Lagos commuters stranded as shuttle bus drivers protest alleged task force extortion

..As govt clamps down on cart pushers

By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Esther Onyegbula

LAGOS—COMMUTERS plying the Agbara/Igbo-Elerin/Okoko/Iyana Iba route were, yesterday, stranded, as some commercial drivers protested against alleged harassment and extortion by personnel of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit, aka Task Force.

The drivers, who carried placards with various inscriptions like ‘End Task Force wahala’ and ‘End Task Force in Lagos State’, prevented commercial vehicles and trucks from taking one way at Church bus stop, Ojo, along the Badagry expressway.

The Chairman, Shuttle Bus Drivers Association, Ojo chapter, Richard Adeboyega, said: “The road is under construction and, before now, we had a turn at Afro, another at Okoko, but the construction company has blocked the turns.

“Drivers plying Agbara to Igbo-Elerin/First Gate had to drive to Ojo barracks before they can find a turn and drive back. When they take one way, officials of the Task Force impound our member’s buses. We pay between N100,000 to N150,000 to recover our vehicles when impounded. The officials collect cash and they don’t issue receipts. We are calling on the government to intervene. The construction company should open the middle lane to enable drivers to connect the turning at Afro bus stop or the taskforce should stop extorting us till the construction is done.”

Explaining what led to the protest, yesterday, Vice Chairman of the association, Chibuzor Nwabueze said: “They impounded 15 vehicles which they have taken to their office at Alausa behind Shoprite. Last week, they impounded over 30 vehicles.

“Officials of the Task Force are extorting us. Our travails started after the turning at Afro bus stop is blocked by the construction company, without creating an alternative for drivers going to Igbo-Elerin/First Gate.”

Lagos clamps down on cart pushers

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government, yesterday, embarked on zero-tolerance enforcement against the operation of cart pushers for constituting security threats to members of the public.

This came as Lagos Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, said it has destroyed over 400 carts, confiscated from pushers, who serially dump waste at unauthorised locations across the metropolis in clear violation of environmental laws of the state and the safety of the environment.

Speaking on the exercise which took place at LAWMA’s Ogudu facility, yesterday, the Managing Director of the authority, Mr Ibrahim Odumboni, stated that the exercise became necessary to weaken the ability of the cart pushers to return to business, and to decimate the cart population defacing the cityscape.

Odumboni said: “Cart pushers pose a grievous threat not only to environmental sustainability but to the security of residents, as many cart pushers harbour dangerous weapons such as guns, knives, machetes, bow and arrows, charms, among others to perpetrate criminal activities.

“Cart pushers are about the biggest threat to our effort at attaining environmental sustainability. 

“We will not allow anyone or group of persons to derail the ongoing efforts to make the environment better. Criminal elements have hidden under this guise to carry out heinous crimes. If there are no carts to push, they will get other jobs. 

“They pose as much threat to the environment as to the security of the citizens. It will shock you to know that many of them keep dangerous weapons in their carts to attack and dispossess unsuspecting persons when the opportunity presents itself.”  

“One of such cart pushers was tried and jailed last week, having been apprehended at Victoria Island, vandalising and stealing government’s iron rods. There have been many reported cases of theft of movable items from people’s compounds traced to them.”

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