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Anger as truck kills street sweeper

Lagosians decry use of force by LASTMA officials following crushing to death of street sweeper

AS the family and colleagues of the late Mrs. Martha Kpemeku try to come to terms with her sudden death, there is still so much disagreement over exactly how she lost her life.

A street-sweeper with the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), 56-year-old Mrs. Kpemeku was killed at Ojota on Tuesday while at work.

An eyewitness account had told The Guardian that it was a Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA) pick-up truck that ran over Mrs. Kpemeku, crushing her to death.

But the Chief Executive Officer of LASTMA, Mr. Young Arebamen disagrees, insisting that it was the DAF truck, with registration number XR 505 BDG that crushed the woman to death.

Another eyewitness account, however, claimed that the accident occurred as a result of a struggle for the control of the steering of the DAF truck by the driver and LASTMA officials.

In the struggle to gain control of the vehicle, they lost control and rammed it into the hapless street sweeper.

“The truck veered off the road, climbed the median and crushed the woman who died immediately.”

Information gathered by The Guardian indicated the deceased was one of those traders displaced in the state, who for lack of other viable alternatives seized the opportunity offered by the LAWMA to join in the effort to keep Lagos clean and healthy.

After the incident, the truck driver and the LASTMA officials took to their heels.

They were afraid of the wrath of on-lookers, as people milled around and even attempted to vandalize a LASTMA truck with registration number, RT-225-LA.

Indeed, tension was very high as it was only a few days earlier that irate commercial motorcyclists had burnt two buses belonging to the government following the crushing to death of one of their members by one of the buses.

People were seen around the scene of the accident castigating the LASTMA officials for high-handedness and unprofessional conduct, while others openly called for immediate scrapping of the agency.

One of the people at the scene put his hand into the LASTMA truck and retrieved a bottle of what was believed to be alcohol.

An attempt by the mob to also set ablaze a BRT bus was foiled by the police, which arrested the LASTMA over his involvement in the death of Martha.

The police spokesman, Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Samuel Jinadu confirmed the arrest of the LASTMA operative to The Guardian.

Jinadu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) states that the DAF lorry had also been impounded, while the driver was also been detained at the Alausa Police Station.

Meanwhile, the remains of the late sweeper had been deposited at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH mortuary.

An eye-witness also blamed the woman’s untimely death on LASTMA officials, saying they should not have engaged the driver of the truck in a struggle for the control of the steering, adding that he could have taken the registration number of the vehicle and noted the offence committed.

When The Guardian spoke with a LASTMA operative on why they often forced themselves into traffic offenders’ vehicles, struggling for control of the vehicles, he said:

“That’s the only way you can get these people to pay for their offence”.

But asked why they do not simply note the offending vehicle’s number and get the driver arrested later, the official, laughing, said: “You don’t know anything; most of these plate numbers you see in Lagos are fake.”

But Lagosians have for long condemned the use of force by LASTMA officials and their tendency to jump into traffic to stop alleged traffic offenders.

This may not, however, be the most intelligent alternative, as according to a Lagosian, who spoke with The Guardian: “If the plate number is fake, is the model of the vehicle also fake? Is the colour and brand also fake? Please, these people just don’t know what they are doing or are merely arresting suspected traffic offenders for their own, LASTMA, selfish intentions.

“They are not interested in keeping the law, but in using the instrument of law to feather their own nests.”

The General Manager, LAWMA, Mr. Ola Oresanya, confirmed the death of the sweeper, which he described as unfortunate.

He also said four other persons were seriously injured in the accident.

“It is a painful incident but we pray that such will not happen again,” he said, adding that the time had come for the government to engage motorized sweepers to sweep the highway in order to avert cases of the sweepers being killed while on duty.

He confirmed that the LAWMA sweeper was at her duty post along with her colleagues before the truck veered off the expressway and hit her. “It was unfortunate that she died instantly while two other of her colleagues that were hit sustained minor injuries and they have since been treated. They are in sound shape now.”

He appealed to the public to be patient, promising that those behind the incident would definitely be apprehended.

“It is unfortunate that was the second incident in the last two weeks that would involve LASTMA and that has generated reaction from the public.

“ On the part of the deceased it was an accident but the driver of the vehicle was alleged to be running from being apprehended by LASTMA officials probably for an alleged traffic offence”

On compensation for the deceased, Oresanya said though there is no amount of money that could be equated with human life, LAWMA has a policy.

“A team has been sent to commiserate with the family of the deceased. Other necessary arrangements are on-going to ensure that adequate compensation is given at the end of the day,” he said.


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