The menace called ‘Agbero’ has caused the Lagos State Commercial Bus Drivers, with the support of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association of Nigeria (JDWAN), to embark on a seven days strike and protest, which started on the 31st of October 2022. According to the group, the action is to protest against the excessive extortion and violent harassment by the management of parks and garages in Lagos State.
From the statement released by the association, this indiscriminate extortion from the management has resulted in the hike of prices by drivers, contributing to the high cost of living in Nigeria.
According to the statement, “The cost of transportation affects the cost of goods and services and consequently the cost of living, which has spiralled astronomically in Lagos State as a result of the effect of excessive motor parks and illegal ticketing and tolling at almost every bus stop.
Daily, we lose half of our income to the motor park boys. We pay exorbitant charges in the garages and at every bus stop where we drop off passengers. Whether we pick up passengers or not, we pay morning, afternoon and night. Some routes have 25 bus stops which also serve as illegal tax collection avenues”.
As a result of the unfolding events, the association had a meeting with the Lagos state government representative. Though there is no consensus, the state government promised to look into the demands of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association of Nigeria (JDWAN).
The petition of the bus drivers
At the meeting held on the 1st of November 2022, JDWAN made its demands known to the state government representative, Mr Sola Giwa, the special adviser to the state governor on transportation.
The association demands “No charging drivers three passengers’ money after loading in parks or garages. We are demanding it should be one passenger’s money per bus. We demand that the Lagos State government ticket be the only ticket in Lagos. Other tickets, like Lagos State parks & garages management and Lagos State caretaker committee, are not acceptable to all drivers in Lagos State”.
Speaking further, it said, “We kick against Paying motor park thugs at every bus stop. Immediate abolishment of illegal money after leaving the garages and parks. Harassment of law enforcement agencies & intimidation with guns, cutlass and broken bottles by LASTMA, task force and RRS must end immediately. They collaborate and hire thugs to attack and extort us daily without violating any law.
We have fewer bus stops for commercial vehicles. Most bus stops in Lagos are strictly assigned officially to BRT buses only, and we get arrested for dropping off passengers at existing bus stops, which have been known to commuters as official bus stops for decades. We demand that the Lagos State government provide official bus stops in each community to avoid incessant arrests and stress for commuters who complain of having to trek several kilometres back to their bus stops”.
To this, Giwa said the state is looking into the claim of harassment and extortion by motor parks and garages management made by JDWAN. He also noted that the state government is not affiliated with any transport unions, such as NURTW and RTEAN.
However, the meeting was inconclusive as the Lagos drivers’ axis was absent. Giwa said, “Most of the union members at the meeting were from the Badagry axis and therefore adjourned the meeting till today. This is to have a larger house, which will include representatives of other recognised unions, with a view to resolving the matter amicably”.
Can the Lagos state government ban Agbero?
The yearly revenue accrued by the louts called Agbero in Lagos State and the ongoing strike have raised the question of whether the state government will be willing to scrap it. Though time will tell, it is, however, possible if some institutions, such as numerous park associations, will be cancelled. This is because ‘Agberos’ are louts who collect illegal fees from drivers and deliver them to the chairman in their park.
Though they belong to the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), they are non-state actors recognised by the state government.
With their illegal means of extorting drivers, they generate more revenue than most Nigerian states. According to research conducted by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Agberos in Lagos generate N123 billion yearly in Nigeria. This is more than what the states in Nigeria, excluding Lagos state, generate every year.
This has seen the state’s Internally-Generated Revenue (IGR) increase. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Lagos State had the highest IGR of N753.46 billion in 2021. In 2020, the State recorded N660 billion, and in 2019, the state collected N646.61 billion. The state’s track record shows that it had the highest IGR in any Nigerian state.
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