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6 Mar 2018

Protesters block Lagos expressway as BRT kills pupil

Many commuters plying the Ikorodu Road, Lagos State, were on Monday stranded after residents protesting against the death of a pupil blocked the road.

The protesters made a bonfire and reportedly prevented ambulances which came to pick the corpse from taking him as they insisted on the presence of the victim’s parents.

BRT vehicles on the Ikorodu Road corridor temporarily suspended operations to avert running into the protesters, who mounted the blockade on the Idiroko end of the road where the accident occurred.

PUNCH Metro gathered that the victim, Ezekiel Daniel, a pupil of Cherubim and Seraphim School, Idiroko, was about to cross the road with other pupils when he was hit by the BRT vehicle.

The driver was reported to have run over the boy.

A witness, Bisi Oladapo, told one of our correspondents that the incident happened around 8am.

She said, “The boy was in primary six. The school has a crossing guard and the man had stopped the traffic for a set of pupils. As soon as the pupils passed, the boy wanted to cross as well when he was hit by the BRT vehicle.

“Only his leg was hit the first time. But as he struggled to stand up, the back tyres of the bus smashed his skull. He died on the spot.”

Another resident, Omolade Ibidapo, said sympathisers and other residents made a bonfire and blocked the road.

She noted that two ambulances which attempted to take the corpse were prevented by the protesters.

“The BRT bus sped off. They couldn’t catch the driver and they could not vandalise any BRT vehicle. Immediately the accident happened, BRT drivers passed the information to one another and they started turning back at Agric bus stop.

“Two ambulances were prevented from taking the corpse because people wanted his parents to be around. They couldn’t locate them on time and that was why the body was on the ground for some hours,” she added.

Another resident, Johnson Obiyemi, criticised the state government for not building a pedestrian bridge at the junction.

“The one they built at Ogolonto is at the BRT bus stop, which is far from the school; people are not even using it. Where they are supposed to build a pedestrian bridge, they constructed a billboard advertising the achievements of the governor. It was tragic that the boy was crushed under that billboard,” he added.

A former chairman of the parents’ forum of the school, Muyiwa Oyetuga, said two children from the same family died at the spot some years ago.

Oyetuga, who addressed teachers at the school in an emotion-laden voice, lamented that efforts to make the government build a pedestrian bridge at the spot had been abortive.

He said, “About six to seven years ago, we had a similar incident there. Two children of the same parents who wanted to cross the road were killed. I know where those children were buried and the IPO in charge of that case. When that incident happened, some people played some pranks and the matter died down. If it were to be the children of politicians, would they allow it to continue?

“When this road was constructed, I asked how they would help us safeguard the children who cross the road. They gave us a crossing guard. But we have over 2,000 pupils in the school and sometimes, motorists don’t have regards for the crossing guard. I don’t have children in this school again, but I am pained by this boy’s death.”

The headmistress was said to be unavailable for comment.

A teacher, who did not identify herself, said the school was helpless, adding that they had written letters to the state Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, without a response.

“Even as teachers, we cannot leave until all the children have gone home. The government promised to build a bridge, but they didn’t do anything. We have written many letters without any response. It is the governor that can help, not the teachers,” she said.

One of our correspondents observed that calm had been restored to the area as military officers attached to 81 Brigade stopped vehicles to allow schoolchildren to cross the road.

The Head of Operations, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, Lanre Adeyemi, said preliminary investigation revealed that the BRT driver ignored the stop signal of the crossing guard when the accident happened.

“There was a rampage by the residents and some hoodlums hijacked the protest. It was even beyond the police until the military intervened. People have already taken the tag of the vehicle and we believe the police will do the rest of the job,” he added.

The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, SP Chike Oti, confirmed the incident.

He said, “It was a hit-and-run that occasioned a riot. The police came in and restored calm. We are still expecting the driver of the bus to report himself to the nearest police station for necessary action.”

The Chief Security Officer, Primero Transport Services Limited, which is managing the BRT corridor, Mr. Cletus Okodolor, could not be reached for comment as of the time of filing this report.

The Head, Media and Communications, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, Mr. Kolawole Ojelabi, said the government agency was aware of the incident, but was awaiting a formal report from Primero.

In a related development, two pupils of Our Lady of Fatima Nursery and Primary School, Kuru Jenta, in the Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State, were on Monday confirmed dead in an auto crash.

While 76 injured persons were rushed to the Plateau State Specialist Hospital in Jos, 18 others were taken to Ola Hospital, a private medical facility in the state.

The accident was said to have jolted the Jos community, including Governor Simon Lalong, who was on a tour of projects that would be inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday.

Lalong was said to have cut short his inspection of the projects and rushed to the state hospital to sympathise with the victims of the accident.

While describing the accident as unfortunate, the governor reportedly promised to settle the medical bills of the victims.

PUNCH Metro gathered that the accident occurred around 7am when the vehicle veered off the road, somersaulted and landed on a pavement.

The Proprietress of the school, Rev. Sr. Florence Golan, confirmed the incident in a chat with one of our correspondents at the specialist hospital.

She said, “The pupils are from crèche, play class, nursery and primary 1-4; we have a bus that picks them from their various locations to school. This (Monday) morning, it picked them up as usual. I was not with them, but I was told that they were involved in an accident.

“We have not confirmed the number of deaths yet, but they are not more than two. Those who survived the accident sustained major injuries, but they are in stable conditions. The nurses are attending to them.”

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