Passengers stranded as commercial drivers protest against alleged extortion in Lagos
Commercial bus drivers, yesterday, protested around the Agege-Ogba-Berger axis of Lagos State against alleged extortion by officials of the Lagos State task force. The development left passengers stranded around the area.
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The protesters barricaded the road at the popular Omole Junction, Ikeja, while some of them held weapons in a bid to resist further arrests. They also prevented drivers who attempted to convey passengers to their destinations from operating.
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They alleged that the task force officials were making business unattractive for them and causing colossal losses.
The protesters also carried placards, with inscriptions such as: ‘We are not robbers, but commercial drivers’ and ‘Help LASG; Commercial bus drivers say no more task force.’
One of the protesters said: “I was forced to pay N50,000 for an offence I did not understand or commit. I was in traffic along Ogunusi Road, and suddenly, they pounced on me, alleging that I flouted traffic regulations. All entreaties by passengers that absolved me of any wrongdoing failed as they forced me into their office and collected N50,000 for no reason.”
As of 12:30p.m., gridlocks had peaked along the route with many passengers trekking long distances. One of the drivers, David, told newsmen that he was made to pay N20,000 by the task force officials.
“I was in the park when they arrested me. I was buying sachet water and I suddenly found some of them (task force officials) in my vehicle. I asked them what my offence, was but they only said I had been arrested. I eventually paid N20,000 before I was freed,” he said.
Another protester lamented that some task force officials were making it difficult for them to recoup their investments in the transportation business.
Spokesman for the Lagos State Task Force, Taofeek Adebayo, denied the allegation that the commercial drivers were being extorted.
He said: “The fact remains that their protest will not stop the agency from carrying out its statutory functions in enforcing the Lagos State Transport Reform.
“Since the #EndSARS protest, most of the commercial drivers have been driving with impunity across the state. They follow one-way, allowing passengers to alight at undesignated bus stops. No responsible government will allow this kind of thing to continue. The enforcement will continue irrespective of their protest. Nobody would have arrested them if they committed no crime. We only impound vehicles of offenders.
“Also, it is high time we separated the operatives of the task force from other enforcement officers. Those arrested by the task force, we charge them to mobile court. It is the court that stipulates your fine. Those extorting them are not our officials. There is no room for cash payment in Lagos State task force.”
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