Hundreds of motorists and residents plying the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to navigate their destinations within and beyond Orimerunmu community, in the Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, have complained about being subjected to traumatising tortures by soldiers who indiscriminately mount roadblock on the expressway to extort money from them on a daily basis.
gathered that the soldiers, while operating at will, and under the guise of conducting routine security checks, usually used barricades to create a checkpoint on the expressway.
The situation usually caused a backlog of traffic induced by the slow-paced movement of vehicles navigating the narrow opening created by the soldiers on the expressway.
However, while motorists lamented being trapped for hours in the gridlock that stretched from Orimerunmu to the Lotto end of the expressway, they complained bitterly that hoodlums had been taking advantage of the situation to rob them of their valuables while stuck in the gridlock.
Traders and residents, whose houses and shops are located in neighbourhoods along the stretch of the gridlock, also said the hoodlums, occasionally, invaded their communities to attack and dispossess them of their valuables.
On Monday, a , Olalekan Adetayo, while returning from work, around 12-midnight, ran into the gridlock induced by soldiers extorting motorists at the checkpoint they mounted on the expressway.
Trapped in the gridlock alongside other motorists, a machete-wielding hoodlum appeared beside Adetayo’s car and ordered him to wind down.
Concerned about the imminent security threat, the journalist said he refused and in a desperate attempt to attack him, the hoodlum used the machete to smash the windshield of his car at the passenger’s side and ordered him to relinquish his mobile phone.
Angered by the ’s refusal to obey the command, the machete-wielding suspect moved to the driver’s side and again destroyed the windshield while consistently demanding that he surrendered the phone.
Adetayo said, “I left the office around 11.30pm after the day’s production. A few minutes to 12 midnight, I ran into a gridlock created by soldiers at Lotto Bus Stop along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, just a few metres before I could make a detour into the road leading to my area.
“About two minutes after I ran into the gridlock, a machete-wielding young man appeared beside my car and ordered me to wind down. I refused and he used the machete to break the windshield of my car at the passenger’s side.
“He told me to give him my mobile phone but I refused. He became annoyed, came to meet me at the driver’s side, and again destroyed the windshield. He kept demanding my phone but as I tried to manoeuvre my way out of the gridlock, I rammed into vehicles at the front and behind me and still got stuck in the gridlock.”
Adetayo said other motorists who witnessed as he raised the alarm about the suspect’s action abandoned him to his fate, adding that bent on achieving his aim, the hoodlum still kept demanding his phone.
He added, “As he demanded my phone, he warned me against stepping out of the car but because of the threat to my life, I stepped out of the car to scamper to safety and he struck my head with his machete. He quickly reached for my Samsung A25 mobile phone and fled.
“It was after I noticed that the hoodlum and his gang members who lurked around while the scenario was playing out had left the scene that I returned to my car. Thereafter, motorists who initially abandoned me to my fate advised me to report the attack at the station.
“The whole incident kept playing in my mind all through the night. I couldn’t sleep but I thank God the attack was not more than that. I reported the case the following day at the Mowe Police Station.”
During a visit to the Orimerunmu end of the expressway on Wednesday, motorists and residents bitterly complained about the activities of the soldiers manning the roadblock and the attendant gridlock that had been creating an advantage for hoodlums to unleash terror on them along and in neighbourhoods connecting the expressway.
Lamenting about the development, a commercial motorist, who gave his name as Ade for security reasons, said the soldiers were not interested in conducting any security checks, adding that their focus was money.
“It is not that they are conducting any security checks, they usually target vehicles conveying goods and fuels. They stop them at the checkpoint and extort money from them. If they refuse to pay them the money, they will deny them access and leave them on the road until they pay.
“Other vehicles behind these trucks would be trapped in the gridlock because it is until they pass these trucks that they can be allowed to pass the narrow opening the soldiers created at the checkpoints. The soldiers’ interest is just the money; they don’t conduct any security checks and was out time,” he said.
Also complaining about the development, a security officer, Abdullahi Bello, said the soldiers mounted the roadblocks around 10pm or 11pm daily, adding, “they collect money from motorists on both sides of the road.”
Also speaking with our correspondent, a vulcaniser, Tunde Salami, said in a bid to escape arrest, the soldiers operate at irregular intervals.
He said, “They (soldiers) don’t come every day. They only show up a few times a week around 11 pm. But each time they show up, they use to collect money from the motorists.”
Contacted about the action of the soldiers on the expressway, the spokesperson, 81 Division, Nigerian Army, Lt.-Col. Olabisi Ayeni, said, “Kindly send the inquiry to me on WhatsApp so that I can forward it to the right quarters and get back to you.”
He had yet to do so as of the time this report was filed.
The state Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, when contacted, said he was not in the capacity to speak for other security agents and directed our correspondent to the military authorities.
He said, “Did they say police officers are the ones mounting checkpoints/roadblocks? Please, ask the military. I cannot speak for any other organisations aside from my organisation.”
Asked about the security threat in the area, Oyeyemi said, “The security of the area still borders on the same thing. If the military checkpoints/roadblocks are causing gridlocks and miscreants are seizing the opportunity to commit crimes, the residents should contact the nearest police station.”