Some commercial bus drivers along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway on Saturday stayed off the road, alleging extortion and constant manhandling by touts, popularly known as agberos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that no commercial buses were seen plying the roads, while passengers were stranded at various bus stops.
Meanwhile, commercial motorcycles are having a field day conveying passengers at rather high costs.
The commercial bus drivers had embarked on a “cease commuter operation” along the Lagos-Badagry axis up to the Mile 2 area of the state, following what they termed an unbearable increment in their ticket fees.
Some commercial bus drivers, who spoke with NAN, said they would not return to work along the axis unless the government intervened to address an outrageous hike in ticket fees by transport unions in Lagos.
The drivers said unions under the aegis of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) are responsible for regulating the affairs of commercial buses on the axis.
They said that members of the unions are allegedly extorting bus drivers by collecting exorbitant ticket fees, as well as brutalising drivers who failed to cooperate with them.
According to them, the union has indiscriminately increased the price of their ticket from N500 to N800 without a warning.
They described the situation as unbearable especially considering the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had left a majority of bus drivers in want.
A commercial bus driver, Kehinde Solomon, said the ticket fees collected by those he described as “agberos” had become outrageous.
According to him, drivers pay different exorbitant amount of money at every bus stop. He added that members of the union collect these monies by coercion and without empathy.
He said that they often beat up drivers and conductors who delay or refuse payment and even vandalised their buses.“Commercial bus drivers usually pay N500 at every bus stop but we are now compelled to pay N800.
“We wake up in the morning to begin to hustle for our daily bread, but at the end of the day we have no reasonable amount to go home with because it will all be spent on ‘agberos’ at every bus stop,” Mr Solomon said.
Another driver, Felix Nwanyawu, said that commercial drivers are now compelled to pay N800 at each bus stop as against the initial N500, notwithstanding whether they have conveyed passengers or not.
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He said that where any driver hesitates to instantly produce the money as demanded by the union, “they go as far as cracking the windscreen, removing wipers, deflating tyres and even gang beat up against such driver and his conductor”.
Mr Nwanyawu described this as very oppressive and unacceptable to any right-thinking citizen and urged the Lagos State Government to come to the aid of commercial bus drivers in the state.
Another commercial bus driver, Henry Anyawu, said that at each bus stop from Badagry to Mile 2, he spends between N600 to N700, adding that there are about 20 or more bus stops from Badagry to Mile 2.
“We work and work and at the end of the day we get nothing, so we decided that instead of continuous suffering we go on strike.”
Meanwhile, some commuters who spoke with NAN described the unavailability of commercial buses as frustrating, adding that the situation had affected their businesses.
Chika Nwosu a trader at the Alaba International market, told NAN that he was unable to proceed to work due to the absence of buses.
He urged the authorities to wade into the issue and find a lasting solution, to enable transport activities to return to normal.
Another trader, Peter Paulinus, urged that the welfare of commercial bus drivers should be taken into consideration as a majority of workers in Lagos rely on public transport.
According to him, the absence of these means of transportation will greatly affect workers since not all workers are car owners.”
Efforts to reach the RTEAN Secretariat on phone were unsuccessful as there was no response to repeated calls and text messages. (NAN)
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