By Bose Adebayo
A commercial bus took off from Oshodi heading for Tollgate. On getting to Ikeja, it was stopped by met a team of police men who demanded for the usual N100 settlement, from the driver who promptly paid. This was repeated when the bus approached Abule-Egba as the driver once again parted with some money when the bus was flagged down byÂ another police team.
This was the same situation at Ijaye and Kollinton and Alakuko bus-stops. And by the time he got to Tollgate, he met a team of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) who impounded the bus. His offence was that he made an illegal U-turn at Tollgate.
At the end of the day, the poor driver was forced to part with a sum of N25,000 before his bus was released.
This and many more now fuel the grievances of most commercial bus operators in the state who have been complaining aloud in recent time and demanding government intervention in putting to an end what they perceive as their plight in the hand of uniformed security operatives in the state.
Part of their survival response to their plight in this respect is to pass the extra cost resulting therefrom on their passengers in terms of frequent fare hikes . That is why it has been lamentations galore among commuters in the state in recent times following the frequency at which commercialÂ vehicle operators have been hiking their fares due to one reason or the other.
This was the case Wednesday last week.Â This was on account ofÂ some commercial buses popularly called Molue, LT and Danfo being withdrawn from the road by drivers protesting what they described as harassment, exploitation, intimidation and molestation by LASTMA officials. Although there was calm in some places, the situation was tense in Ikotun, Mushin, Iyana-Ipaja, Agbado-Ijaiye, Agege, Jakande and Oke-Afa.
When Vanguard Metro went to town, few commercial buses were seen on the road while there was a mad rush for BRT and LAGBUS buses. In some areas, there was an attempt by street urchins popularly called Area Boys to hijack the situation but Policemen were seen in strategic areas to put the situation under control.
The situation resulted in a brawl betweenÂ LASTMA officials and commercial drivers when some LASTMA officials started impounding LT buses for carrying more than four passengers per seat row. This later resulted to a gridlock in the area.
In places like Agege, Jakande, Ikotun, Yaba, Agabdo-Ijaye, commuters were stranded for hours as commercial buses abandoned the routes. Most of them had to trek long distances before they could board buses to their respective destinations.
However, it was a boom time for officials of BRT and LAGBUS as that was the only option for commuters apart from the three wheelers(Keke Marwa) and motorcycles (Okada) which charged more than the usual fare.
A cross section of commercial drivers who spoke with Vanguard Metro lamented the excesses of LASTMA officials. â€œThere was a day LASTMA officials arrested me at Ikeja, around 8am, they told me my route number was Oshodi to Ikotun while I was found at Ikeja along.
I told them I was coming from home, I think I have to leave my house first before plying my route for the day but this fell on deaf ears. At the end of the day, I paid a sum of N40,000 before my vehicle was released to me. How much is my profit for the day that I should be asked to pay N40,000 ? Many people usually say commercial drivers behave anyhow, these are some of the things that could easily trigger violence. LASTMA officials should be called to order,â€ he demanded heatedly.
A Molue conductor who gave his name as â€˜Yabeâ€™ told Vanguard Metro the harassment by LASTMA officials or Police was a constant source of worry to commercial drivers. â€œMany of us no longer sleep till day break. My Oga wakes me up as early as 3.45am so as to leave home by 4.30. It is not that we find this so convenient but if we donâ€™t do so, we might become a prey in the hand of these useless officials.
The State Government set them up to monitor activities on the road but they have decided to take the law into their hands. If the situation is not put under control, we cannot open and eyes and allow things to continue like that. As for me I might have to be going out with charms and any of them who dares me will not last more than seven days,â€ he said.
Some commuters who spoke with this reporter said it is high time the menace of LASTMA officials and policemen are put under control.
Observe safety rules, motorists urged
A safety organisation, Rely Supply Limited, has called on road users to observe safety rules on the road at all times
At a First Aid training in Lagos, its Executive Director, Fayo Williams, advised safety organisations to collaborate with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to educate road users.
Fayo urged drivers to avoid drinking, making or receiving phone calls while driving. â€œThere is need for motorists to curb other excesses; all hands must be on deck to minimise the rate of accidents on our roads,â€ she said.
Williams said the essence of the training was to improve the knowledge of individuals, especially on what to do when they get to the scene of an accident. â€œThey need to observe the scene to ensure there is no danger before they embark on First Aid. They must find out if there are casualties, more so, a response from the casualty is needed. If there is no response, there is need to carry out what we call Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR),â€ she said.
Among other things, participants were thought on transportation of casualty, primary survey of the scene of an accident as well as treatment of the wound.
Eleven members of Clean Up Nigeria arrested
Lagos State Government has arrested and paraded 11 members of a group, known as Clean Up Nigeria and dissociated herself from its activities, which the State Government described as illegal, fraudulent and extortionate.
A statement issued from the Office of the Honourable Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire warned members of the public to be wary of fraudsters, who parade themselves as collaborators in the on going Clean â€“Up Lagos project with the major intention of extorting money from innocent members of the public.
Dr. Banire explained that members of the group have been extorting money from members of the public andÂ impoundingÂ vehicles from motoristsÂ illegally for either not buying their waste baskets which price range between N5,500 and N8,500 depending on the size of the vehicle. Other illegal fees charged by the organisation include Loading and Off loading Permit, Environmental Protection fees, Radio & Television Permit all falling within the range of N5,500 and N8,500. Impounded vehicles attract N2000 as demurrage daily and another N2000 tagged Task Force Fund.
Banire explained that when his office became inundated with petitions from victims of the extorting gang he ordered a full scale investigation into the activities of the group, including the location of their office with a view to unravelling the objectives of the group but the organisation could not be reached at 5, Kayode Street, Onipannu address.
The Commissioner who expressed concernÂ at theÂ rate at which faceless and fraudulent organisations are springing up to dupe innocent members of the public vowed that the arrested suspects would be made to face the wrath of the law to serve as deterrence to others.
Harvard, Clean Foundation partner Lagos on security
Harvard Kennedy School in collaboration with the Justice Sector of Clean Foundation on last week disclosed that it will partner with the Lagos State Security Trust Fund to help tackle crime in the metropolis.
Senior Research Associates with the school, Dr. Todd Foglesong, and the Executive Director of Clean Foundation, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, stated this when the delegationÂ paid a courtesy visit to the Executive Secretary of the State Security Fund, Mr. Fola Arthur-Worrey.
According to Foglesong, the partnership will focus on carrying out a data survey to identify some crime prune areas in the metropolis and handing over the findings to the trust fund in order to ease and effectively tackle crime in different parts of Lagos .
Foglesong said that with the level of investment on human and material resources already done by the LSTF, the need for such data to completely tackle criminal activities had become imperative.
Explaining further, Chukwuma said that the partnership will involve crime survey and mapping that will reveal the various criminal activities taking part in Lagos .
He added that the data will then be passed on to the police through the LSTF so as to help monitor the deployment of resources to different parts of the metropolis.
The survey, according to Chukwuma, is expected to start by the third and fourth quarter of the year, while a formal Memorandum of Understanding will be signed with LSTF afterwards.
He said: â€œIt is clear that the LSTF had utilised a lot of funds in procuring materials, and there had been decrease in criminal activities as a result of this.
We want to see what difference the equipment had made to the state Rapid Response Squad and how they are making use of the equipment effectively. This is to make those contributing to the fund to be better informed.