In the first issue of Navigating Nigeria for 2023, Citizen spoke to Vera, a part-time student and sales executive. She told us about her wild experience dealing with extortion at the hands of the Lagos State Task Force. For her, Navigating Nigeria requires having friends in high places.

Could you walk us through your experience?

My most eventful experience with Nigerian security agencies was the day I encountered the Lagos State Task Force. The notorious ones are attached to one of their offices at Bolade; they call it LASAC — Lagos Safety Arena Complex.

The centre is quite large, and they impound all vehicles there: buses, bikes, cars. They’ll threaten to auction your vehicle if you don’t play ball.

It was a Saturday, some six months ago. I was driving to Abule-Egba from Iyana-Isolo. To enter the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, you’d need to go through Isolo and navigate your way from the DHL bridge through Mafoluku to come out at Brown Street, which links to the expressway.

I wasn’t familiar with the route, so I used Google Maps. As I got off the DHL bridge, I drove on the service lane heading for Mafoluku. However, I missed a left turn. Unknown to me, every road ahead was one-way as I skipped that left turn. I kept driving, looking for the left turn I was supposed to make based on my map’s directions. Not long after, I saw one agbero making hand gestures and frantically trying to grab my attention. He kept pointing forward, but I didn’t get what he was saying. It was at that point that I slowed down.

This was when you knew you were in soup

I opened my windows to hear what he was saying. Unfortunately, the moment I slowed down, members of the task force jumped out of nowhere and surrounded my vehicle. They told me to park. Next thing they started shouting at me and harassing me. “Don’t you know that this is one-way?” Of course, I didn’t. I explained to them that I wasn’t familiar with the area and had mistakenly missed my turn. 

I thought that these officers would at least issue a warning and ask me to turn back. Instead, they asked what I was doing and searched my vehicle. They also told me to follow them to their office, where they’d impound my car before charging me to a mobile court. I started pleading and begging. At this point, they hadn’t even started talking about money. I went on my knees and started crying. They didn’t even answer me. They just kept pushing me around. One asked me to meet one person who was his oga. The oga asked me to meet another person who was his oga, and on and on it went.

So sorry

It was very upsetting. At some point, the Oshodi agberos stepped in to plead on my behalf. Still, they refused to budge. We were like this for over an hour. They told me to release my car keys to them, but I declined. I wanted to settle the matter there and then. How could I give my keys to people who had already threatened to impound my car? That would be another round of wahala.

So what they did was call their towing truck. When the truck arrived, it became apparent that they weren’t playing. I had to relent and submit my car keys. They then took me to their Bolade centre, which I described earlier.

When we got there, they refused to enter. I think their general boss was there, and they wanted to keep the racket within themselves and not loop their boss in on his share.


We were outside the gate. That was when they demanded ₦100k from me. I told them I didn’t have that kind of money to give them and that I was a student. After another round of pleading, they cut it down to ₦50k. They said it was the lowest they could go. I kept begging them and even showed them my bank account balance. I asked them to collect ₦20k from me and let me go. I had some drinks in the boot of my car; they seized them. They also took some merch I had, like shirts and other customised items.


I don’t know why they did that, but I was like if it would solve our problem, go ahead. Despite that, they still insisted on ₦50k. Mind you, they stopped my vehicle around noon. I was with them at their centre till past 2pm, which was over two hours. 

Eventually, I called my office. I didn’t want to do that at first because I knew I was at fault for entering one-way and couldn’t explain that away. But at this point, I had reached my limit. I called, and someone at my office reached out to the commissioner of police. The commissioner called me, and I explained my situation. He asked me to pass the phone to the officers, which I did. As soon as he introduced himself to them, their expression changed. It was like a sudden turn of events. All I kept hearing was, “Yes, sir”. 

Power pass power

In front of me, they lied to the commissioner that they had released me since and that they didn’t know what I was still doing there. These were people that, until a few moments earlier, I had asked them to take ₦20k to let me go. 

Me having to “show power” wasn’t necessary. They could have just collected the bribe and let me go. After the call, they returned my car keys. As I was about leaving, they asked me, “Aunty, you no go find something for us? We don dey with you for long nau.” 

The audacity

I was so upset. I just sped off from there. It was a terrible experience because I was alone and subjected to profiling and extortion.

What’s your take on how this played out?

My biggest takeaway is to know people in high places in Lagos. It’s survival 101. It was an honest mistake, and they could’ve let me go with a standard fine if they were genuinely doing their jobs or even with a warning based on empathy.

Road laws in Lagos are shabby. If a road is one-way, I expect bold red signs to show it is, not that it’ll be hidden for sinister reasons.



Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.