Nigerian police have contradicted claims that an officer was shot and killed at the Lagos toll gate after a botched attempt to cross the barrier without valid papers.
Eagwus Ehihile, a police spokesman, said on Sunday that a member of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) “was not shot dead” after the incident on Saturday. His statement casts doubt on eyewitness accounts given by a driver who claimed that a policeman shot a civilian and killed him in a gunfight at the toll gate.
“When officers arrived at the scene, the vehicle that drove up was blocked by several crowd members who started invading the officers,” Mr. Ehihile said. “They threatened to blow off a policeman’s head and used a bottle to hit him in the stomach, resulting in serious internal bleeding.”
He added that the policeman and a civilian were taken to the hospital, while a third party was arrested.
A reporter with Reuters interviewed eyewitnesses who contradicted Mr. Ehihile’s statement. About a hundred people gathered to protest the shooting of a police officer who was yet to be identified. The eyewitnesses said the policemen who blocked the traffic were trying to check the documents of commuters trying to cross the toll gate without valid papers.
A resident in nearby South-West community of Ojota, who would only give his name as Jimoh, said he had heard “many words”, although they could not be verified. “But we have spoken to the leaders in South-West area,” he said. “But from what I heard, the police are in trouble.”
Friday’s incident is the latest in a series of deadly encounters involving members of the RRS since the beginning of the year. In January, three RRS members were shot dead in Benin, Edo state, while another five were killed in a subsequent shootout with a motorcyclist in the same state.
According to a law passed in 2016, Nigerians have to pay a five-nerve-transmission toll at the toll gate to cross from one part of Lagos to another. Transportation to and from Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, is extremely expensive. Drivers are regularly crammed in buses with up to 400 passengers to cross major highways. The toll fee was introduced in the early 1990s to fight corruption.
The commission established to oversee the collection of toll revenue from traffic meters has also been criticised for its gross mismanagement and aggressive pursuit of bribes. In 2017, it was accused of paying millions of dollars to kill opposition figures.
Additional reporting by Ola Ojewumi