VIS men accused of burning impounded car in Lagos

Afolarin; vehicle licence; VIS document. Photos: Samson Folarin

Samson Folarin

A Lagos painter, Oluwadamilare Afolarin, has lamented the ill treatment he allegedly suffered in the hands of officials of the Lagos State Vehicle Inspection Service.

PUNCH Metro learnt that the victim’s Honda Accord with number plate, AKD 367 BG, was impounded by VIS operatives attached to the Eti-Osa office, for windscreen violation.

He was reportedly fined N80,000, while the car was driven into the VIS premises at Ikota, Ibeju Lekki.

Our correspondent learnt that while the father of three was about to pay the money, he was called by the deputy head of the VIS, one Akeem, who informed him that the vehicle had got burnt.

Akeem was said to have appealed to Afolarin to take a compensation of N200,000, which the latter turned down.

The 42-year-old told our correspondent that after Akeem had a meeting with the VIS Director, Mr. Gbolahan Toriola, the agency changed the story and accused him of setting fire to his car.

He said he was handed over to the police and detained for three days, after which he was coerced to sign an undertaking not to report the incident either on the social media or to the press.

He said, “I was flagged down at Ilaje, Ajah, by the officials, who said my windscreen was cracked. They took the car key from me and drove it into their premises. I was told that my fine was N80,000.

“The next day, I went to pick two cheques and some of my tools which were in the car. After that, I started running around to raise funds, because I used that car as my mobile workshop.

“About two weeks later, I called them that I was ready to have my car back. They gave me an account number and also insisted I change the windscreen. I had gone to withdraw the money on Monday when I got a call from Mr. Akeem, who asked me to proceed to the VIS office at Ojodu Berger. He said I should hold on with the payment.”

The Ijebu Ode, Ogun State indigene said around 6.30pm, Akeem arrived at the Ojodu Berger office and asked him to come in for a meeting, where some other officials were present.

He said he was shocked when he was told that his car “exploded” the previous day.

“I was confused and asked what he meant by that. Mr. Akeem told me to compose myself and receive the news in good faith. He opened a refrigerator and gave me a soft drink, but I refused. He brought out water and insisted I drank it. I also rejected it.

“He offered me N200,000 as compensation,  but I told him not to bother. I said since my life was not lost, I believe I had hope. I was about to leave when he said I should hold on so he could take me to their director’s office at Alausa,” he added.

PUNCH Metro learnt that the men arrived at Alausa around 8pm, and  Akeem entered into the director’s office.

Afolarin said about one hour later, he was called into the office and accused of burning the car.

“The director accused me of sneaking into the VIS premises and burning my own vehicle. A car I bought with my money and used for my work! He slapped me for protesting against the accusation and said he would deal with me. They said they saw the footprints of my shoes at the place where the car was burnt. They collected my shoes and mobile phone and drove me to the Ogombo Police Station, Ajah, where the police locked me up in a cell. I spent three days there.

“On the third day, I was able to contact my sister. The VIS boss also came that day. I was asked to write my statement. I was doing this when I was stopped midway. They asked my sister to talk to me, that if I was not careful, I would be jailed. She started crying and begging me. She told them I would not post anything on Facebook or speak to the press.

“They asked me to sign an undertaking not to post it on social media or talk about it on air or in newspapers. The police and the VIS wrote the statement and I signed,” he said.

Our correspondent learnt that the VIS demanded the ticket that was issued to him, which he said he left in a hotel in the Berger area.

He said some officials followed him to the hotel and also gave him N2,000 as transport fare back home.

Afolarin said he informed a human rights organisation, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, adding that the official assigned to the case later advised him to forget about it after the VIS frustrated him.

PUNCH Metro saw a photocopy of the VIS ticket issued to Afolarin.

The document, dated June 29, 2016, stated that the victim’s car was impounded for lack of a vehicle particular and “general body work.”

However, our correspondent saw another photocopied Lagos State car licence document, issued to the victim. The document, issued in April 2016, is to expire in April 2017.

The Director of Programmes and Project, CDHR, Mr. Bode Fashade, said he didn’t give up on the case, adding that he was invited for a meeting with the VIS after he petitioned the state Commissioner for Transportation.

“The director of the VIS was not around. The other VIS officers were there and they promised to get back to us. Since then, they have not,” he added.

The Director of the VIS, Toriola, insisted that Afolarin burnt the car after removing all the valuables.

He said, “The man had a motive. His vehicle was impounded and he came at night (to burn it) after removing all the valuables. We saw the footprint of his shoes and even reported the case to the police. His family came to beg. His friends and family came to apologise. I didn’t slap him; I didn’t even touch him. Let him come to my office and say it to my face. That man is wicked.”

The spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, ASP Olarinde Famous Cole, distanced the police from the case, saying it was a matter between Afolarin and the VIS.

He said, “The case is being investigated by the VIS. After the matter was first reported, they have not returned to us.”

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