The Touts Are Back

Opeifa
Opeifa

Touts have returned to bus stops and motor parks in spite of the coming into force of the new traffic law which outlaws touting in those places

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Jun. 10, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

BARELY one year after the Lagos State government passed the new road traffic law which banned touting and extortion at motor parks and bus stops, particularly by the National Union of Road Transport Workers, the extortion still persists. The increased activities of the touts at the bus stops and motor parks indicate that the implementation of the traffic law is still a far-cry.

A commercial bus driver plying Iyana Iba-Iyana Ipaja route, who gave his name as Dominic, said he spends a lot of money trying to settle the touts at different bus stops from Iyana Iba to Iyana Ipaja. He explained that those behind touting at the bus stops would not allow the government to implement the new traffic law. “We spend most of our incomes trying to settle ‘Agbero’ every day. In some bus stops, we settle those collecting for local governments and development centres, while in others we settle those collecting for LASTMA and the police,” he said.

Another commercial driver plying Iyana Ipaja-Oshodi, who gave his name as Moses, said that government would find it very difficult to stop illegal collections at the bus stops. He explained that the reason why the state government would find it difficult to stop the activities of the ‘Agbero’ is that it can’t fight those who are behind the collections. According to him, some of the ‘Agberos’ collect money for the local government chairmen, councillors, police, LASTMA and even Obas’ and Baales’.

Kayode Opeifa, commissioner for transport, said the state government is committed to make motor parks and bus stops free from extortion by any group. He said the ban on extortion at motor parks was in line with the new traffic law in the state. “We recognise the right for them to associate, but we believe that the motor parks should be made conducive for those who want to carry out their business of commuting in the state. No union member should be seen collecting money from transporters; it is illegal and we won’t take this any longer,” he said.

Agbero in Lagos
Agbero in Lagos

Meanwhile, a visit to any of the parks in the state revealed that both the government and the unions are doing nothing to renovate the parks. When our reporter visited some of the parks, he saw them dirty and smelling.  At Ojota Park, the offensive odour from pools of stagnant water mixed with urine greets commuters at the park. Commuters waiting to depart to their respective destinations complained bitterly about the stench. Apart from the stench, the place was littered with refuse comprising empty plastic bottles of water, soft drinks, used polythene bags and other junks. Also, whenever it rains, the park is usually flooded.

At Iyana Ipaja Park, the same picture of filth and stench pervades the air. The park, which got a facelift some years ago, has fallen into bad times. At present, the park is riddled with many failed portions, some of which are already forming potholes and ditches.

The motor park at Oshodi under-bridge, where inter-state commercial buses load passengers, is another filthy place. Despite the fact that mobile toilets are placed at some points within the park, the stench emanating from there is far from pleasant.  Yet the commercial bus drivers, hawkers and commuters carry on their businesses as if they were unaware of the condition of the environment. The motor park at Iyana-Iba in Ojo area of Lagos, has been in its raw state – sandy, dirty and unkempt for many years. Yet the volume of commercial buses operating from this axis runs into several thousands every day.

The irony of this development is that the local governments where these motor parks are located raise revenue by issuing tickets to commercial bus operators every day.  There is no evidence to show that the authorities spend some of the revenues on physical projects, such as the construction of new motor parks or the rehabilitation of the existing ones. The unions also collect their dues from the operators. Each commercial bus operator is required to pay a specific amount of money per trip or per day, depending on the policy operating in each motor park. Even commercial bus operators that do not make use of the conventional motor parks are also made to pay whenever they stop to discharge passengers at every bus stop on the routes they ply.

Adisa Kazeem, a commercial bus driver, who feels concerned about this development says there is need for unions and the local governments to give back to these motor parks by rehabilitating them. “The unions and the local government that are collecting money from drivers using the garage are supposed to repair them. Some just need refilling with gravels, others need reconstructing. What are they using the money they are collecting from us for?” he questioned.

But Tajudeen Agbede, chairman, NURTW, Lagos State branch, said the union is doing its best to support the government in its efforts to actualise the contents of the road traffic law, which, he noted, aim at saving lives and ensuring sanity on Lagos roads. “We are always in support of government by making sure our members obey the Road Traffic Law. It is for the good of everyone in the state,” he said.

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