By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Drivers of commercial buses, popularly called Danfo, along Iyana-Ipaja, Ikotun and environs in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State, on Tuesday morning, withdrew their services to protest extortion and daily seizure of their buses by officials of Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences Unit (Task Force).
This development led to a chaotic situation in the axis, as workers and other commuters were stranded in the early hours at various bus stops, following scarcity of buses. Many resorted to trekking.
The commuters, who were seen along Ikotun-Egbeda road, trekking, said the government should look into the commercial drivers’ complaints with a view to finding a lasting solution to the operations of the state task force.
A commuter narrates experience
Mrs. Funke Owolabi, a trader in Ikotun, expressed solidarity with protesters, describing the activities of the task force as “unfair and wicked act.”
She recalled: “It was around 6a.m. and I was on my way to my shop. I live in Iyana-Ipaja and do my business in Ikotun.
“At Olugbede area, men of the task force operating in an unmarked vehicle suddenly my intercepted our bus and forced the driver to submit the key of the bus.
“Without mentioning the particular offence committed, they ordered us (passengers) to disembark immediately, saying the bus has been impounded and will be taken to their office in Oshodi. We pleaded with them to leave the bus for God’s sake.
“They remained adamant and even threatened to arrest us if we refused to disembark.
“I was very angry because they did not tell the driver the infraction committed and also for delaying those of us hurrying to our various business destinations.
“The state government should immediately look into this shameful and corrupt practices by our law enforcement agents.”
Some of the protesting commercial drivers were seen displaying placards with various inscriptions such as: “Lagos task force should stop harassing us”, “Enough is enough of extortion, illegal seizure of our buses”, “We are not armed robbers, we are legitimate workers,” among others.
The protesters alleged that task force officers often harassed and extorts their members, particularly along the axis.
Chairmen of Iyana-Ipaja, Egbeda and Ikotun were seen at various points ensuring the development does not degenerate into violence with law enforcement agents, who were deployed to ensure security.
Policemen from Idimu Division and Area “M” Command were seen patrolling the axis.
Everything under control—Police
A senior police officer, who spoke with Vanguard at the scene, said: “The situation is under control and there is no cause for alarm.”
He, therefore, implored residents to go about their normal business activities as adequate security has been put in place to ensure their safety.
Speaking to Vanguard, one of the protesting drivers, Abel Ayoade, accused the task force of illegal operation, adding “they come as early as 5a.m. most times and impounds our buses.
“They take the buses to their headquarters in Oshodi and collect between N50,000 and N40,000, based on negotiating power.
“So, we decided to withdraw our service today to protest the illegal activities as well as bring it to the attention of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and relevant authorities so that they could call the task force men to order.
“The harassment and extortion must stop, its getting unbearable. We have families to fend for. We are not armed robbers that is why we are doing legitimate work. Why are they after us all the time?
“During the then administration of Governor Babatunde Fashola, they were curtailed but they started these illegal activities during the immediate past administration and have extended it into the present administration of Governor Sanwo-Olu.”
However, Chairman, Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences Unit (Task Force), Chief Superintendent Yinka Egbeyemi, had not responded to inquiries by Vanguard via SMS sent to his mobile, as calls were not going through.