacking, in sight, all buses operating under the Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, inflicting severe injuries on passengers in the process.
It was gathered that the incident happened when the hawker, a male, suddenly sighted the convoy of officials of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), who were returning from an operation in Ojuelegba, enroute to Alausa, Ikeja. Apparently, thinking they were coming for him, he fled across the road, oblivious of the fast moving on-coming vehicle, which is a delivery truck of a leading producer of soft drinks, and, before any one could say “Jack Robinson,” he had been crushed to death. Irked by the development, the Area Boys, in their hundreds, took t the road went after BRT buses, smashing their screens and attacking passengers on board. They were alleged to have also robbed the passengers of their belongings such as cash, bags, and mobile phones, among others. It took the intervention of men of the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, Lagos Taskforce, and other security agents to restore normalcy, but not after over 48 buses hadbeen vandalized. It was gathered that the hawker had been arrested before and was released after payment of N10, 000 fine.
“On the fateful day, he was trying to evade another arrest when she met her death. It would have been better for him to be arrested than running to death,” an eyewitness told Sunday Vanguard. According to the Managing Director of Primero Transport Services, Mr. Fola Tinubu, operator of the damaged BRT buses, while speaking on the incident, “Investigation revealed that our buses were not involved in any way or form”. Tinubu, apparently, disturbed by the level of destruction and the sheer number of the buses affected, said the losses, running into several millions of naira, were a clear setback to investment, stressing that the Nigerian public must be educated to draw a line between private investment and public assets.
He believed no amount of provocation should justify the destruction of 48 new buses belonging to a private investor who has provided over 2,500 jobs since the commencement of operations in November 2015 and still counting. “The blue BRT buses did not in any way, directly or otherwise, have contact with the late young man”, the MD stated. “Unfortunately, suspected hoodlums took advantage of the incident to unleash mayhem and terror on our drivers, while also causing severe damages to our buses at the scene of the accident.
Some of our drivers are still receiving medical treatment and some commuters had some of their belongings stolen. “Damages on the buses range from broken windshields, front, sides, rear, to side mirrors while some had their interior dented. The buses will be parked in our depot until repair works are carried out which we expect to run into millions of naira”. He however, assured that within couple of weeks, the buses would return to the road. Ambode fumes Governor Akinwumi Ambode immediately ordered full investigation into the incident. The governor also called for thorough details into the immediate and remote cause of the killing of the street hawker with the aim preventing future occurrence as well as bringing culprits to book. Ambode, who was said to be irked by the development, immediately, directed the police and other security agencies to launch a manhunt for the perpetrators and bring them to book.
He later announced commencement of total enforcement against street trading and street hawkers, saying that the law banning their activities across Lagos metropolis would take its full course. He said the renewed enforcement is in line with Section One of the Lagos State Street Trading and Illegal Market Prohibition Law 2003 which restricts street trading and hawking in the metropolis.
The governor, while sympathizing with the family of the deceased street hawker, regretted that the situation led to the destruction of public assets. “The issue is we need to enforce our laws because we already have a law in respect of that and then there is a clause in it which says the buyer and the seller are both liable and that we are going to fine them either N90, 000 or a six month jail term”, Ambode said.
“What we are doing on traffic is that we are introducing new strategies to eliminate traffic but Lagos being a cosmopolitan city, you cannot totally eliminate it but now this is the case, in the next few days, you will see on the street of Lagos signs that will be warning you that buyers and hawkers should be aware that there are consequences,” Ambode said. He said his administration had also concluded plans to roll out a massive campaign which would warn both motorists and hawkers of the restrictions and the penalty for defaulters. “We will be watching out for buyers and sellers and all we need is just scapegoat. Don’t buy plantain chips or any other items in traffic from July 1, buyers beware”.
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