ALL hell was let loose in Maryland, Lagos, yesterday when a hawker was crushed by a truck. His colleagues went wild, destroying about 47 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses belonging to Primero Transport Service Ltd and several others owned by LAGBUS Asset Management.
The debris of the buses filled the road from Maryland to Obanikoro. Eyewitnesses said the eyeglasses hawker was trying to evade arrest by Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) officials when he ran into the truck’s path.
The accident, which happened around 1.15pm, caused a traffic gridlock, which stretched from the Maryland Independence Tunnel to Fadeyi.
An eyewitness said: “KAI officials pursued the guy who tried to run away with his wares, but he was hit by a truck which was on high speed.
But another witness said the hawker ran into a Honda vehicle and was crushed.
He said: “What I saw was a Honda vehicle which was on high speed. It hit the guy when he was running towards the other side of the road and he died immediately while his intestine came out. Immediately the vehicle owner realised he had killed someone, he parked and stepped out to sympathise with the guy’s fellow hawkers but he was later asked to leave as many people reasoned it was not his fault but KAI’s who pursued him to death.”
A mob barricaded both sides of the road, hindering motorists’ movement.
The mob, The Nation learnt, chased away the first and second batches of policemen that arrived on the scene.
To escape from the mob, some drivers were said to have abandoned their buses and fled. Others manoeuvred their way out of the mayhem.
Some hawkers told The Nation: “Those KAI officials are wicked people. Can you imagine how cruel they are? The innocent man had already obeyed them by running away to avoid being punished but they kept chasing him till he was killed by a car. Immediately they saw that the car had knocked him down, they drove off speedily. We are all human beings and we are not happy with the situation. We need to let the government know that we can’t take the injustice. Therefore, venting our anger on the buses is the best way to let them know what they have done is bad. The poor man is gone but we will make sure all the buses that would ply this road today must pay for his death.”
A driver with Primero Transport Service Ltd, Mr Adedeji Adeosun, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN): “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 thighs with stones’’.
He said the passenger beside him was also hit by a stone, adding that all the passengers were moved to other buses to continue their journey.
A commuter, Mr Elijah Omotayo, said the mob attacked their driver for not opening the doors.
Omotayo, a student, told NAN: “They started throwing stones and one of the stones hit my head”.
Primero Ltd Managing Director Mr Fola Tinubu, expressed displeasure over the incident, saying: “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”.
He added: “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. 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.”
Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) Communications Director Mr Kola Ojelabi told The Nation last night that about 47 BRT buses were destroyed.
This, he said, was more than 10 per cent of the numbers of buses on that route.
A combined team of soldiers and policemen restored law and order before traffic started moving again.
They used tyres and big stones to shield the body to ensure free flow of traffic.