Commuters were left stranded across various bus stops in Lagos State on Monday following a protest by commercial bus drivers over alleged arbitrary arrest and extortion by officials of the Lagos State Transport Management Authority.
THE TRACK MAGAZINE Metro learnt that the drivers who also frowned upon the activities of officials of the Lagos State Environment and Special Offences Enforcement Unit withdrew their services thereby forcing the workers to trek long distances.
The protest took effect in most parts of the states, including areas such as Egbeda, Ikeja, Iyana Ipaja, Agege, Yaba and Iyana-Iba.
Our correspondents who monitored the event observed how the transport workers embarked on a procession at their respective locations across the states.
Along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, the protesters were seen marching from the Abule Egba area and headed towards the Ile-Zik section of the road.
Trouble however started when the protesters met a resistance by some police officers who fired teargas canisters at them at the Mangoro end of the road. One of the cans of the tear gas also caused damage to the eye of a commuter.
It was also learnt that some of the protesting drivers forced passengers out of some buses whose drivers were not participating in the protest.
Speaking with THE TRACK MAGAZINE Metro on Monday, some commuters lamented their plight of having stayed at the bus stop for longer hours.
A commuter who identified himself only as Moses said the protest had led to a hike in the price of transport fares.
He said, “We have not seen a bus since morning. I had to trek from Egbeda this morning because of the protest. When I finally got to Mangoro, we were told by the conductor to get down from the bus after collecting twice the normal fare. Since then, I have been standing at the bus stop for over an hour and still haven’t got a bus and it is very frustrating.”
Another commuter, Bolaji Rasaq, said the protest had caused him to miss an appointment.
He said, “You cannot imagine what I have faced this morning. We didn’t know they were going to protest this morning. I had an appointment this morning but I missed it. The government needs to do something about this because we are the ones at the receiving end.”
The protesting drivers who chanted different songs to press home their demand said the protest would continue until there was a lasting solution to the way they were being harassed by state officials.
A commercial driver who refused to disclose his identity claimed that the Lagos State Task Force and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority extorted commercial bus drivers daily.
“We are tired of LASTMA and the Lagos State task force. The annoying part of them extorting us is that they always make it look like it is their right but it is not. They keep extorting us daily and it is becoming unbearable. They think they are powerful because everyone has been quiet about the rubbish they keep doing.
“We have had enough of their bullying. Even military men do not behave like that but they keep behaving like they are the most powerful body in Lagos State and it must end. We came out for a peaceful protest but the police just kept firing teargas everywhere and shooting to scare us away. We want all this rubbish to end,” he lamented.
Another commercial bus driver, Saheed, said, “LASTMA has killed our boss, they have given our boss a stroke. Please, help us appeal to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to help us and save us because the corruption is too much for us to bear. They keep bragging and making life uncomfortable for everyone on the road, especially commercial drivers and it does not make any sense.”
The spokesperson for LASTMA, Taofiq Adebayo, and its task force counterpart could not be reached as calls made to their phones were not answered. Text messages sent to them were yet to be responded to as of the time this report was filed.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has assured that it will continue to partner with commercial bus operators to improve commuting services within the State while promoting safety on the road.
In a statement made available to PUNCH Metro by the spokesperson of LASTMA, Adebayo Taofiq, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Sola Giwa, explained that enforcement of the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law, 2018 amended will not be suspended for any reason as it was designed to sanitize the roads and promote good road etiquette amongst Motorists. He appealed to the operators to adhere to the law and avoid apprehension.