Mayhem in Maryland: 30 BRT buses destroyed over death of street hawker

Scene of the accident at Maryland, Lagos, on Wednesday. INSET: One of the vandalised BRT buses. PHOTOS: SYLVESTER OKORUWA AND ELLIOT OVADJE.

Street traders went on rampage Wednesday afternoon, in Maryland, Lagos State, destroying about 30 BRT buses while protesting the killing of one of them, allegedly chased to his death by officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI).

Twenty-eight-year-old  man, Nnamdi John, from Ebonyi State, was crushed by an articulated vehicle while being hotly pursued by KAI officials, who wanted to arrest him for hawking eyeglasses on the street, contrary to extant environmental law.

John was said to have been pursued by the said officials while he was trying to make sales.

It was said that the accident happened at about 2.00 p.m, when KAI officials allegedly pushed the deceased across the road.

The deceased was said to have skipped the Expressway while the KAI officials pushed him and  he ran under a trailer which eventually crushed him.

The KAI officials were said to have loaded five vehicles with alleged traffic offenders, in readiness to move them to their station, before deciding to add John to their haul.

Lagos Metro gathered that some of the officials were in mufti, while others were in their uniform.

It was also learnt that when the KAI officials saw that the man was dead, they took to their heels.

Eyewitnesses claimed that when the deceased’s colleagues could not get the KAI officials, they retaliated by destroying about 30 BRT buses, both blue and red, saying both KAI and BRT belonged  to and work for the same Lagos State government.

Lagos Metro gathered that it took the intervention of solders, who fired many shots in the air, for the protesters to disperse and flee.

Policemen from Anthony also had to join the soldiers in restoring sanity.

However,  it was said that when the family of the deceased got there, they did not want the police to take away the corpse.

This was said to have led to a struggle between the deceased’s family and the police officials, before the family agreed to follow the police to the station.

An eyewitness,  Ibironke Samuel, told Lagos Metro at the scene of the incident, that the KAI officials ran away after the accident.

He said: “When it happened, they ran away. I appeal to the government to caution KAI officials on their mode of operation.

brt-lorry“How can they have five full vehicles and still chase after another person?”

Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent of Police, Dolapo Badmos, confirmed the accident, adding that investigations were ongoing.

Meanwhile, KAI Public Relations Officer, Mrs Albi Rahmat, said it was not true that KAI officials chased the hawkers.

According to her, “there was a joint operation between the LASTMA and KAI officials today. When the street hawkers sighted them on the road, they ran away, thinking they came for them. The officials were merely passing by on their own.”

Lagos State government, also in a statement by the Commissioner for Information, Steve Ayorinde, said it wanted to clarify issues surrounding the incident “where a street hawker was knocked down by an oncoming truck at Maryland Bus Stop on Wednesday.

“The street hawker, who was trying to evade arrest  by officials of  KAI, had attempted to cross the road before being hit by the truck, which was erroneously thought to be a BRT bus.

“As a result, hoodlums, armed with sticks and stones, immediately descended on some  BRT buses plying the route as at the time of the incident and in the process, destroyed several of the BRT buses.”

Ayorinde said that contrary to the information being circulated in the social media that the street hawker was hit by a BRT bus, it was a truck belonging to a soft drink company that unfortunately hit the boy.

“It wasn’t any of our  buses that killed him (hawker), it was a soft drink company truck that unfortunately crushed the boy while he was trying to escape from KAI officers, who were on patrol, trying to rid the street of  hawkers and traders.

“But hoodlums now took advantage of that to start destroying government assets, including several of the brand new BRT buses,” he said.

Ayorinde said it took the intervention of a team from the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) to quell the riotous scene caused by the hoodlums before the corpse of the boy was taken to the morgue at the General Hospital, Ikeja.

The commissioner said no fewer than three hoodlums alleged to have been part of the mob that destroyed the BRT buses had been arrested, saying the law would take its full course.