By David Stephen.
Lagos was reeling from the new traffic law, the penalties and development, when news emerged that a woman, nursing a 3-months old baby, killed a LASTMA official. The Lady, Yinka Johnson, is a staff of STANBIC IBTC Bank was on Friday, August 10, accused of killing the official, Hammed Balogun, around Ikota Estate, Lekki-Epe Expressway Lagos.
The accusation was based on the account of the general manager of LASTMA, Mr Babatunde Edu who said: “The driver, whose identity was revealed by the auto inspector device as Yinka Johnson, an employee of IBTC, drove in a green Land Rover Jeep with registration number CY 276 LSD against traffic from Mega Chicken inward toll plaza two.
“She was intercepted by three officials of LASTMA led by the head of Operations, Mr. Quayum Asafa, for traffic violation. Johnson started driving recklessly in order to escape and in the process ran over the officer.
“The deceased was rushed to Germaine Hospital where he later died as a result of injury sustained from the accident. The corpse was deposited at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital, Ikeja for autopsy. Realising what she had done, she ran and escaped from the scene of the incident into Ikota Estate, Ajah with the security men shutting the gate.”
He continued, “The situation became riotous as the security attached to the gate refused all entreaties to open the gate until the intervention of the area commander in charge of Area J, Mr. Felix Uwamli, who called for backup before access could be gained into the estate.”
The news took another turn by Saturday when she spoke with THISDAY from custody – where she was held with her baby – pleading her innocence.
She said: “My baby has been crying because of hunger and I cannot even feed her well here. I still have my stitches from the caesarean operation. All these I have been battling with now. I was driving on Lekki-Epe Expressway trying to navigate to the other side of the road when I was accosted by a LASTMA official. Although the road I took was a one-way road, residents of Ikota Estate usually take it because of the on-going road reconstruction on the alternative road. While I was discussing with the LASTMA official, a vehicle crushed another official a few metres away, thereby causing a commotion.”
She continued, “When they stopped me and wanted to tow my car, I begged them to allow me drive my car to their station but they refused. I even told some of them to enter my car instead. In fact from the picture taken of the incident, a towing car was parked in front of my car, how could I have run away with the towing car parked like that?”
According to her “We were still talking when I heard some noise few metres away from where I was. It was minutes later that I realized that a LASTMA official was dead and from what people said, at the hands of a danfo driver.”
Several eyewitnesses and location account made the police reverse her charges from alleged murder to reckless driving – against traffic.
She was arraigned before the Igbosere Magistrate Court on Tuesday for reckless driving, she pleaded not guilty, paid a 50,000 naira fine and was granted bail. The news has been embarrassing for LASTMA, after going quiet on its murder account that was displaced by investigations.
At a time that LASTMA officials should be acquainting themselves with the new traffic law, a high-profile credibility-killing event surfaced, showing certain possibilities with their judgments and stories. The Lagos State Government founded and owns the agency; it will be a worthy move, to train these guys more, for present and future challenges, to reduce embarrassments and loopholes showing in their duties.