No fewer than 14 buses belonging to Primero Transport Service Ltd were on Wednesday vandalised by suspected hoodlums along the Ikorodu Road in Lagos.
Trouble started after a street hawker, who was evading arrest by Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) officials was knocked down by an articulated vehicle at Maryland Bus Stop.
No sooner than the incident occurred, the suspected hoodlums pounced on the mass transit vehicles to vent their anger over the death of the street hawker.
Mr Adedeji Adeosun, a driver with the company, whose vehicle was vandalised said: “I was in traffic for about 20 minutes at Maryland.
“Then I saw some people running from Maryland and I opened the door to see what was happening.
“I heard shouts from people that we should come down, so, I immediately removed my uniform.
“I saw about 100 of the hoodlums otherwise called `area boys’ coming with stones and so I ran away.
“All the passengers on board my bus also came down and ran for dear life. I was hit by a big stone’’.
Another driver, Mr Michael Onabolu, said: “I saw people running and shouting that I should come down from the bus.
“And all of a sudden, I saw some guys surrounding the buses and asking my passengers and I to come down.
“Before I knew it, one of them hit the bus with a big stone and I could not move because of the traffic. I was wounded on my hands and my tights with stones’’.
He said that a passenger sitting beside him was also hit by a stone, adding that all the passengers were moved to other buses to reach their destinations.
A commuter, Mr Elijah Omotayo, who was attacked in the process, said that the mob told the driver to open the door which the passengers asked him not to do.
Omotayo, a student, told NAN that “they started throwing the stones and one of the stones hit my head’’.
Mr Fola Tinubu, the Managing Director, Primero Ltd, expressed displeasure over the vandalism.
“We don’t know what happened, whatever it is; it is something that has to do with the government or the police.
“But does that give aggrieved people the right to destroy private property.
“People are saying that there are no jobs in Nigeria; we have created over 2,000 jobs in the last six months. Is this the reward we will get for it?
“We need to start asking ourselves serious questions in this country,’’ he told NAN.
“They have destroyed over 14 of our buses now. I don’t even know how many they have destroyed now. For what, what did we do; I am angry.
“I don’t even know where to begin because there is no justification for destroying private property; our service is for the masses.
“Do you know how many people will be stranded today if we don’t go out to pick them up?
“How are they going to get home? We do this for the masses. Is this the reward that we will get? This is madness.’’
Meanwhile, the police with the help of the bus drivers have arrested three suspects and taken them to the company’s head office at Majidun in Ikorodu town.
However, the Lagos State Government later on Wednesday said that the street hawker knocked down at Maryland Bus Stop in Lagos earlier in the day was not hit by a BRT bus.
The state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Steve Ayorinde in a statement said the street hawker was hit by a truck belonging to a soft drink company.
The statement was issued against the backdrop of the destruction of several BRT buses in the area after the incident, following which the buses went off the roads temporarily.
A street hawker who was trying to evade arrest from officials of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), attempted to cross the road before being hit by the truck, which was erroneously thought to be a BRT bus.
“As a result, hoodlums, armed with sticks and stones, immediately descended on some BRT buses plying the route as at the time of the incident and in the process destroyed several of the BRT buses.
“It wasn’t any of our buses that killed him (hawker), it was a soft drink company truck that unfortunately crushed the boy while he was trying to escape from KAI officers who were on patrol trying to rid the street of street hawkers and traders.
“But hoodlums now took advantage of that to start destroying government assets, including several of the brand new BRT buses,” he said.
Ayorinde said it took the intervention of a team from the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) to quell the riotous scene caused by the hoodlums before the corpse of the boy was taken to the morgue at the General Hospital, Ikeja.
The Commissioner said that no fewer than three hoodlums alleged to have been part of the mob that destroyed the BRT buses had been arrested, and the law would take its full course.
“The Lagos State Government will like to use this opportunity to further reiterate that it will not relent in ridding the state of illegality, street trading and hawking,” he said.
Ayorinde said that Section 1 of the Lagos State Street Trading and Illegal Market Prohibition Law 2003, restricted street trading and hawking in the metropolis.
He also said that Sections 7 and 8 of the same law gave jurisdiction and power to the Special Court to order the seizure and public auction of items impounded from street traders.
Section 10 of the law, he said, also prescribed a N5000 fine or three months imprisonment upon conviction.
“Street traders are hereby urged to desist from this illegal activity because the government will not be blackmailed and would do that which is necessary.
“For the miscreants and hoodlums, the Lagos State Government and the Police Command will not allow any act of civil disobedience.
“Those arrested will be dealt with in accordance with the law and further arrests will be made as investigation continues,” he said. (NAN)