Bus drivers protest ‘extortion’ in Lagos leaving many stranded, assaulting passersby

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Commuters were yesterday assaulted and some had their wares destroyed in Lagos as commercial bus drivers protested alleged extortion and highhandedness by officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Unit (Taskforce) and local council officials.

The commercial motorists also downed tools last week around Ikotun and Igando areas of the state over allegations of extortion that led to the killing of one of their colleagues.It was gathered that traders who went to Ketu Market to buy fruits, vegetables and other wares for retail had their goods destroyed by rampaging thugs who allegedly threw passengers off buses.Commuters were forced to trek from Iyana-Isolo to Mile Two as the protesters ordered them off defiant vehicles.

At Cele Bus Stop, a bus driver and a commercial motorcyclist were injured by armed hoodlums who joined the protests.A motorcyclist, who attempted to defy the stop-work order, was slashed on the hand with a machete by a thug.It was learnt that the drivers were angered by the installation of One-Way road signage on roads that used to be bi-directional.

The protesters set up bonfires on the expressway, inward Oshodi and prevented commercial vehicles, motorcyclists from operating on both sides of the road.

But private vehicles and tricycles were not prevented from operating, a development that saw tricycle operators increasing their fares by 50 per cent.Passengers who succeeded in boarding commercial vehicles or motorbikes were ordered to disembark.

Most passengers were forced to trek long distances in order to meet up with their engagements.Displaying placards with inscriptions such as “End LASTMA brutality” “End Taskforce wahala”, “End LASTMA blocking, blocking with Taskforce” and End Taskforce in Lagos State”, the protesters chanted “No more Taskforce.”According to them, the officials routinely and indiscriminately seize their vehicles and make them pay a huge amount of money before they are released.

A bus driver, who gave his name as “Sefiu” lamented his ordeal in the hands of the officials.He said two of his buses were recently impounded “for no reason” by Taskforce officials.Chibuike, who identified himself as a bus driver and member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) also accused the officials of extortion.He urged the state government to intervene.

Contacted for reaction, the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) of Taskforce, Femi Moliki, said no official of the agency operates between Toyota and Mile 2, adding that the agency was rejigging its operation in order to prevent reported incidences of illegal Taskforce operatives in the metropolis.Moliki said 16 suspects were arrested for allegedly taking advantage of the peaceful protest to carry out violence and rob commuters.He said the miscreants were caught molesting passersby and destroying public facilities.He gave the identities of those arrested as Lekan Fatai, 29, Tosin Ajakaye, 32, Sakiru Lanre, 38, Lekan Salaudeen, 36, Hakeem Oyetoro, 47, Daniel Adeojo, 38, Ramon Moshood 30, Lekan Nureni, 37, Okolawon Oluwaseun, 39, Olajide Qudus, 24, Uchenna Idima, 28, Dada Hamid, 23, Tega Monday, 28, Rafiu Pelumi, 20, and Wike Odigbi, 27.

According to Moliki, Taskforce Chairman, CSP Shola Jejeloye was in the area to maintain law and order.

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