By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Evelyn Usman, Bose Adebayo, Chioma Obinna, Ifeanyi Okolie & Nwakanma Chukwuma
LAGOS â€” NO fewer than two persons Monday lost their lives as commercial bus drivers in Lagos State stayed off the road, protesting alleged excesses of the officials of the Lagos State Transport Management Authority, LASTMA, leaving commuters stranded at bus stops across the state.
The two persons whose identities Vanguard could not ascertain at press time, were said to have died in two separate incidents at Mile 2 Oke area of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of the state.
One of them was said to have died when he attempted to jump on an open truck, but miscalculated and fell. He was said to have been run over by an on-coming vehicle.
The other, a bus conductor, was said to have fallen off a bus when some protesting drivers attacked his bus.
But leaders of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, have dissociated their members from the action said to be spearheaded by unregistered Association of Danfo Drivers in Lagos State.
LASTMA officials allegedly atacked
In some areas, the protest intended to be peaceful took a violent dimension as some LASTMA officials were reportedly attacked while some commercial bus drivers, who were apparently oblivious of the planned protest, had their windscreens shattered by some aggrieved drivers.
The development caused a stampede particularly at Bariga, Oshodi, Iyana-Ipaja, Mile 12, Mile 2, Iyana-Oba and along the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, as passengers inside moving commercialÂ buses were forced to disembark. Some of them reportedly sustained injuries as they tried to escape.
Reasons for the protest
Explaining the reasons for the protest, the association said: â€œThe intimidation and abuse of our fundamental human right by LASTMA officials can no longer be tolerated. LASTMA officials have deviated from their main job which is controlling traffic to pursuingÂ danfo and collecting N7,000 or issue ticket of N30,000.”
The association further accused the officials of using mobile policemen to harass and brutalise its members, wondering what connection the policemen have with LASTMA.
Appeal to Fashola
Some of the danfo drivers appealed to the Lagos State government to save them from the hands of some LASTMA officials and Mobile Policemen who usually go about in buses to arrest drivers.
The drivers who embarked on a peaceful protest to Vanguard Newspapers, in Lagos said some of the officials had left their primary assignment of controlling traffic to extortion and unjust arrest.
â€œThere is a group of Mobile Policemen who uses bus to arrest danfo drivers making our work most uncomfortable by collecting an amount ranging from N10,000 to N15,000 from bus drivers. The intimidation and abuse of our fundamental human rights by LASTMA officials can no longer be tolerated,â€™â€˜ they said.
Our members not involved â€” NURTW
Meanwhile, NURTW leadersÂ have disassociated members from the protest, describing the â€œact as unlawful.â€
The Amuwo Odofin Branch Secretary of NURTW,Â Alhaji Bola Hassan, who spoke to Vanguard, regretted that the commercial bus drivers, who were being represented by unknown union did not notify them before embarking on the protest, thereby taking laws into their hands.
According to him, â€œwe, the NURTW, have condemned the wrongful act completely.Â If there are needs for the drivers to protest for any reason, they should have informed us because we represent them.
â€œThere are rules guarding the union. You donâ€™t go out and take the laws into your hands. They have no right to barricade the roads and wreck havoc on those who did not participate. We enjoin the police to prosecute all those found wanting.
No rift between LASTMA,Â NURTW â€”LAGOS
The Lagos State government has debunked any crisis between members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, and members of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, saying the claim was untrue.
Reacting on the issue, Special Adviser on Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, said: â€œContrary to the report going on that the members of NURTW are protesting against the operations of the LASTMA, such information is not true as there is no crisis between the transport union and the traffic Agency.
Opeifa said investigation by LASTMA and the office of the Special Adviser hadÂ found out that it was a group of people of unidentified origin probably sponsored that caused the public disorder along Oworonsoki and Orile â€“ Mile 2 axis, adding that LASTMA was at no time involved in the crisis.
Opeifa warned individuals who were out to disrupt the good works of Governor Babatunde Fashola, to desist from such act as LASTMA would not relent in performing its statutory responsibilities of monitoring, controlling and enforcing traffic rules and regulations irrespective of any sponsored campaign of calumny on the traffic Agency.
He added that motorists have the option of not paying any fine if they obey traffic rules and regulations to the letter.
He advised members of the public to go about their lawful duties as the security operatives have been directed to ensure law and order on Lagos roads.
Opeifa, therefore, enjoined those who may be aggrieved with the operations of the Agency to feel free and make their complaints known at LASTMA complaint unit, specially created by Governor Fashola, to address such issue