Attack on task force men – The Nation

By The Citizen
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Lagos State government must make a point by punishing the culprits

With the attack by commercial bus drivers and motor park touts on officials of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Task Force at the Oshodi area of Lagos on Monday, the message being sent across by the law breakers is that they are not prepared to abide by the state traffic law and other laws made for good governance. It is now left for the state government to react appropriately, and the way to start is to identify those responsible for the unfortunate incident that led to the stabbing of one of the task force officials, Rilwan Oseni, whose two fingers were also chopped off by the hoodlums.

According to reports, the task force men, accompanied by policemen had stormed Oshodi Under Bridge and impounded six commercial buses said to have been parked at the middle of the road to pick passengers. Ismaila Shamsudeen, an eyewitness said: 'The drivers parked in the middle of the road, while their conductors called out to passengers. The smart ones among them sped off on sighting the task force, while others fled, abandoning their vehicles to avoid being arrested. But they did not expect that their vehicles would be impounded. Before we knew it, the whole place was thrown into chaos, as hoodlums capitalised on the opportunity and started attacking anyone in sight. One of the task force officials was stabbed while another sustained minor injury. At a point, the policemen fired some shots into the air to scare the hoodlums.'

Commercial bus operators and thugs once held sway at Oshodi, like some other areas of Lagos until January 2009 when the immediate past administration in the state led by Governor Babatunde Fashola reconstructed the landscape of Oshodi by demolishing the hideouts of the hoodlums and clearing the place of traders whose activities impeded the smooth flow of traffic. For the better part of the Fashola administration, Oshodi retained its sane identity. Traffic moved as expected, with the traders and other obstacles out of the way. Indeed, many people could not believe it was the same Oshodi that witnessed such transformation.

Things however took a different turn, especially after Fashola's exit last May, when the commercial bus operators and hoodlums took advantage of the new Akinwunmi Ambode administration's magnanimity to return to their old ways. However, the new administration moved swiftly to tame the excesses, after the expiration of the initial period of grace that it gave the commercial bus drivers and 'okada' riders, to mend their ways.

Just last week, the state government continued the sanitisation process in Oshodi, by pulling down some structures which could still serve as hideouts for criminals and other undesirable elements, for public good. Monday's angry reaction could be a fall-out of that exercise.

But if the hoodlums are becoming lawless just to test the resolve of the state government, then the government must show that it is in charge. It must fish out those who attacked the task force personnel and prosecute them. We do not rule out the possibility of overzealousness on the part of some state officials, but this is no justification to cut off their fingers. The state government has championed the cause of deprived private citizens; there is no reason why it should not defend its own from hoodlums who want to be law unto themselves and turn the state into a huge jungle.

The government must give adequate medical care to the injured. This is imperative if the government wants its other law enforcers to be dedicated to duty. The moment they see that they are on their own should any harm befall them on duty, then that is the end of law enforcement in the state. For sure, the state government would not want a return to the state of nature.