Following a report by PUNCH Metro on the activities of soldiers mounting a roadblock at the Orimerunmu end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to extort motorists and in the process, exposing them alongside residents in communities within and beyond the point of the roadblock to attacks by hoodlums, more victims have surfaced to testify to the despicable actions of the soldiers on the expressway.
A PUNCHman, Olalekan Adetayo, had in a report on Thursday, narrated how a machete-wielding hoodlum, used a machete to smash his vehicle’s windshields and robbed him of his mobile phone while stuck in the gridlock caused by the soldiers allegedly extorting motorists under the guise of conducting security checks on the expressway.
Explaining that the attack happened on his way home around midnight, Adetayo, while expressing shock over the development, said he again sighted the soldiers operating freely at the roadblocks on his way home on Wednesday.
“The soldiers are still there; I saw them operating at the roadblock and I still ran into the gridlock caused by the slow-paced movements of vehicles accessing the narrow opening the soldiers created at the roadblock,” the PUNCHman said.
Reacting to the report, a journalist with an online news platform, Adeola Balogun, who, daily, plies the expressway to navigate his home, reached out to PUNCH Metro and said the soldiers had been using the roadblocks to extort money from motorists for about five years.
Despite a series of complaints on the actions of the soldiers to the military authorities, he said nothing had been done, adding that the authorities feigned ignorance to their outcry.
Balogun said, “The army roadblock has been there for almost five years. When I close at late hours, on my way home, I do see these soldiers harassing and extorting money from motorists at the roadblock.
“When they started, they blocked both sides of the road, leaving only a very small and narrow pathway for motorists to navigate. As a result, traffic began to build up. Motorists, especially the heavy-duty vehicles plying the spots during the hour of the military operations were major victims.
“Although, I have never been robbed on the road before but the soldiers always harass me and other motorists on the road. They do not care who you are. They treat motorists with impunity. I remember a time when a commercial bus driver gave them money. They wanted to give him his balance so they used my car’s headlamp to give the driver his balance.”
Also, a fuel attendant, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said hoodlums had been taking advantage of the situation to unleash terror on motorists and residents around Orimerunmu and other adjoining communities.
He further alleged that the roadblock might have been sanctioned by high-ranking officers in the military considering the number of soldiers that used to be present during the operation at night.
He said, “There is no way those at the helm of affairs would not be aware of the operations of these soldiers. All of them used to pass here in the night. They see these roadblocks. If they were not ordered to be here, someone might have reported them. But that did not happen.
“The soldiers used to be more than 10 in number at that checkpoint. If you want to see their true figures, come to this place anytime from 9.30pm. Although they may not have started operations at this time, you will see them turn out in groups. Sometimes, they used to come with a branded vehicle and in military uniform.”
Also, a motorcycle rider, Sunday Ifeanyi, said hoodlums, while taking advantage of the gridlock, used an object to smash his head and robbed his colleague of his motorcycle.
“There was a time when one of my colleagues had his head smashed and his motorcycle stolen along the area. I will say the long stretch of traffic on the axis was a factor,” Ifeanyi said.
A resident, while speaking anonymously to our correspondent for security reasons, urged relevant authorities to intervene to curb the situation, adding that the insecurity in the area had become worrisome.
He said, “Only the government can intervene. The criminal activities on this axis are on the increase, but if the government intervenes, these criminal activities would stop.”
Contacted, the spokesperson, 81 Division, Nigerian Army, Lt.-Col. Olabisi Ayeni, said, “Let’s get to the root of this matter so that I can give you correct information and hit the nail on the head. Let me do my research very well. Once the COs in charge of that unit respond to my inquiry, I will get you feedback.”