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Commuters stranded as Lagos drivers begin seven-day boycott over extortion



Some commuters were stranded in Lagos State on Monday as commercial bus drivers under the aegis of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association of Nigeria commenced a seven-day boycott of Lagos roads.

The drivers are observing the boycott over alleged extortion by men of the motor parks and garages management in the state.

Commercial drivers in Nigeria’s economic nerve centre, Lagos State under the umbrella of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association Of Nigeria (JDWAN) have declared a 7-day boycott of transport services in protest against arbitrary levies imposed on members by the state government.

The seven-day boycott according to the association starts on Monday, October 31 and will end on November 6, 2022.

The Association in a statement issued on Sunday, signed by its National Leader, Akintade Abiodun, lamented payment of illegal fees and collection of high levies from their members by government officials, which they said has increased the cost of living in Lagos.

Citing a judgment of the Federal High Court which directed the Lagos State government to stop the illegal levies imposed on its members, JDWAN regretted that since the judgment was delivered, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has yet to comply.

The group reiterated its demands that the court order must be obeyed. 

In its statement obtained by newsmn on Sunday, it said, “We kick against paying motor park thugs at every bus stop. All illegal money at garages and parks must stop.

“Harassment of law enforcement agencies and intimidation with guns, cutlass, broken bottles by LASTMA (Lagos State Traffic Management Authority), task force and RRS (Rapid Response Squad) must end immediately. 

“Lagos State government should build and assign more bus stops for commercial use to avoid arrest by LASTMA for dropping off passengers at existing bus stops which are known to commuters as official bus stops.”

The association, however, regretted that more than 48 hours after its leadership met with representatives of the state government led by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Engr. Abdulhafiz Toriola and the Motor Park Management Liaison Officer Mr Hakeem Odumosu (AIG rtd) in the company with their legal adviser, Mr Ayo Ademiluyi, the state has made no concrete steps towards addressing the demands.

It said, “The retired AIG also expressly said they can’t get rid of bus stop extortionists because they are working for the state government, while suggesting that MC Oluomo (Musiliu Akinsanya, chairman of Lagos State Parks and Management Committee) can organize thugs to attack us and we will be blamed or credited for the violence. We view this as a failed fear-mongering tactic. Also, the assistant to the minister for transportation threatened to arrest us and our lawyer while in their office.

“The statement of threat by Hakeem Odumosu that MC Oluomo could attack our members is already happening, through Sile Sekoni (Burger) of Badagry Roundabout Motor Park Management Branch, JAFO (Oniba of Iba) of the caretaker committee, Iba branch, Seyi Bamgbose (student) of Iyana Iba caretaker committee branch who threatened to beat and kill drivers on Monday, 31st of October. 

“JDWAN notes that Lagosians must be aware that if anything happens to our drivers, the elements named above should be held responsible

“It is pertinent to note that there is an existing restraining court order granted by Justice P. O. Lifu of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi against the Lagos state government and all transport agencies, stopping them from ticketing, bus stop levies, motor park levies, dues and any form of extortion from commercial drivers. 

“The court gave the order in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/224/2022 between applicant Barrister Olukoya Ogungbeje, Transport Union Society Of Nigeria (TUSON) and Respondents NURTW, RTEAN, NARTO, Musiliu Akinsanya (MC Oluomo), Mohammed Musa, Lawal Yusuf Othman, Lagos State Government, Attorney General of Lagos State, Inspector General of Police, Director General of State Security Service.

“It is sad that the representatives of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu are mocking Lagos drivers’ predicament and are disinterested in stopping the major factor causing the high cost of living in Lagos, by asking for another letter and demanding that we call off the boycott without addressing our five demands.

“Drivers and commuters have had a brimful of extortion and harassment from the motor park management and caretaker committee thugs popularly known as Agbero. 

“It is also visible to the blind in Lagos that the cost of goods and services is a consequence of Agbero’s extortion, no goods can be delivered and 95% working-class residents can be transported without the service of commercial drivers. 

“The unfettered and violent extortion by the Lagos government agents has not only increased transportation fare beyond the affordability of workers but also taken every good and service out of the reach of the poor Lagosians.

“Once again, we are calling on all Lagos commercial drivers, commuters, civil society organisations and residents to observe the 7-day boycott on Monday, 31st of October, stay at home and not ply any road for commercial purposes or block any road whatsoever. 

“All drivers should enjoy their day with their families without extortion and violence of the Agberos of motor park management and caretaker committee since the government has refused or shown any sign of stopping the state-approved extortion.”

The statement noted that JDWAN is made of “Ibile Drivers Stakeholders Association of Nigeria – IDSWAN, Mega City Drivers Welfare Association of Nigeria – MCDWA, Federal Assisted Mass Transit Incorporation – FAMTI, Owners, Drivers and Conductors Association – ODCA, Commercial Bus Drivers and Owners Operators of Lagos – CBDOP, Mini Bus Drivers Welfare Association – MNDWA”. 

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