Many commuters were on Tuesday assaulted and their wares destroyed in Lagos as commercial bus drivers protested alleged extortion and highhandedness by officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Unit (Taskforce) and local council officials.
The protest grounded commercial transportation from Iyana Isolo to Mile 2 as the protesters whipped passengers inside buses that attempted to defy the no-work order. It was reported that commercial motorists also downed tools last week around Ikotun and Igando areas of the state over allegations of extortion that led to the killing of one of their colleagues.
It was gathered that traders who went to Ketu Market to buy fruits, vegetables and other wares for retail had their goods destroyed by rampaging thugs who also threw passengers off buses.
Commuters were forced to trek from Iyana-Isolo to Mile 2 as the protesters ordered them off vehicles of defiant drivers. At Cele Bus Stop, a bus driver and a commercial motorcyclist were injured by armed hoodlums who joined the protests.
A motorcyclist, who attempted to defy the stop work order, was slashed on the hand with a machete by a thug as he sped off with his fare. Another hoodlum struck a defiant driver with a knife. It was learnt that the drivers were angered by the installation of One-Way road signage on roads that used to be bidirectional.
It was also gathered that the protesters set up bonfires on the expressway, inward Oshodi and prevented commercial vehicles, motorcyclists from operating on both sides of the road.
But private vehicles and tricycles were not prevented from operating, a development that saw tricyclists increasing their fares by 50 per cent. Passengers who succeeded in boarding commercial vehicles or motorbikes were ordered to disembark.
The vehicles were sent away empty or commandeered to the protest. Most passengers were forced to trek long distances in order to meet up with their engagements.
The angry drivers were displaying placards with inscriptions such as “End LASTMA brutality” “End Taskforce wahala”, “End LASTMA blocking, blocking with Taskforce” and End Taskforce in Lagos State”, the protesters chanted “No more Taskforce.”
According to them, the officials routinely and indiscriminately seize their vehicles and make them pay huge amounts of money before they are released. A bus driver, who gave his name simply as “Sefiu” lamented his ordeal in the hands of the officials. He said two of his buses were recently impounded for no reason by Taskforce officials. “I paid N55,000 to recover one of them, “They are always harrassing us.
The road we follow to the airport has been blocked for repairs, yet when we follow the alternative route, which is one-way, they’ll arrest us, where do they want us to go through?” He lamented.