We may soon have another form of EndSARS on our hands in Lagos State if the multiple and excessive extortion of motorists, as well as violent harassment by touts, Police, LASTMA, Tax Force, VIO etc., are not checked by the authorities in the state, especially if the victims of their terrible activities decide to take laws into their hands and start fighting back, since all of their complaints seem to be falling on deaf ears.
On Monday, the Lagos State Chapter of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association of Nigeria (JDWAN) began its planned seven-days warning strike, leaving thousands of commuters stranded on the roads in many parts of the state, and paying exorbitant fares through their nose when they eventually see a vehicle to board to their various destinations.This is coming months after the state government banned the use of motorcycles, popularly called Okada, and tricycles in most parts of the state, leaving almost all the commuters with no other option, except for few areas where the BRT buses are in operation, which on a normal day, are not even enough for the amount of available passengers.
Mot of the commercial drivers who have taken their vehicles off the streets, are protesting against multiple extortion and violent harassment by members of a recently established agency of the state government, the Lagos State Parks and Management Committee led by Musiliu Akinsanya aka MC Oluomo, in conjunction with law enforcement agencies in the state.
Although the General Secretary of the association, Ajimatanrareje Adedayo had told Information Nigeria on Saturday that the state government promised to call them to a meeting this week to resolve the matter, no resolution has yet been made as at the time of this report, as they are determined to go ahead with the strike until the issues are resolved.
Explaining their reason for the protest, Ajimatanrareje decried the extortion and other unpalatable encounters his group members have with the garage boys and touts, further alleging that their extortion and violent activities are backed by the state government.Some of the victims of the extortion and harassment have recounted their unsavoury ordeals with the government outfits and touts.Ajimatanrareje said, “70% of our daily earnings go to the coffers of garage boys and touts. From Badagry to Mile 2, we pay between N3,500 and N5,000 at 25 illegal tolls created by motor park hoodlums, who collect from N200 to N300 per bus.“From Seme Park, we pay N7,100 before the first trip, yet, we forcefully pay levies at the 25 illegal tolls. On federal mass and Coaster buses, we pay N12,000 and above on each trip from Oko-Afo to CMS which includes loading charges at various bus-stops.“From Ogijo to Ikorodu, we pay N5,500 and above excluding garage ticket (N850), chairman ticket (N1,700), King’s levy (N200), Ita-Oluwo (N500), Ile-Epo-Oba (N200) and N900 for picking or dropping passengers.“Red buses from Ikorodu to Oshodi pay N5,000 while buses plying Yaba to Ikeja, Ketu to Oyingbo and several other areas are forced to pay beyond their nose to avoid their vehicles being damaged.
“To make the matters worse, the garage boys and touts have the backings of the state government to unleash terror on innocent drivers. We are the professional drivers but garage boys and touts are making life unbearable for us. They are usually on the road with sticks, rods, pipes and cutlasses to snuff life out of innocent drivers’’ he added.One can still remember the viral video of a Parks Management official in Ajah, forcefully pasting a Bola Ahmed Tinubu campaign sticker on a NAPEP drive’s tricycle. He was being demanded to pay N500 for the sticker. Oluomo however, denied being behind the forceful payment for the stickers.A transporter, Dotun Morakinyo said, “Everyday before I start work, I pay N1,500, On Friday, I pay N1,500 before I start work, I pay additional N1,000 for Tax Force. On Wednesday, I pay N1,500 before I start work, I pay additional N300 for LASTMA. On Tuesday, I pay N1,500 before I start work, I pay additional N200 for VIO. Every trip, I pay N100 for four passengers. There was a day I made N15,000, I paid N11,500 in the park, that’s the day I stopped work in that place.”“The Agberos that are collecting money, are they working for the government or are they civil servants? Because it appears the government is actually behind them, because I don’t see anything coming out from this strike if government is backing these Agberos.” Jide Osho wondered.“At my side, I was told that for every time I make a trip, I will pay N9,000,” Omololu Esho said.Emeka Nduka in Ikorodu said“ I remembered when I plied from Surulere to Ojuelegba, I pay between N12,000 and N13,000 everyday. Do you know that at times, LASTMA will gather themselves and start arresting all the buses on traffic and they will tell you they are doing general raiding. If we ask them what was their offence, they will tell us that’s what their Oga asked them to come and do. By the time they take you to their office, they will tell you to pay N25,000 to N30,000.”Friday Edun said, “This Badagry route is the worst. Last Saturday, Agbero was asking our driver for developmental money. Is it now Agberos that are constructing the roads? Remember when Lagos Govt. started that N800 per day, MC Oluomo came out and said, that does not include their own money, that they will still collect their own. These people didn’t just gather themselves, they have people they are working for. They have an amount they must remit daily, that’s why they are desperate.”“Lagos State Government knows about the activities of these Agberos, it’s a way of settlement for their boys,” Tokumbo Alesh alleged.Ifeanyi Umeh said, “Ajah to Oshodi 18 seater bus N800, that’s N12,600. I pay N4,000 after loading. From Oworonshoki, you pay N200, at Oshodi, you pay N500, Oshodi car park N500, total N5,800. if you remove that from the N12,600, it’s remaining N6,800. I will buy fuel N3,500, Balance is N3,300. Monkey dey work, baboo dey chop.”Akuns Kukoyi, from Ojo park said, “About these Agberos, if government doesn’t know anything about them, they would have stopped it.”“Lagos State has given them a target. I asked an Agbero, he said they must meet their target. That’s why they fight tooth and nail to extort the drivers, that’s why there are so many of them.” Agnes Nwoha said.“They people collect money by force from people. I was in Jibowu, Yaba days ago, a LASTMA official was just standing there. One hungry, dirty looking guy was collecting N100 for the LASTMA guy. That’s how they’ve been taught, afterall their Oga told them, go to the street and make money, its your oil company,” Babalola Are stated.Sunday Isaac, a commercial bus driver, said, “That N800, we pay it, and the other money we’ll still pay to Agberos. My car broke down oh Friday, before I knew it, five of them rushed me. They asked “where is our money?” The next thing, they started beating me, and then stole my phone. Before I could block my account, they had withdrew all my money in my account.”“Do you know that I had to pay N16,000 to four different sets of area boys. The first one I bypassed, I didn’t know they were there. They took Okada, overtook the bus I was in, directed us to go back to where we were coming from. They said for bypassing them, the total bill is N20,000. if we didn’t cooperate, they’ll break my glasses. I had to plead with them and finally, I paid N4,000. They collected money for Owo Oba, Owo Baale. A police van was somewhere there. They collected for the police people. Even people delivering goods are finding it very difficult, that’s why transporters charge more,” Enitan Badru recounted.
“Warlord of Mile 2 is called ECOMOG. He’s a killer for Lagos politicians. If you don’t pay his boys, you can die on the spot. They are ruthless, nobody escapes their extortion. Even Alabaru, cart pushers, bikers and all drivers are recklessly extorted. Oluomo knows him deeply but its even worse in Ajah where they collect Owo Emilokan from drivers for campaign,” Kareem Badru said.This menace is not only affecting commercial transporters, as last Friday, just as the commercial transporters announced their intention to go ahead with their strike, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, issued a statement also threatening to halt fuel supplies to the state over alleged violent attacks, intimidation, harassment and extortion of its members by hoodlums who they also alleged are in connivance with top personalities in the state. This further shows the unbearable extent of the frustration the motorists bear due to these dreaded activities.NUPENG in part of the statement issuing the strike threat, said, “The Criminal tendencies of this group extend as far as to be impersonating and forging NUPENG/PTD official emblem, logo, identity cards, and Tickets to commit various atrocities including forceful extortion of money from our genuine members, assaulting and threatening anyone that questions, resist them or the source of their authority to perpetrate these criminal and illegal activities along the Lekki Free Trade Zone Road, Eleko Ibeju, Lekki.”“We have severally denounced these impersonators and have as well written to several authorities including Security agencies but this group appears to be operating above the laws of the state and the country. They also appear to be working for some big individuals and personalities in the State as all directives and instructions from Police authorities are treated with disdain.“All our efforts to resist them have been met with stiff resistance and they have continued unabatedly to assault and inflict bodily injuries on our members and damage their Petroleum Trucks as well,” the oil workers alleged.One major fear that could see this matter not being resolved is the fact that government has its own commercial transport system, such as BRT, LAGRIDE, etc. The strike by the commercial bus drivers could be an advantage to the government to make more money than they could have never imagined before the strike.However, Information Nigeria advises the government to look at the bigger picture and resolve this issue because if it fails to do so, the NUPENG strike will not only affect the economy of the state and continue to put Lagosians into more hardship, the crime rate, which the state government has been trying hard to grapple with, will increase massively, as one can remember, crime has already spiraled with the ban of motorcycles and tricycles in the state.