Commercial drivers in Lagos State under the aegis of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association of Nigeria commenced on a week long strike on Monday over extortion by the Lagos State Parks and Garages Management.
The President of the association, Abiodun Akintade, has said the Lagos Park and Garages members have bullied and extorted drivers for years because past and present Lagos State governments have condoned the illegal act.
Akintade told Punch in an interview that despite a court judgment saying money collected from transporters in Lagos is illegal, the LSPGM members have continued to extort drivers.
He said: “There is a court order by the Federal High Court, Ikoyi. The order has been out since June 24, 2022, banning these people (agberos) from collecting money from us on the road. The court order also banned them from harassing, intimidating, beating our conductors, and damaging our property.
“The court order also said they should stop collecting any money whatsoever from us but the Lagos State Government refused to act on the court order; that is one of our grievances”.
He added: “The second reason we embarked on the strike was that early this year, the Lagos State Government introduced a ticket of N800. The Lagos Commissioner for Transportation went to a radio station, telling the masses that the government had introduced the ticket and it would be the only ticket they would assume as our tax, and anybody that asked for money again should be arrested.
“After the introduction of the N800 ticket, we don’t know whether by omission or commission, the Lagos State Government gave the ticketing job to the agberos. We believe that the ticket should have been given to the local government authorities, but the reason they gave it to them is left to them; our duty is to pay for the ticket.
“But after collecting that N800 ticket, these agberos still harass us. For example, where I drive, after loading in their park, while going to my destination, there are 25 checkpoints on the road before I reach where I am going. And I have to drop N100 or N200 at each of these checkpoints”.
Akintade described the actions of the LSPGM members as stifling. He further gave details on how drivers are exploited:
“After loading in their park, whatever they demand, we will give them. Like in my park, they collect three passengers’ money out of our money. Before we load, there is what we call booking money; that is N500. After loading, two to four kilometers, we will start reaching different checkpoints where we have to drop money as well.
“By the time you calculate all the money altogether, it is about N6,000. And when you drop passengers, they will still collect what they call offloading money”
“With the announcement by the commissioner for transportation, we were all excited that the government has now recognised our predicament and is ready to come to our aid. Unfortunately, that was not the case because they added the N800 to the expenses we incur daily. So, the problem is getting worse every day; they will just wake up one day and create a checkpoint and there is nothing we can do about it.
“All these led to the protest. What we are trying to push out is that we agreed that we don’t have parks, so let’s be using their parks to load passengers. We are ready to give them whatever they want; it is negotiable but we want them to put an end to all these illegal checkpoints. We are just trying to be lenient with them because in the court order, it was stated that they should not collect any money from us again”.