COMMUTERS in Lagos went through agony today getting buses to their various destinations as commercial bus drivers decided to withdraw their services in protest against dues that enforcers of the Lagos State Parks and Garages Management Agency (LSPGMA) have been forcing them to pay.
The LSPGMA is led by the former chairman, the Lagos State chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Musiliu Akinsanya, widely known as MC Oluomo.
The protesting drivers, under the aegis of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association Of Nigeria (JDWAN), had threatened to boycott Lagos roads for seven days to protest extortion by LSPGMA enforcers.
The JDWAN said in a statement on Saturday signed by its national leader, Akintade Abiodun, and chairperson, Opeyemi Sulaiman, that its members were losing half of their income to Oluomo’s enforcers who were applying violence and vandalism of their vehicles to extort “exorbitant” charges from them at bus stops and garages.
“When we resist the extortion, we get arrested and pay N10,000 for bail to the police, while the motor park boys go scot-free, and we also have to bail our buses separately.
“Lagos drivers also pay for the unit chairman’s entertainment, security and food, and for many other ridiculous levies, with threat of violence from the enforcers at any slight refusal by the drivers. This is the exact case of the popular parlance on exploitation of labourers, ‘baboon dey work and monkey dey chop.’
“Lagos commercial drivers work like elephants and eat like ants, while the urchins under the aegis of motor park workers take a large chunk of our earnings. We can hardly fulfill our contractual obligations to our business partners, feed our family or afford maintenance or repair of our vehicles,” the statement read.
The drivers, making good their threat today, withdrew their services from several areas in Lagos, including Berger, Cele bus stop and Mile 2.
A roasted plantain trader doing her trade by the roadside at Ojo, on the Mile 2-Badagry expressway, told The ICIR that she was compelled to increase the price of her plantain because of how much she suffered to get to her stall this morning. She increased the price of a piece of roasted plantain from N200 to N250.
“I paid N700 from Alaba International market to get here. There was no bus; it was bikes that had a field day today. I went through a lot to get these plantains to sell here,” she explained.
The ICIR observed that drivers who refused to join the protest and did commercial service exploited the situation to make hay. Drivers on the Mile 2 to Ketu/Mile 12 route jacked their fares up to ₦500, from ₦400, while commercial buses plying some sections of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway asked commuters to pay N800 from Berger bus stop, from N500.
Commercial bus drivers on the Mile 2-Badagry expressway plying the Iyana-Iba and Ojo sections also ignored the JDWAN call and ran commuting services.
A driver plying the route, Sunday Balogun, declared, “Anyone that doesn’t want to work, let them park their vehicles at home. They should make their demands public to the governor who will invite the leader of all the drivers. Some people have not had anything to eat since Saturday, won’t he go out to work? Nobody gives us salaries, you have to work so you can eat. Or else you would starve. They should complain at the governor’s place, if there are any grievances.”
Another driver, Leonard Egbunolu, said none of the drivers in Iba agreed to the strike because they were not carried along as one body.
He said, “The issue is this: when we talk of drivers associations, the first thing that comes to mind is, who is the leader of this group? Who are the members? Did they allow other drivers know of the association? When you talk of association, it is people coming together to agree on one thing. There is nothing like driver’s association. You can’t do that without carrying other people along. I believe that is the reason why the strike is not felt everywhere.”
The Lagos State government has promised to look into the demands of the JDWAN with a view to finding permanent solutions to the issues it raised.
This is according to a statement made available to The ICIR this evening and signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Sola Giwa.
“Sequel to the announcement by JDWAN to embark on a seven-day strike starting from 31st October, 2022, the Ministry of Transportation invited its leadership to a meeting on Friday 28th October, 2022, despite its non-affiliation to any of the transport unions known by the State Government, i.e. National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN).
“Most of the union members at the meeting were from the Badagry axis and it was resolved that the meeting be adjourned till Wednesday, 2nd November, 2022 to have a larger house (the Unions inclusive) and resolve the matter amicably.
“The outcome of the 2nd November, 2022 meeting will be made known to the public.”
It also encouraged drivers to continue their daily routine without fear of molestation and intimidation as security agencies had been directed to maintain law and order.