By Olasunkanmi Akoni
The Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences (Mobile) Court, sitting at Bolade, Oshodi, Lagos, has sentenced one David Oluchkwu, to four-month jail term for impersonating as officer of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA and extorting money from unsuspecting motorists, particularly commercial bus drivers in the state.
Operatives of LASTMA had on Wednesday, December 14, 2022, nabbed Oluchkwu, 27 year-old around the Lekki area of Lagos while in the act.
The suspect was subsequently arraigned by LASTMA on a two-count charge of “Conduct likely to cause breach of peace and Impersonation” before the court where he was convicted.
According to the Director, Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA, Mr. Adebayo Taofiq, the Magistrate Adesanya Ademola sentenced Oluchkwu to a 4-month jail term without any option of fine after he pleaded ‘Guilty’ to the two- count charge levied against him.
Magistrate Adesanya stressed that the convict should serve the four months jail term without any option of fine due to the gravity of the offences committed.
The Prosecutor, Barrister Agbaje Oladotun, had maintained that both offences levied against the convict (Breach of Peace and Impersonation) contravened Section 168 (D) and Section 78 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State (2015) respectively.
In his reaction to the judgement, the General Manager of LASTMA, Bolaji Oreagba, described the judgement as a welcome development, saying that it would serve as deterrent to others who are still extorting money from innocent members of public under false pretense.
According to Oreagba “Our surveillance and intelligence unit which has now been fully restructured would continue to hunt for other bad elements disturbing the peace of the society on the roads.”
He however, urged motorists particularly commercial bus operators to adhere strictly to the dictates of the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law 2018 inorder to avoid arrest and subsequent prosecution.
Recall that Oreagba confirmed that the suspect was nabbed by a Lastma patrol team while on duty monitoring and controlling traffic around the Lekki axis.
Priliminary investigations conducted by the Agency revealed that the arrested suspect belonged to a criminal gang and they have been extorting huge sum of money from innocent motorists apprehended for various traffic offences ranging from seat-belt, obstructions, illegal over-taking and One-way at different locations across the state.
According to Mr. Oreagba “the suspect was apprehended after our patrol team sighted him fully kitted with a Lastma uniform on a black jean collecting money from different commercial bus drivers who were illegally dropping and picking passengers under the Lekki bridge”
“It is disheartening for some unscrupulous elements impersonating as LASTMA officials and extorting money from innocent motorists thereby denting the good image of the Agency before the public.”
Oreagba, therefore, urged motorists to be wary of fake officers demanding money from them stating that the agency operates a cashless policy as any violators apprehended are charged to court with a ‘Referral Notice.’
He however warned those impersonators to desist from such illegal acts as more surveillance personnel have been deployed to strategic locations to hunt for those extorting innocent motorists under the pretext of the agency.
Oluchkwu, who hailed from ‘Ukpu’ in Anambra State, confessed further to be making an average of N40,000 daily from the illegal traffic business.
“Any motorists I caught driving against traffic (One-way) paid a minimum of N50,000 while other traffic violators were charged with different fines,” he stated.
The convict with no any fixed address however, appealed to the government to temper justice with mercy.