The role of the new Federal task force in Lagos has sparked renewed face-off between the ruling All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, writes ENIOLA AKINKUOTU
They are noticeable around the old tollgate area along Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Clad in black shirts with the inscription, FERCSARA, they are young men and women working with the Federal Roads Committee on Surveillance and Action against Roadside Trading and other Forms of Road Abuse. You cannot but notice them performing some form of exercise and training every morning. Although not armed, FERCSARA, a federal task force, has been branded as thugs of the Peoples Democratic Party by the All Progressives Congress-led Lagos State Government.
The PDP has made it clear that it will win Lagos in 2015. A good number of agencies such as the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, Kick Against Indiscipline, Rapid Response Squad, Lagos State task force are being run by the APC-led Lagos State Government. These agencies are seen by politicians especially as a platform to mobilise the electorate. It appears the PDP is set to exploit this platform in the bid to neutralise the control of Lagos State government over the electorate hence the formation of the new taskforce.
According to the Federal Government, the reason for creating the task force is not to combat the APC but to create jobs for many Nigerian youths through the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme otherwise known as SURE-P. Political observers, however, predicted that although in theory, the federal task force is neutral, it would almost be impossible for it to exist side by side with Lagos state agencies.
Also, the APC has been quick to point out that the coordinator of the federal task force, Mr. Abdurazak Rafiu, popularly known as Otolorin, defected from the former Action Congress of Nigeria (now part of the APC) to the PDP and therefore has an ulterior motive for running the taskforce.
Expectedly, a few weeks after it began full operation, over 200 officials of the federal task force were arrested by the Lagos State task force on Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences in their training ground at the old Lagos tollgate and taken to the headquarters of the Lagos State Police Command in Ikeja. According to the Lagos State taskforce led by a Chief Superintendent of Police, Bayo Sulaiman, officials of the Lagos task force tried to arrest a vehicle plying the BRT lane at Ketu area but the driver diverted the vehicle into the premises of the federal taskforce at the old tollgate. He said in the process of trying to get the vehicle back, officials of the federal task force allegedly mobilised and attacked the policemen with planks and bottles, inflicting injuries on them.
The Commissioner for Information, Lateef Ibirogba, immediately released a statement saying, “The police intercepted a strange group of usurpers posing as traffic officials on Lagos roads. Dressed in grey and black uniforms, the group, numbering about 35, invaded Lagos roads in Ojota, Tollgate and Ikorodu Road at about 7am, causing confusion on the roads in their attempt to take over the job of LASTMA.”
In his reaction, the National Publicity Director, SURE-P/FERMA task force, Mr. Olawale Oyeboh, said LASTMA had no business being on Federal Government roads and warned the agency to stay off. He further stated that his men were not working for the PDP to destabilise Lagos State in view of the coming elections.
According to Oyeboh, the presence of the federal task force men on the federal roads falls under the jurisdiction of the agencies as backed by the laws which established them. Contrary to the accusation that the federal agencies had hijacked the functions of LASTMA, Oyeboh declared that the Lagos State government agency had no business being on the federal roads. He said, “How can political thugs be groomed by the Federal Government? They are only feeling intimidated by their selfish interest and Lagosians are tired of their exploitation.
“It is an empowerment programme by the Federal Government for the youth to work on the federal roads which is our jurisdiction. The LASTMA are Lagos agents and cannot be on federal roads but state roads.”[eap_ad_2]