…TRADERS CALL FOR SACK OF THE DUO
…AGENCY YET TO PRODUCE OFFICIAL STATEMENT ABOUT KILLER OFFICERS AFTER WEEKS OF INCIDENT
…KAI OFFICERS SEEN COLLECTING BRIBES
The pain and travail of Nigerian women in order to fend for their children is extremely perplexing. From providing basic daily needs to ensuring school fees and other essential bills are paid, several are wearing the ‘breadwinner’ cap just so as to ensure that the family bond is kept strong. Many of these women have experienced the damaging impact that broken relationship and family division can cause a home especially the children thus they try to avoid it.
The recent survey of the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics established that a poor person will be identified as anyone who is a member of the household where consumption spending per person is less than N377 a day. Yet, how many of these women can boast of N1000 profit after a whole day of toil on the streets to be shared among 4 or more persons.
Women comprise the majority of the petty traders who sweat it out on the kerbs, laybys and street corners of Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria. With an average of N5000 – N50000 capital, they set out hoping for the day that the spirit of goodness and prosperity that founded Lagos will smile on them. They collect cutthroat loans (popularly called owo LAPO, LAPO’s money) to sustain their businesses. The loans must be returned on a weekly basis. The lenders do not take no for an answer. They don’t accept excuses; the only language they understand is prompt, unbroken repayment. Wherever you find these petty traders on the streets of Lagos, this is their typical story.
Protesting Traders at Ojodu-Berger over the Death of Late Mrs. Bolatito Osho by KAI’s Officer.
THE MENACE OF ‘LAW BREAKERS’ IN LAW ENFORCEMENT UNIFORM
Added to that, these women face another menace. It is the existential threat of being cheated, beaten, injured or even killed by law breakers who wear law enforcement uniform – officers of the law paid by tax payers, statutorily mandated to maintain orderliness in the city but dump their ethics and misuse their privileges. Call it LASTMA, KAI, LNSC, FRSC, Nigeria Police etc. all uniformed agencies of government in Nigeria have these law breakers among them.
This particular incident involved officers of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC) now rebranded as KAI. The state agency which came into being in 2017 was set out to pursue the vision ‘to promote a cleaner, hygienic, aesthetically resplendent environment’. It is an offshoot of the erstwhile Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) Brigade; hence, many Lagosians still call LAGESC officers ‘KAI’ till date in spite of the change of name and colour.
Dub it a name change but no character change; you will be right as many nefarious activities that the then-KAI was remembered are committed by the LAGESC officers. They are accused of high-handedness, extortion and brutality by market men and women.
Some of these officers are so brash and rash that they don’t understand or respect disability, old age or women. Two of such are Fasasi and Boroku who have been accused of killing late Madam Bolatito Osho, a petty trader in Ojodu Berger axis of Lagos State.
The sad event happened on Friday 15th May, 2020 when these two officers came in the bus of Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC) to seize wares of the traders in Ojodu Berger. As they packed goods from one place to another, they were followed by a trail of women begging them to release their wares. Some even offered money in exchange including the late 55-year old mother of two. She was said to have offered N5000 to recover her wares including basins of gari, rice, palm oil and groundnut oil as she ran after the LAGESC bus.
Late Mrs Bolatito Osho who was allegedly pushed by LAGESC’s (KAI) Officer and later die at an hospital the next day.
While begging, it was said that the woman was pushed by one LAGESC officer and this caused her to fall. She was asked to relax while others begged on her behalf. But the shock is too much to bear. Being said to have previously suffered a stroke with an underlying health condition, having to worry over the goods taken away and the implication of not paying back her LAPO money, the woman fell into sickness less than 24 hours after the incident. This led to her being rushed to a private hospital on Saturday 16th May 2020 and was confirmed dead later in the evening.
Wide protests followed on Monday 18th May 2020 by traders in Ojodu Berger. They have had enough. The death of Madam Bolatito Osho who is widely acknowledged to be very nice and compassionate finally brought their fury to the fore and they expressed their disapproval in no light terms on the street albeit in a peaceful manner. They carried placards, they shouted, they sang, they cried, and emotions flowed. Upon sighting newsmen and journalists, they became even more vociferous and vented their complaints and demands. They clamored for the immediate sack of two named LAGESC officers, Fasasi and Boroku, whom they described as killers of late Madam Osho. They called for the urgent scrapping of LAGESC as an agency. They advocated for compensation for the family of the victim.
Mr. Yekini Bisari (an eye witness of the event).
78 year old Yekini Busari said: ‘I am an eyewitness to the event. I begged that KAI boy myself to release the basins of palm oil, groundnut oil, rice and gari. But they packed everything and left. Imagine me prostrating for someone as young as my son, yet he rejected. This happened on Friday, that woman died on Saturday and was buried yesterday Sunday.’
A trader whose goods were also carried on the raid, Iya Joshua said: ‘I sell camphor, toothbrush and soaps. On the day, KAI came and took my goods away. I begged all the way from here to Ikeja to Ile-epo then to Oshodi yet they didn’t release my wares. At Ile-epo, I offered N5000 but they said it is too small, that it has to be N10,000 for them to collect. I want to beg the government to provide market for us. Where we are standing is not the roadside and not near the expressway. I also want them to compensate the children of the deceased.’
One of the Protesting Traders, Felicia Oyewole
Felicia Oyewole added: ‘I sell recharge cards here in Ojodu Berger. The person that died is my aunty. I want Lagos State Government to save us from KAI inhumane activities. Aunty Bola is disabled but she doesn’t want to claim disability. KAI took her load, she rushed after them and they still pushed her to the ground.’
Temitope Asamu who also sells food remarked: ‘Since I have known this woman, she has never been wicked to me. I call her Mumsy. It was right before my eyes that the KAI packed her goods. It is the shock that killed that woman, I am sure, because she collected on credit to sell. They do collect money from me too despite that I sell in small quantities.’
Another trader, Busayo shared her terrible experience with LAGESC officers. ‘The power that the government has given to them is too much. They misuse the power. Every Monday morning, they collect N1000 per trader even if you sell chewing gum and sweets. Every evening, they collect N200. Every month, it is N5000. We don’t know whose accounts the monies get to. Sometimes they will tell officers from other places like Mushin and Oshodi to come and raid so that they can share the money. During festivities, they come to us to collect money. Ojodu Berger is their ATM centre.’
On the late Madam Bola, Busayo said: ‘This woman just recovered from her sickness of over 4 years. She has children and grandchildren to feed. She had to borrow money to start the business again. Around 12 noon last Friday which is one of the days allowed for us to sell during this phased lockdown, KAI came to carry her wares. She never sells on the roadside. She sells just beside the gate of the garage. She can’t even walk properly. They pushed her.’
A trader who identified herself as Iya Ibadan added: ‘They collect N300 from us daily. The women among the KAI are even more corrupt, they will insist on N500. KAI even apportion space to traders based on what you pay. If you stay here today, you may not be there tomorrow. I am calling for the immediate transfer of KAI officers in this Ojodu Area. They are compromised.’
Another trader named Monsurat stated: ‘That woman is disabled for which many would have gone street begging. But she decided not to beg and she is trading. She gets her wares on credit. KAI came with their bus and packed her rice, gari, palm oil and groundnut oil and left. They also packed the goods of other traders. They refused all pleadings. Boroku pushed her after rejecting N5000 which the woman offered.’
One of the protesting traders who gave more detail about the deceased commented: ‘Madam Bolatito Osho is 55 years old and so nice. She is from Abeokuta and lives in Alagbole. She has two daughters, Busayo and Adesewa and still has parents. She has a store in the garage where she keeps her gari, rice, palm oil and groundnut oil. When I was sick last year, she asked me to come and rest in her shop while she helped me sell. I only pray that her children will reap her good deeds.’
‘The KAI officers have turned Ojodu Berger to ATM centre. They collect N200 from us; they say it is weekend money. If you don’t pay them, they cart away your goods. And we collected loans to stock our wares. We use Gurumi and LAPO money to do business.’
Younger Sister to the deceased, Mrs. Sulaimon
A sister of the deceased, Mrs. Sulaimon, who shed more light on her personality said Madam Bolatito Osho cannot walk well. ‘My aunty sits here to sell. Having suffered stroke before, she cannot walk well. I asked her to stop trading but she said she will die early if she doesn’t because of her industrious nature. Some people will bring her wares to this place for her to sell.’
‘On the day, I was called that her goods has been packed. While I was begging, Fasasi had even accepted to release the goods but Boroku said that the goods will be taken to motherless homes. On Saturday, I was at the KAI Oshodi office to plead. Although I have not seen anyone yet, I was called that my aunty has fainted and has been rushed to the hospital. When I got there, I noticed she was gone but the doctors told us to pay N120,000. An elder sister sent N100,000 to the hospital’s account to resuscitate her. It was in the evening that the hospital declared that my aunty is dead. I accused the doctors that they knew she was dead but only wanted to collect money.’
‘I have not gone to the LAGESC office since then. But LAGESC office here in Berger sent two officers, Wale and Aji to visit us in the hospital’, she concluded.
Baale of Ojoduland, Alhaji Chief Nojeemdeen Lamidi Aro Abore 1.
A constant pattern in the foregoing complaints as shared by the women with Trek Africa Newspaper is raiding, extortion and brutality of Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC) officials. One of such raids caused the traumatic experience of Madam Bolatito Osho which eventually killed her.
This caused the team of Trek Africa Newspaper to visit the hospital, the house of Ojodu traditional chief, and the LAGESC headquarters in Oshodi on Monday, the day of the protest. Most officers in the Ojodu office had eloped perhaps for fear of reprisal.
Location where Late Mrs. Bolatito Osho sell her Ware.
The team couldn’t speak with Dr. Ademola, the Chief Medical Director of Tomade Medical Center; a private hospital in the Ojodu axis where Madam Bolatito Osho was hospitalized before she later gave up the ghost. He was said to be unavailable at press time though was around on Saturday of the incident. The doctor who spoke with the team is Dr. Adedamola Busari who joined the hospital barely a month ago. ‘I can give you a report on what happened here in the hospital. I wasn’t the one who received her but was part of the team that attended to her. Definitely she was alive but unconscious on arrival. Her pupils were dilating, her heartbeat was good but her breathing was bad. Generally, her response was poor so we needed to resuscitate her. This was off and on and she was relapsing.’
‘The challenge we faced initially was about her history. We don’t know her medical history. I think she may be hypertensive or have heart issues. The shock must have pushed her blood pressure up. Several people gathered here that day.’
A Female KAI Officer collecting Bribe of Two Hundred Naira (N200) along side two other men officers at Ojodu-Berger on Saturday 6th June, 2020
When asked about the money, the young doctor said: ‘I don’t know what happened about money. I am not an accountant. I attend to patients I see. I don’t deal with money at all. Whether there is balance to be paid or not, I do not know.’
On his part, the Baale of Ojoduland, Alhaji Nojeem Lamidi disclosed: ‘I received a call on Saturday that a woman’s ware was taken away by KAI officers on Friday. They said the woman ran after them that she collected LAPO money to stock up and that the woman fell down. They also said the woman was taken to Tomade Hospital where she died. The market women cried out but I told them to let us avoid violence. And as you can see there is relative calm.’
The female KAI Officer (in white top) alongside the two male officers seen in front of another petty trader collecting another bribe levy of N200.
A mild drama ensued at Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC) office in Oshodi over the issue of a cameraman who was said to be covering the premises. This was not true though as the camera’s lid was actually covered. The idea of taking sides before investigation also caused a bit of ruckus. After these were sorted, the Corps Marshal of Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC), CP Gbemisola Akinpelu (retd) was able to grant a brief interview to Trek Africa Newspaper.
The Corps Marshal noted: ‘Officially I have not been briefed on this issue. I am a retired Commissioner of Police and there is something called investigation. Now that you have come to report, I will go ahead to find out exactly what happened. There is no way I can do that today. By tomorrow, Tuesday evening, you should be able to get the facts.’
‘I have to get the facts of the case. There must be video or pictorial evidence for every operation of officers’, she concluded.
The 3 KAI officers at another location under the Berger Pedestrian Bridge Collecting Food Items and Money from the Petty Traders.
On Tuesday, when the team of Trek Africa Newspaper expected to get an official statement from the agency through the Public Relations Officer, Mr. Adebayo Kehinde was unavailable as his assistant, Daramola Ayinde informed us. Till now, no official release has come from LAGESC about the sad incident.
Same Tuesday, the team visited the office of the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Drainage and Water Resources, Joe Igbokwe who was unavailable, and upon calling him he confirmed that he is not around. We stumbled on the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Mrs. Belinda Aderonke Odeneye who noted that she was aware of the incident having been briefed by the Corps Marshal but that the agency will get back to us.
The member of Lagos State House of Assembly representing Ikeja Constituency 1 (which covers Ojodu), Hon. Adedamola Richard Kasunmu was also reached. His media aide, Mr. Sola Folowosele informed us that the lawmaker was not aware of the incident but that they will call the Baale of Ojodu to commiserate with the community.
ERODING THE VISION FOR THE MEGACITY
In spite of the decency that the pedestrian bridge has brought to transport system in the Ojodu Berger axis, the failure of government to provide a proper market structure in the area has almost eroded the gains. Being greeted by a motley crowd of marketers who stand or sit around the major entrance to the megacity is an eyesore. This, of course, encourages destitute to sleep around the bridges, laybys and the roads in the nighttime in Ojodu Berger.
During the course of covering the painful loss of Madam Bolatito Osho, Trek Africa Newspaper got some important discoveries. Plans were in the works to build a modern market by the community but the plans had been scuttled by the Lagos State Government. The reason was the construction of a bus terminal on the exact site of the market. Maybe a justifiable reason but the development of community had not been considered.
The construction site of the bus terminal been handled by Planet Projects is just behind the Ojodu Berger bus layby and is three acres and two plots in size. The location had been a subject of legal proceeding between the community and the government some years back. The community got a favorable judgment but the government has taken over the land citing an awkward ‘judgment set aside’ claim.
On the lack of a market in the community, the Baale of Ojoduland, Alhaji Nojeem Lamidi furthered: ‘We do not have any market in Ojodu. We had a court case against the state government over a landed property which used to be Ojodu Retail market. We got the verdict in our favour. The document is intact. We demolished the old market so we can build a new one. The developer was ready to start work until we saw a signboard which reads the intention of Lagos State Government to use the land for another purpose. This was during Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration. The-then Commissioner for Urban renewal was sent to us telling us that they have set aside the judgment. I have never heard of such in my life. The former occupants of the old market started hanging around roads and layby to sell but the KAI officials will not allow them to rest.’
On steps they have taken to approach the government, the traditional chief shared: ‘Yes, we agree that the bus terminal is for public good but what is the government planning for us? We wrote many letters but no response. A community cannot be as huge as this without market. It just does not make sense. This new government has been telling us to be patient till coronavirus pandemic started and now, they will celebrate one year in office. For how long do we have to wait?’
‘I am appealing to the Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu to delay no further to allocate land to us for market in Ojodu. This place is three acres and two plots, if they cannot allocate part of it to us, they should give us another land. We cannot continue like this, enough of this disorderliness’, the Baale concluded.
The youth leader in Ojodu, Prince Akeem Isiaka reiterated: ‘This site used to be a market. We were in court and we won the case. After the judgment, our family gave this land to developers to construct a modern market. Starting from Kara to Akiode to Omole estate, as big as Ojodu is there is no market. The former Governor said we can no longer use this site as market that it will be used as bus terminal. And that’s why you have this current development. We only want to appeal to Governor Sanwo-olu to show compassion even if it is to cut this large expanse into two so that a part can be used as terminal and the other as market. This town is the entrance to Lagos, it is not good for us not to have a market and that is why you see many selling on the road. If we build low cost shops, we can avoid roadside trading in Ojodu. Governor, make us happy in your tenure.’
DEMAND FOR JUSTICE
The rudeness and barbaric attitude demonstrated by some officers-in-uniform is grossly condemnable. The only recipe to perpetuate evil is to allow wicked acts go unpunished.
As days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months, issues tend to be soon forgotten in Nigeria. The death of Madam Bolatito Osho should not be swept under the carpet, let justice prevail. The traders of Ojodu Berger and of course, well meaning Nigerians are calling for the immediate investigation of the incivility of Fasasi and Boroku and the publishing of its report. If found guilty, the duo should be brought to book by the authority of Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC) to serve as lesson for others.
Meanwhile, Trek Africa Newspaper was back at Ojodu Berger barely three weeks after the sad incident to discover that lawless KAI officers are yet again about their atrocious activities. On Saturday, 6th June around 6 p.m., from the roundabout of Berger down to First Bank Junction opposite Access bank, three unnamed officers of KAI were seen moving from one trader to another. First, these three were improperly dressed for an official assignment. While two wore white tops on their green trousers, the third was in mufti with a face cap on his head. With reckless abandon, they fleeced each and every petty trader along that path of N200 each. Any trader that cannot part with cash may be due to lack of sales will lose some of his/her wares to these ‘lawbreakers in the garb of law officers’. The three officers, two males and one female, collected items such as egusi, meat, gari, T-shirt from such persons without the least pity for fellow humans. They were evidently captured in photos committing this atrocity.
The much touted ‘Itesiwaju Eko’ will be a mirage and never be possible if government agencies do not appraise and purge themselves of criminal elements. If the Agency authority led by Corps Marshal, CP Gbemisola Akinpelu (retd) fails to give justice to late Madam Bolatito Osho and provide respite for traders at Ojodu Berger by stopping their lawless officers, then it will be doing great disservice and crass ineptitude to the Lagos State Government under Gov. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-olu that has appointed them into the position and it will be safe to replace them without further delay.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC) has again been rebranded to Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI). This is another back and forth policy of government in Nigeria. New green uniforms will be made to replace the orange colour of LAGESC, the vehicles will be repainted, letter-headed paper will be reprinted and other expenses will be incurred. All these amount to huge strain on government resource which is already lean.
A recent development which is expected to be a plus is the Law Enforcement Training Institute (LEFTI). This institute which is headed by Prince Ifalade Oyekan has commenced full retraining of staff of all Lagos law enforcement agencies like LASTMA, LNSC, LAGESC (now KAI), etc.
Another positive is the introduction of a body camera to be worn by law enforcement officers to aid the effective discharge of their fiduciary duty. The advantage of this camera is that its recordings cannot be deleted by anybody including the officers because they are automatically transferred into the central database of the Lagos State Judiciary.
In six months, we will revisit these developing stories to see how effective the changes have been.
L-R: Governor, Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Late Mrs. Bolatito Osho; Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) Brigade Bus and Corp Marshal, Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corp (LAGESC), CP Gbemisola Akinpelu (Rtrd.)