Extortion: Lagos drivers plan more protests, govt pledges fairness

Some drivers in Lagos State have vowed to storm the streets again in protest of what they described as alleged extortions from park boys and officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority.

PUNCH Metro reported last week that scores of drivers trooped out in the Egbeda, Ikeja, Iyana Ipaja, Agege, Yaba and Iyana-Iba areas of the state on Monday to protest extortion and arbitrary arrests. The protests left many commuters stranded.

Speaking in an interview with our correspondent on Saturday, some drivers said the issues they raised still persisted.

“We have a lot of problems with LASTMA in particular. At Mile 2, vehicles can be going on the middle lane and LASTMA officials will just block the road and take vehicles away. They will ask you to go and bring N35,000 or N40,000, without any offence.

“As I’m talking to you, (I just retrieved) my vehicle seized around Costain. The driver that went to get it for me paid N32,000. They also use thugs,” Adelaja, a member of the Joint Drivers’ Welfare Association of Nigeria told PUNCH Metro.

This, he said, was happening alongside extortions from “agberos”. “We are still considering hitting the streets again,” he added.

JDWAN’s General Secretary, Ajimatanarareje Fesisayo, said despite promises by relevant stakeholders to check the complaints raised by drivers, no positive result had been seen.

“Anybody who comes to the Badagry route will see that there is no difference yet. What is pressing now is the issue of LASTMA. When they see buses, it’s as if they have seen Automated Teller Machines. They will just block vehicles at times saying the driver waited and picked passengers. We don’t know why. When it happens like that, they don’t demand small money. It’s like the money goes to their pocket and not the government’s pocket,” the secretary said.

“The next protest is going to be massive,” he added.

Our correspondent visited Berger and Ogba areas, and some of the drivers also decried the alleged ex tortions. “We are tired. The government should check LASTMA activities. Why should they be blocking drivers everywhere for even the slightest things?”, another driver identified simply as Akeem Mustapha said.

But when contacted, LASTMA spokesperson, Adebayo Taofiq, said the commercial drivers were also giving the agency problems by not adhering to rules.

Speaking on the recent drivers’ protest, Taofiq said, “Upon awareness of the planned protest, the Special Adviser to the state governor on Transportation, Sola Giwa, led the delegates of the government to the state police command where representatives of the Lagos State Task Force and the Rapid Response Squad, and the Assistant Commissioner of Police including representatives of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, to a meeting last Sunday.”

“I want to state categorically that no responsible government will tolerate the recklessness and uncalled-for attitudes of the commercial drivers particularly in the Agege/Dopemu area,” Taofiq added.

He said the demands of the drivers had to do with the state law which LASTMA could not alter. “That was what Sola told them at the meeting. Those demands cannot be met until we go back to the state House of Assembly for amendments,” Taofiq said.

He said some of the demands included that drivers should not be checked on Saturdays and Sundays and that cameras should not be used on them, saying this was not possible.

On the alleged extortion and fines said to be around N35,000 or more, Taofiq explained that it was the state mobile court that gave those judgments and imposed fines according to the law.

The Permanent Secretary at the state’s Ministry of Transportation, Wale Musa, said drivers could not be the lords on the roads. According to him, the demands of the driver would be attended to.

“We have a law that governs everybody. It’s just like saying the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should not work. It’s the rule that governs the roads,” Musa, the new Perm Sec, said in an interview with our correspondent on Saturday.

He added, however, that cases involving LASTMA excesses should be brought to the notice of the government and that they would be effectively treated. Musa also said efforts were still on to ascertain other pertinent issues.

Credit Gist New Today News in Newspaper Nigeria Headlines

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