Many assaulted, passengers stranded as Lagos bus drivers protest ‘extortion’

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Commuters were on Tuesday assaulted and 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.
This protest grounded commercial transportation from Iyana Isolo to Mile Two as the protesters whipped passengers inside buses that attempted to defy the no-work order.
The Nation reports that 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 also threw passengers off buses.
Lagos bus drivers protest
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 as he sped off with his fare.
Another hoodlum struck a defiant driver with a knife.
It was learnt the drivers were angered by the installation of One-Way road signage on roads that used to be bi-directional.
The gathered that 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 tricyclists increasing their fares by 50 per cent.
Passengers, who succeeded in boarding commercial vehicles or motorbikes, were ordered to disembark.
The vehicles were set away empty or commandeered to the protest.
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 made them pay 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.
“I paid N55, 000 to recover one of them,” he told The Nation.
“They are always harrassing us. The road we follow to the airport has been blocked for repairs, yet when we follow the alternative route, which is one-way, they’ll arrest us,” he lamented.
Another protester, Kingsley, claimed they were being intimidated by government officials.
“Their wahala is too much. We want Governor Babajide (Sanwo-Olu) to help us,” he added.
Chibuike, who identified himself as a bus driver and member of the National Union of Road Transport Worker (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 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 carryout 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, adding that he also listened to some of the aggrieved protesters, urged them to stay calm as the government would address their grievances.
Spokesman for LASTMA, Olumide Filade, said he would get back to our reporter but was yet to revert at the time of this report.

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