Kwara agency, church bicker over traffic regulations

Kwara State Road Traffic Management Authority (KWARTMA) and a worship centre in Ilorin, Potter’s Porch International Churches, disagreed over a recent friction between the two organizations. 

It is recalled that the KWARTMA officers had clamped over five vehicles of the church members parked in front of the worship centre during service last Sunday, citing a breach of the traffic rules in the state. The traffic body had also alleged an assault of some of its members while trying to enforce the penalties of the said breach by some members of the church. 

In a statement by the spokesperson of the church, Moyinoluwa Julianah Owolabi, the authorities of the church refuted claims by the management of the KWARTMA that the church had apologised to the agency over the incident.

The statement, which said that the church was wrongly accused, denied any allegation of assault of the KWARTMA officials by its members, claiming instead that the leader of the agency allegedly used its position to inflict pain on their members.

Besides, the statement said it took the prompt intervention of the Special Adviser to the state government on Religious Matters, Rev. Timothy Oluwagbemiga Akangbe, to prevent what could have led to the escalation of the crisis.

“The attention of the leadership of The Potter’s Porch International Churches has been drawn to the recent press statement by the Kwara State Road Traffic Management Authority (KWARTMA), dated 12th May 2024, concerning the alleged violation of traffic regulations and subsequent altercation at the frontage of Potter’s Porch along Unity Road, Ilorin. First and foremost, it is imperative to set the record straight regarding the nature of our Organisation. 

“The Potter’s Porch International Churches established almost two decades ago, has consistently upheld principles of peace, respect for constituted authority, and harmonious coexistence with all government parastatals and agencies, including KWARTMA. Our commitment to maintaining a cordial relationship is evidenced by the presence of two KWARTMA officers stationed within our church environment daily [on their working days].

“The decision to issue this rejoinder stems from the false portrayal of events in KWARTMA’s press statement. As a law-abiding organization, the church is compelled to set the record straight. We will like to put on record here that the incidence or this rejoinder has nothing to do with religion. We uphold and are committed to the principle of peaceful coexistence but the need to clear the air as it affects our name, image and integrity on what transpired between KWARTMA and the Potter’s Porch International Churches.

“Furthermore, there was no instance of our members manhandling any KWARTMA officials. In fact, it was the intervention of the Special Adviser to the government on religious matters, Rev Timothy Oluwagbemiga Akangbe, that de-escalated the situation and prevented potential tensions resulting from the disruptive actions of KWARTMA, orchestrated by its head. The Potter’s Porch International Churches prioritises peace and cooperation with government agencies, and it was in this spirit that our leadership, alongside the intervention of the Special Adviser, sought to resolve the matter amicably. 

“At no point did we admit fault or express remorse for actions we did not commit. Therefore, we vehemently refute any suggestion that an apology was extended by our leadership. Such a claim only serves to distort the truth of the situation and misrepresent the actions of The Potter’s Porch International Churches. We stand firm in our commitment to upholding the principles of peace, respect for the law, and cooperation with relevant authorities.

“To rectify the inaccuracies presented in KWARTMA’s statement, it’s crucial to provide a comprehensive breakdown of the events leading to the unfortunate altercation:On Sunday, 12th May 2024, Engr. Micheal Gboyega Bamidele arrived at  a motor park adjoining the church  to drop off a passenger.”

The statement added, “However, due to the unavailability of parking space, he attempted to coerce worshipers to move their vehicles to accommodate him. The security personnel of the church rightfully resisted this attempt, explaining that the vehicles belonged to individuals attending a church program and couldn’t be moved at the behest of an outsider Engr. Bamidele, displeased with the resistance, made threats against the church and left, vowing to retaliate.

“Shortly after, KWARTMA officials [both uniformed and those in mufti] arrived and began clamping the parked vehicles. When an elder of the church questioned this action, an officer explicitly stated that it was on the instructions of Engr. Bamidele.A heated argument ensued, during which one of the officers assaulted the elder, and even tore his clothing [Numerous eyewitnesses can attest to this.

“Contrary to KWARTMA’s claim of their officers being manhandled, there was no such occurrence. Rather, it was an officer who assaulted a church elder. Furthermore, Engr. Bamidele was not present during the altercation, having delegated the task to his officers. The church vehemently denies any allegations of its members assaulting KWARTMA officers or issuing apologies for an incident they did not initiate.

“We expected to take measures to prevent a recurrence of such actions, which have the potential to disrupt the peace of the community, instead, KWARTMA opted to disseminate a press statement that lacks substance and attempts to deflect responsibility.It’s imperative to address the misuse of authority by Engr. Bamidele, who should refrain from inciting religious tensions through his office. 

“Instances of religious centres causing temporary inconveniences during services are common and are not met with such disproportionate reactions. The actions of KWARTMA’s enforcement officers, as witnessed by our congregation and supported by palpable evidence, were disproportionate and unjustifiable. We call upon KWARTMA to introspect, show accountability, and implement measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents”.

However, in a statement by the KWARTMA acting CEO, Engineer Micheal Gboyega Bamidele, the agency said all the vehicles that were clamped by KWARTMA officers were indiscriminately parked on the kerbs (walkways), which are meant for pedestrian usage. 

“As professional traffic managers, all the vehicles carefully parked behind the yellow tick lines were not clamped.

“Our enforcement officers who visited the spots and requested the car owners to repark their vehicles were manhandled and attacked as some of the worshipers claimed that they had come for a Sunday service and those vehicles cannot be reparked.

“The inciting video was an unfortunate manipulation of religion to mask a flagrant disrespect for the law and the tendency to cause inconveniences for fellow citizens. 

“KWARTMA has consistently enlightened all members of the society about traffic rules. Good citizens should respect the law and promote collective safety; rather than break it and then whip up sentiments along religious lines to perpetrate impunity.

“It is pertinent to inform members of the public that walkways are specifically meant for pedestrians, and KWARTMA expects organisations, corporate bodies, and individuals to respect the law.

“It is important to also note that our enforcement is devoid of religious sentiments. KWARTMA is in harmonious relationship with all religious bodies in the state, both Christians and Muslims, who are equal stakeholders in traffic management.

“Against this backdrop, the Authority urges members of the public to obey traffic laws and disregard the mischievous outcry aimed at whipping up sentiments, which are meant to perpetrate impunity.”

Source:

Tribune Online