By Steve Agbota
About 1am last Wednesday, a driver’s assistant, popularly known as motor-boy, was crushed on the Total Marine bridge over refusal to give N500 bribe to police and LASTMA assigned to control traffic on the Port access road, Lagos.
Daily Sun learnt that the incident happened when the policemen attached to the Area B police command stopped the truck driver and his motor-boy and demanded bribe of N500, which the truck driver declined.
The refusal of the truck driver to part with N500 led to serious beating of the driver by the policemen on the Total Marine bridge.
A truck driver, who was present at the scene, confirmed to Daily Sun that the motor-boy who had come out of the truck to plead on behalf of his boss was also subjected to serious beating by the policemen.
Tragically, the motor-boy, in an attempt to escape from the officers, fell under the truck while the driver was already in motion, and he was crushed instantly.
The brutality, harassment and extortion of truckers by policemen, LASTMA officials and area boys along two port access roads and other part of the Lagos State has become a menace for those in haulage business in the country.
The death of truck drivers and motor-boys along Apapa, Tin Can Island Ports, Amuwo-Odofin, Mile 2, Trade Fair and other access points has been on the rise, which was majorly caused by extortion from the security agents and touts in these areas.
On different occasions, several truckers associations raging from Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), the Council of Maritime Transport Unions Association of Nigeria (COMTUA), and others have petitioned the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Lagos State Government to intervene over the extortion and brutality of truckers by port security agents and urchins.
The authorities petitioned have failed to savage the situation even as truck owners and truck drivers had accused the authorities of backing the extortion and brutality by their agents along the port access roads.
Even the the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) set up by the Federal Government and warehoused by the Nigerian Shippers Council to restore normalcy to the port access roads have also failed to fulfill the purpose why it being created in the first place.
The death of the motor-boy last Wednesday has made the angry truck drivers to conclude plans to shut down all access points to ports and paralyse port operations until government removed all the extortion points along the port corridors.
The angry truckers said they would embark on #EndSARS-like protest to end extortion and brutality of truck owners and truck drivers by security agents and their cohorts. They said that truck drivers have been pushed to the wall, and that a bloody protest akin to the #EndSARS may recur in Apapa if government fails to call security officials and their accomplice to order.
Reacting to the development, the administration secretary, Association of Maritime Truck Owners of Nigeria (AMATO), Mohammed Sani, lamented incessant and indiscriminate extortion by security agencies stationed at the ports corridor to manage traffic congestion.
Conversely, he decried the multiple extortion experienced in the hands of those he described as maritime bandits along the port corridor.
“We don’t have security and traffic control men along the ports corridors. What we have are just bunch of extortion bandits hiding under the guise of providing security and traffic control,” he said.
He lamented that those in the trucking business in the country are suffering and going through a lot in the hands of security agencies and area boys.
Speaking on the incident, he said: “This morning between 12.00 and 1am, a driver was trying to access the port corridor but was stopped by policemen that he must give them N500. He told them he does not have N500, and they started beating him and the motor boy. The motor boy in trying to escape from the police beating fell under the truck and he was crushed to death.
“Most of the extortion checkpoints PSTT has cleared so far, the extortion bandits both uniformed and non-uniformed men, have technically crossed to the inbound section of the port access road and their activities are constituting serious problems to trucking business. The truckers are bleeding from the activities of these extortion bandits on the inbound section of the port access road
“In order to overcome this problem of extortion, operations of PSTT must be reviewed to take care of the inbound section of the port access road. Uniform and non-uniformed men have migrated into the inbound section of the road and their activities are constituting serious problems to trucking business.
“We have applied for the release of the body for burial. Once they release the body now, we will go and bury. The police officer that’s responsible for the death is in detention right now while the investigation is ongoing,” he said.
While acknowledging the efforts of the Port Standing Task Team to sanitize the port corridor, he noted that more needs to be done by the task team to rid the port corridor of extortion and other corrupt practices by security agencies and area boys who he said are now operating freely inbound the Apapa port access roads.
Meanwhile, a truck owner, Isiaq Rafiuayub, who called on the other truckers to put an end to truck drivers brutality, said government must remove all maritime bandits from the roads.
“We learnt that this morning police and LASTMA who are to monitor traffic on total bridge asked a truck driver for money and he refused to give them. So, they dragged down his motorboy and pushed him under the trailer until the trailer climbed him and the motor boy is dead,” he said.
He urged every trucker to come out for protest and shut down the whole access roads leading into ports for one week until government removes all the extortion points from Alaka to Iganmu under-bridge.
“Then from Total Marine bridge coming inward port, we don’t need extortion points there anymore. We need LASTMA to control the traffic situation. We need to shut down Coconut to Tin Can Port until further notice. We want government to stop illegal extortion by Police and Area-boys immediately,” he lamented.
Another truck owner who spoke with Daily Sun, Nnamdi Hamzat, condemned the atrocities committed by the police and LASTMA, said it is high time government call the security agents into order.
“In my own opinion, the Apapa committee set up by Mr Governor has enough backing by Lagos State. DSS and Road Safety should leave the state road since they can not have our interest at heart.
Hassan Adekoya is a trucker, and a member of the committee, he should know what we are going through, and his trucks face the same issues.
“Police should be controlled or leave the road. The committee should create a task teem that will be controlling the road, who knows what the problems is and ready to help in the traffic and checking out trucks that are ready to enter the port and not to come on the road and park indiscriminately,” he said.
Meanwhile, the police public relations officer in Lagos, Benjamin Hundeyin, said the police has commenced investigation into the incident and alleged involvement of Police officer.
“That’s an allegation that we are investigating. If it turns out to be true, we will update the public accordingly,” he said.
Reacting to the development via his Twitter account, Hundeyin disclosed that the commissioner of police in the state has ordered full investigation into the incident.