On a Tuesday morning, exactly one month ago, Anthony Salif, a Chartered Accountant (though jobless) left his Magboro residence with N15,000 around 8am to keep an appointment with a friend that had promised him a job around Alausa.
He got to his meeting venue 30 minutes earlier than planned and had to park his Toyota Corolla by Ivory Music House, waiting, hopeful that he will return home with good news. But his hope was dashed when a vehicle marked Lagos State Removal of Abandoned Vehicles Committee (RAVC) crossed him.
One of the men called Biggy by his colleagues, who alighted from the mini-van, said, “Good morning sir, you have violated one of the Lagos State traffic laws. First, you switched lanes suddenly at Olowopopo Road and you now parked at an illegal spot. We either impound your vehicle or you pay N75,000 only.”
Salif, who was in shock at that time, started pleading with the impostors, as the said agency has been disbanded by the state government. “I had to plead with them that I had only N15,000 and was only willing to part with N10,000 from the amount.
“They insisted that they won’t take anything less than N50,000 and led me to a park around Elephant House, Alausa. I had to start calling family and friends for help and fortunately, two of them sent the balance to me.”
But Biggy, who was later identified as Taiwo Falodun (48) and his team ran out of luck last week as they were apprehended by the Rapid Response Squad (RRS). His team members are Adedire Olaniyi (42), Femi Osunkoya (53) and Olalekan Edu (51).
How they were caught – Police
The Lagos State Police Command explained that the four suspects used to extort motorists in the State while posing as officials of the disbanded Lagos State Removal of Abandoned Vehicles Committee (RAVC).
The command’s Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin, in a statement, disclosed that the suspects were arrested by Operatives of the Rapid Response Squad.
He stated, “The motorist stated that the suspects took her vehicle to a park in front of Elephant Cement House, where she was asked to pay N50,000 as fine. She, however, reached out to friends who contacted the RRS.
“The arrested suspects are Taiwo Falodun, aka Biggy (48), Adedire Olaniyi (42), Femi Osunkoya (53) and Olalekan Edu (51).”
According to Hundeyin, two of the suspects, Adedire and Osunkoya, were apprehended yesterday after impounding the vehicle of a motorist for changing lanes at Alausa.
“The RRS arrived the scene promptly, arrested the suspects and commenced preliminary investigations. While the investigation was ongoing, their leader, one Taiwo Falodun, came along with a government official, identified as Olalekan Edu to solicit the release of the arrested suspects. They were both arrested too.
“RRS fingerprint records showed that Taiwo Falodun and Adedire Olaniyi were once arrested in 2020 for extorting a university professor while posing as local government officials on LASU-Igando Road.
“The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP Abiodun Alabi, FDC has directed the Commander RRS, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi to charge the suspects to court at the conclusion of investigations,” he added.
Why Lagos disbanded RAVC
For the second time in a year, the state government had placed an indefinite suspension on the entire ad-hoc teams of RAVC operating in the 20 local governments and 37 local council development areas in Lagos State. This is due to several complaints of extortion and harassment of members of the public by the committee.
The Commissioner for Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde, in a statement, stated, “The suspension was a directive from the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, as a result of several complaints of extortion and harassment of members of the public by RAVC. The development has caused embarrassment to the State Government despite several reviews conducted on the operational guidelines of the team.
“The directive warned that any ad-hoc team found operating after this notice will be handed over to the Law Enforcement Agencies for trial and prosecution in accordance with the Law of the State as captured in the Traffic Sector Reform Law (TSRL) 2018.
“The order should be noted by the general public, while owners of abandoned vehicles posing environmental nuisance as well as security and traffic impediments must remove them from the roads. Negligence will not be condoned as an excuse for violation of the Traffic Laws of the State.”
What you should know
It would be recalled that the RAVC was suspended in early 2021 while the suspension was lifted on December 30, 2021 after several appraisals and a review of the operational guidelines of the team by the state government.
But the controversy over the activities of the committee, it was learnt, started rearing its ugly head.
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