Lagos Lawmakers Raise Alarm Over FERMA Thugs

•Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko

•Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko

Eromosele Ebhomele

There is serious unease in the political circle as well as among residents of Lagos State, western Nigeria, following the continuous activities of thousands of youths who have been recruited as a taskforce for the Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA.

Members of the state House of Assembly, who are worried about this, have warned that the FERMA taskforce many have described as thugs, was already becoming violent.

Raising the issue under Matter of Urgent Public Importance, the Deputy Whip of the House, Rotimi Abiru, alleged that the taskforce officials, who were recruited in Lagos with their training camp in Badagry area of the state, now mount illegal roadblocks and invade motor parks to harass and forcefully extort money from motorists.

Abiru raised more concerns about the illegal activities of the taskforce officials, alleging that their identity, purpose and process of recruitment were shrouded in secrecy since the Minister of Works, Arc. Mike Onolememen and the Managing Director of FERMA have denied having anything to do with them.

While asking that the House should appeal to the state Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, to urgently investigate the issue, he warned that the taskforce officials were becoming serious threat to security in the state.

Some of the lawmakers also alleged that the officials, who wear black shirt atop brown trousers, were not working under the FERMA as claimed but were specifically being recruited and trained by some leaders the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Lagos as political thugs in preparation for 2015 general elections in the state.

In his contribution, Lanre Ogunyemi, representing Ojo Constituency 1 at the House, reiterated that the information available to him showed that the taskforce officials  were being recruited by a PDP stalwart in the state for the forthcoming elections, using the money accruing from the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme, SURE-P, to fund its activities.

Ogunyemi alleged that instead of making the SURE-P fund available to the state government, the Federal Government was channeling it for political violence for the forthcoming elections.

On his part, Sanai Agunbiade, who represents Ikorodu Constituency 1, advised t the state government to send a “strongly worded letter” (against the activities of the taskforce) to the Commander-In-Chief of the Federation as well as the Commissioner of Police in the state.

He also recalled how FERMA and LASTMA officials clashed in 2007, creating tension in the state and undermining security.

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Agunbiade warned that if the taskforce was not disbanded immediately, it activities could spell political doom for the state.

He warned that the Federal Government should be held responsible for any security breach in the state resulting from the activities of the FERMA task force officials.

The lawmer’s argument was supported by Adefunmilayo Tejuoso representing Mushin Constituency 2 and House chairman, Committee on Information and Security, who said the state no longer feels safe with the presence of the task force.

Bolaji Ayinla, representing Mushin Constituency 1, called the attention of the House to the fact that the recruitment ground for the task force officials is a few metres away from the office of the State Security Service.

He, therefore, urged the House to find out from the secret police if it was aware of such recruitment and training of the task force officials.

The Deputy Speaker, Taiwo Kolawole, who presided at the sitting, informed the lawmakers that the House had sent a letter to the state Commissioner of Police so that investigation could commence on the issue.

Kolawole said the letter was sent because the commissioner had requested for it as a requirement for the police to act.

He, therefore, urged the House  to wait for the outcome of the investigation.

A response to P.M.NEWS inquiry from FERMA showed that the government agency did not approve any recruitment for that purpose.

According to a reply to an email sent to the agency, FERMA said it was not recruiting and that the task force was acting on their own. FERMA also said it had not contracted any individual or group for recruitment of new officials.