6th February, 2014
Kazeem Ugbodaga & Eromosele Ebhomele
It has been revealed that at least 5,000 youths are currently being trained in Lagos State, southwest Nigeria as political thugs in preparation for the 2015 general elections.
P.M.NEWS investigation revealed that the youths were being recruited and trained under the name of FERMA Federal Task Force at the Old Tollgate near 7Up Bottling Company, the former yard of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA.
It was gathered that as some have started training, more youths were still rushing to the place enmasse to get recruited because of the employment conditions.
P.M.NEWS learnt that the youths were not interviewed and were promised to be paid under the federal government salary scale according to their qualifications.
The emergence of the illegal taskforce is creating panic among stakeholders in the state as there are fears that the youths were being trained by the leading opposition party to destabilise Lagos and other southwest states during next year’s general elections.
More worrisome is the fact that the taskforce is not backed by any law or act setting it up.
Sources said the youths will undergo intensive training somewhere in Badagry and they will then be drafted to all southwest states under the guise of maintaining and protecting Federal Government roads.
There are allegations that the youths will be used to create mayhem in the zone to enable the PDP win all the southwest states during the forthcoming elections.
A lady that has been recruited told P.M.NEWS in confidence that they were told that over 5,000 youths will be drafted to the southwest zone for the 2015 general elections.
She said they were told that after the recruitment exercise, they would be taken to Badagry for intensive training.
Another youth who was recruited told our reporters that to be drafted by the agency, one must pay a fee of N10,000 for the registration form and purchase kit worth N35,000 and get captured on a data system after paying some charges.
A top PDP chieftain in the southwest zone was alleged to be involved in the recruitment and training of the youths.
P.M.NEWS gathered that the first aim of the taskforce is to drive officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management, LASTMA, out of the federal roads in Lagos and take over activities of the traffic officers.
The new taskforce would be playing the same role with the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC. While FRSC is backed by law, the group will not be backed by any federal law or be affiliated to any agency of government.
One of those recruited told P.M.NEWS that there is an illegal detention cell at the taskforce office at the old tollgate.
This was confirmed also by a top police boss who craved anonymity, saying that a detention cell has been created at the tollgate where motorists and others arrested would be detained.
The top police boss said such a taskforce never had the backing of the law and so lacked the powers to carry out such activities.
The police officer wondered what the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Umar Manko, is doing that he has not disbanded the illegal taskforce as it had political undertone.
Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly have also expressed concern over the emergence of the illegal taskforce.
The lawmakers have raised concerns twice over the recruitment exercise.
The first time was when the Commissioner of Police in the state, Umar Manko, visited the House in relation to the security issues in the state.
The lawmakers asked the commissioner if he was aware of a nocturnal recruitment and trainings of some youths in the Badagry area of the state, but the commissioner told the members that he was not aware.
He also promised to investigate the case and take action against who were involved in the illegal activities
But with more complaints from constituents and the seeming inability of the commissioner to act, the House again, during the plenary, called on Manko to urgently save the state by ridding it off unauthorised people or paramilitary organisations in the state.
The House said it was confused on why the youths were being recruited by an agency of government, FERMA, that is not a paramilitary organisation.
FERMA, however, disowned the illegal taskfoce, saying it has no hand in any group operating under the name of FERMA Federal Task Force and carrying out recruitment and paramilitary training for youths in Lagos.
FERMA South West 2 Zonal Coordinator, Mr Oladipo Fagbamila, said the agency had an organisational structure fit to carry out its constitutional responsibilities of nationwide road maintenance.
He said that the agency had enough machinery to handled all of its operations without any other group fronting for them, saying that “last year, our attention was drawn to a group which referred to itself as our “Federal Task Force” which is perpetrating activities that negate the mission of FERMA in some areas of Lagos State.
“It suffices to state in this disclaimer for the avoidance of doubt that FERMA did not engage and had not engaged anyone to contract business or businesses in the form of the activities of this so-called ‘FERMA Task Force,’ of which this disclaimer is hereby made.
“Notice of this disclaimer is hereby given by FERMA that the agency had no knowledge of the operations being conducted by the imposters, the identities of whom remain unknown but who had fraudulently employed the agency’s impeccable image being capitalised upon by this unknown imposters,” he said.
According to him, FERMA had written the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police, and Lagos State Governor on the matter, adding that FERMA was committed to its responsibility of providing good, safe and motorable roads to residents of Lagos and Nigerians to ensure economic growth and development.
He enumerated FERMA’s functions to include daily surveillance, carrying out condition surveys, identifying bad portions and fixing them on federal roads, among others which according to him, it could undertake without support of imposters.
The Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, also issued a release warning that any attempt to compromise the present security of lives and property being enjoyed by Lagosians would meet with stiff resistance by both the government and people of Lagos State.
In a release in Lagos, signed by the Lagos State Interim Publicity Secretary of the APC, Joe Igbokwe, the party said that neither the party nor Lagosians are fooled by the antics of those behind the training of youths in Lagos on the purported excuse of protecting the dilapidated federal roads in Lagos.
It warned that the government and Lagosians are ready to deal with the instigated mischief behind these training and would mobilize Lagosians to resist any effort to compromise the enviable peace and security ambience in Lagos by desperate politicians.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there are only about 200 federal roads of the more than 10,000 roads in Lagos. These federal roads are so ill maintained and so dilapidated that the Lagos State government since 1999 has taken over the reconstruction and maintenance of some of these roads for the economic benefit of Nigerians.
“Lagos APC is calling on the National Assembly to track and act on this deliberate breach of law and the security of Nigerian citizens before it becomes late. We are using this to draw attention of all Nigerians to this hideous plan, which stands to throw Nigeria’s safest state into protracted security turmoil. We urge Lagosians to remain vigilant and ensure they resist any efforts to use this illegal police to harass and intimidate them,” it stated.