Apapa: AGRA alleges extortion of residents by security agencies
The Apapa GRA Residents Association (AGRA) has raised the alarm over what it termed ‘mindless extortion’ of residents of the exclusive neighbourhood by security agencies for phantom traffic offences.
The association alleged that they were being subjected to yet another level of woes just a couple of months after coming out of a 12-year traumatic experience arising from the worst traffic situation humanity has seen in a lifetime—the Apapa gridlock.
“In the last two to three months, we have enjoyed sanity on our roads and bridges and we thought our problems were over. But we are mistaken. We have entered another level of suffering coming from security agencies, notably police and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officials,” Ayo Vaughan, AGRA chairman told BusinessDay.
“I don’t know when LASTMA closes work, but I don’t think they work at night. LASTMA alongside some policemen have been milking the residents and this happens mostly at night,” Vaughan added, citing a case of a driver who was accused of driving against traffic and was forced to pay.
Vaughan said that the driver paid N50,000 to the security agencies at about 1.30 am and no receipt was issued. He recalled another incident involving AGRA security van which was impounded by the security agents and the association was made to pay N150,000 before the van was released.
He said there were other unrecorded cases involving many residents who have paid varying sums of money to the security agencies for minor traffic offences. “To the best of my knowledge, traffic offence is a civil offence, but in our case, it is treated as a criminal offence,” Paul Odey, AGRA general manager, said.
Odey told BusinessDay that the security agents were so brazen in their action that it seems they have a revenue target from their principal.
“They don’t listen to any plea; they don’t respect faces nor do they consider the peculiar nature of Apapa environment,” he noted.
He wondered why the security agencies were not after commercial vehicles that drive against traffic as a routine, but would always swoop on private car owners from whom they extort hard-earned money.
In search of a solution to this problem, Odey said the association had written a letter to the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, drawing his attention to the unwholesome activities of the security agencies and their propensity to extort residents at any given opportunity.
The letter dated August 16, 2021, and signed by Vaughan as chairman, reads in part: “As law-abiding citizens of Lagos State, we are absolutely against motorists plying one way. We are in support of the state government’s strong stand against such act under normal circumstances.
But we have situations where the only option is to go in the opposite direction. This is clearly due to containerised trucks and fuel tankers completely blocking the only route and this they do for hours and the only logical thing for Apapa residents to do in order to avoid being attacked while in traffic is to take one-way which leads to the naval base, from where they find their way to their respective homes.”
Odey noted that till date, the state government has not responded to their letter which is why the security agents have continued their activities unchecked and the residents have continued to live in fear of the unknown.
Apapa, Nigeria’s premier port city has, until just a couple of months ago, been under the most challenging situation in the last decade when trailers and tankers overran and degraded the whole environment, leaving residents and businesses in dire straits.
Until recently when the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), working in collaboration with Lagos State government, introduced an e-call up system for control of trucks movement, Apapa was a place to avoid because it was not one to go and return same day due to traffic gridlock.