Mrs. Yinka Johnson
For the fifth day running, Mrs. Yinka Johnson, a female banker accused of killing a 33-year-old Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) official, Hammed Balogun, has been in detention with her less than three-month-old baby. And with every passing day, more facts are emerging to the contrary. The young mother has continued to maintain that she did no such thing. Her storyline bears logic and reason.
The continued detention of Johnson, a member of staff of Standard IBTC Bank Plc., in Lagos, has continued to create ripples in the society.
The suspect was arrested on Friday by police operatives for the alleged murder of Balogun around Ikota Estate, on the Lekki-Ajah Expressway.
Relying on the claims of LASTMA officials on ground, the General Manager of the agency, Mr. Babatunde Edu, had blamed the banker for killing the deceased.
According to him, the banker was driving against traffic and when apprehended, she attempted to flee. While trying to escape, she allegedly knocked down Balogun and on realising the enormity of her action, fled into the Ikota Estate where she was protected by the security men until her arrest.
The arrest and subsequent accusation of murder against Johnson raised many unanswered questions, which LASTMA authorities are no longer willing to entertain. From the pictures taken at the scene of the incident, the green Landrover Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) with registration number CY 276 LSD, with which the suspect allegedly killed Balogun while fleeing from arrest was parked by the side of the road.
Again, the picture showed a truck belonging to LASTMA parked in front of the SUV as it prepared to tow the vehicle to the agency’s office. The picture, which has been circulating on social media, has prompted the public to ask at what point was the towing truck positioned in front of the suspect’s vehicle—before the knocking down of the LASTMA official or after?
According to an eyewitness, the late Balogun was knocked down by a commercial bus, popularly called ‘danfo.’ The witness pointed out that the impact of the accident was so much that it broke the windscreen of the bus, whose driver fled from the scene. As at yesterday, there was still no physical impact like dent or broken windscreen etc., on the suspect’s car, parked at the State Criminal and Investigation Department (SCID) Panti, to suggest a collision with any person or object.
Many of the eyewitnesses who spoke to THISDAY yesterday said the LASTMA personnel was hit by a fast-moving green commercial bus driver and not the suspect.
Besides, a senior police officer who also spoke on condition of anonymity, exonerated the suspect from the crime. He said: “Initially, it was believed Johnson committed the crime but from subsequent investigations, it has been revealed that another driver actually did it.
“I want to clear my conscience. We have gone over the scenario several times and arrived at the same conclusion. She couldn’t have hit the deceased because her car was stationary and our conclusion was buttressed by the picture LASTMA took of the incident.
“Again, there was a towing vehicle parked in front of her car so she couldn’t have hit him except she drove the car in reverse and even if she did, she couldn’t have hit him because the official was not at the back.”
While protesting her innocence from behind the counter of the SCID, where she is currently being held with her three-month-old baby, Deborah, she said the whole incident was a frame-up.
The fog on the accusation against Johnson may have started clearing after detectives from the SCID visited the crime scene alongside the suspect and LASTMA officials yesterday.
Led by the Officer-in-Charge of the Homicide Unit, Mr. Solomon Okechukwu, the detectives were told by several eyewitnesses that the LASTMA official was killed by a commercial bus driver while he was attempting to cross the road.
But a LASTMA officer who was with the detectives believes the witnesses are not fair to them, saying, “if we investigate further, you will find out that many of these so-called eyewitnesses were not even here when the incident occurred. My colleague was killed and Johnson will not go scot free. The crowd is booing us because they don't like us and it explains why they are ganging up against us.”
Admitting that the suspect had indeed driven against traffic, Okechukwu Ogunike, a resident of the area, said that was just about the only offence Johnson committed. According to him, the suspect drove out of the Ikota Estate and drove against the traffic instead of driving all the way to the shopping complex at Ajah to make a U-turn.
Taking THISDAY through the route taken by the suspect, Ogunike said: “There is a route by the side of the major road when you are leaving the estate and that is where everybody plies because of the ongoing construction on the road.”
Although he said it was regrettable that a life was lost, he flayed the adversarial attitude of the LASTMA officials.
He said: “How many policemen on the road do you hear that are killed by an approaching vehicle? How could he stand on the express just in the name of effecting an arrest? Admittedly, they are to do their jobs but LASTMA officials should learn how to stop cars without putting their lives in danger.”
Corroborating Ogunike’s story, another eyewitness, Ilonze Benjamin, said the LASTMA officials were usually careless, rude and reckless when enforcing traffic laws. He said most of the time, they jump in front of moving vehicles when trying to apprehend errant motorists. According to him, the spot where the accident occurred was dangerous as many people lose their lives there on a weekly basis.
He said: “The LASTMA official was not crushed by the lady. He had seized the car key and was attempting to cross the road when he was hit. The modus operandi of LASTMA extortion is that they seize the car keys of errant motorists and walk far away from the vehicle so that the motorist will follow them.
“After the motorist follows them to a corner, they collect bribe and then let you go.”
Another witness, who identified himself as Simon Eze, said when the suspect was arrested, she pleaded with them but they were adamant. He said: “Even one man in a red car came down from his vehicle to plead with them but the officials refused and went to get a towing vehicle. As one of the officials attempted to cross the road, he was crushed by a commercial bus but he did not die on the spot.
“The LASTMA officials suddenly blamed the banker and accused her of killing their colleague. If they had attended to the deceased on time, he probably would have survived. The commercial bus was badly damaged in the accident and his windscreen was shattered. Although the driver stopped for a while, he later sped off.”