There was pandemonium at Obanikoro area of Lagos State, South West Nigeria today when soldiers clashed with policemen who were trying to stop the soldiers from using the BRT lane.
Men of the Lagos State Taskforce on Environmental Offences (Enforcement Unit) had stormed the BRT lane on the order from the state government to enforce the ban on motorists using the BRT lane.
P.M.NEWS reporter who witnessed the scene observed that over 95 percent of BRT lane violators were soldiers who displayed brazen act of lawlessness and challenged the policemen who stopped them and wanted to tow their vehicles for violating the laws of the state.
Trouble started when a female soldier and a Lance Corporal in separate vehicles drove on the BRT lane and were stopped by the police. The soldiers knew the police were enforcing the ban on use of the BRT lanes when they intentionally took the lane.
The police officers attempted to tow the female soldierâ€™s vehicle but were resisted while the soldier pleaded with the cops.
While that was going on, the female soldier who drove in a car with registration number SD 754 KJA attempted to drive away the car by force but unknown to her, an iron spike was placed in front of the carâ€™s tyre while the vehicle climbed it and one of the tyres got punctured.
As the car was being towed out of the BRT lane, the other soldier, whose carâ€™s registration number KE 507 EKY came out of his car and successfully concealed his identity by removing the name tag on his uniform.
He insulted the police officers and dared anyone to tow his vehicle. Because of his rudeness, the policemen who had earlier allowed almost 10 vehicles being driven by soldiers who violated the use of the BRT lane to go, decided to tow the Lance Corporalâ€™s vehicle.
The Lance Corporal headbutted a police officer who was trying to drive his car away. He seriously manhandled the cop, while the police team leader tried to calm him down and restrained his men from retaliating.
The policemen still insisted on towing the vehicle but the Lance Corporal slapped and brutalised the police officers while the policemen kept their cool.
As they struggled with the Lance Corporal, some area boys who were in support of the soldier suddenly went wild, but the police succeeded in arresting some of them who were hauled into the Black Maria. In a sudden twist, the Lance Corporal suddenly feigned being unconscious and collapsed without being touched. He was taken to the road side.
This enraged other soldiers who arrived the scene and clashed with the cops.
A police officer shot tear gas into the air and there was pandemonium in the area as people ran for safety. The Obanikoro Bus stop was deserted.
Rumour immediately started spreading that the police had killed a soldier and that soldiers were on a revenge mission.
The soldiers at the scene of the incident vandalised one of the police towing vans and battered the driver of one of the police vehicles but the police rescued him from the scene and took him to a hospital.
Several policemen at the scene fled sensing danger while only a few remained.
A Divisional Police Officer, DPO, who came to maintain peace ran for his life when he saw the soldiers who had gone to reinforce. People ran while banks in the area and some companies shut their gates as they sensed danger.
As the situation was being brought under control, the Lance Corporal, who pretended to have fainted returned to pick his car.
As he was doing that, a large number of armed soldiers were spotted approaching the scene. The remaining policemen at the scene had to beat a retreat to avert more trouble while they abandoned one of their towing vans on the BRT lane.
As the soldiers approached, passers-by had to run to safety to avoid stray bullet hitting them, though, there was no exchange of gun shots.
Earlier, some soldiers had violated the ban on use of the BRT lane and were able to get out of trouble by force. One of such offenders was Tope Awopetu, a staff sergeant and a brigadier, whose name could not be ascertained by our correspondent.
A police car driven by a sergeant was towed by the taskforce. A customs vehicle was also impounded for using the BRT lane while a Superintendent of Police, who claimed to be a lawyer, had his car towed for using the BRT lane.
Also, vehicle belonging to the Lagos Central Business District, CBD, Enforcement unit with registration number LA 23 CBD was towed for using the BRT lane, among others.
The Lagos State Government had decided to enforce the ban on use of BRT lane because of the lawlessness of motorists who take the BRT lane whenever there is mild traffic gridlock on Ikorodu road.
It was gathered that Governor Babatunde Fashola had gotten wind of the clash between the soldiers and the policemenâ€‰ and had contacted the relevant military authorities to immediately call their men to order. This is to avert a bloody clash like the one in Badagry last month during which a soldier was killed and his colleagues retaliated by killing the Badagry DPO, DCO and other cops.