Sunday Magazine

Transportation: Commuting with tears over multiple govt policies

Motorists and commuters living in Lagos State and border towns with Ogun State seem to be in for hard times. They are in for bigger crisis of movement, especially in Lagos State at the moment. OLUWATOSIN OMONIYI reports

For motorists living within Lagos State, it is like a harvest of tough times for them as law enforcement agencies pounce on them for various offences they termed, ‘traps and not corrective or warning enough.’ It is now becoming a common sight in Lagos to witness big fights between motorists and the law enforcement officials, LASTMA officials in particular. Somewhere around Ikoyi, was a group of dancers, (developers) dancing to advertise their products-Land/houses.

They were seen dancing right from their pick-up-van while the driver of the van was slowing down to park by the lay-by when suddenly an official of the LASTMA rushed to him, brought out a fork-mouth long iron and put it to the van’s front tyre by the driver’s side. In case he wanted to maneuver to escape, he would consequently have his tyre punctured.

It took the intervention of a senior LASTMA official who was standing from far watching the big fight between his junior and the driver of the van, who is also the team lead for the dancing group. The team lead asserted that he wasn’t parking his car wrongly and was just to put off the engine of his van by the designated bus stop.

Hence, he wondered why the harassment? It got messier and almost scandalous against the LASTMA official, who was demanding that the team lead pays N20,000. From there, the argument got thicker and the crowd mounted the more. The team lead told Sunday Telegraph that he had been watching with growing impatience the rate at which the Lagos law enforcement agencies are harassing motorists.

“They are now at every junction harassing and extorting under the guise of the law that they are grossly misinformed. I am not saying there should be break down of law and order but the law is meant for humans. As such, it should have human face and be corrective instead of extorting the people,” he said.

Sunday Telegraph witnessed another big fight between a cab driver and a VIO official by Alausa Secretariat. The cab driver was shouting, begging for mercy and at the same explaining himself that he did nothing but the VIO official was just harassing him. He was also pleading to the sentiments of passersby, explaining that he had a pregnant wife in the hospital, sick, aged mother and two children, who have been driven away from school.

So, seizing his cab would result to grievous disaster for him and his immediate family. All pleas from both driver and passersby fell on deaf ears of the VIO official, who insisted that the driver’s vehicle papers had not only expired but the driver also disobeyed the traffic rules by picking passengers off the road and not at the designated bus stop.

 

The driver countered that he was only directing passengers standing by the roadside to come to the bus stop, which was about 10 metres away from where it would be convenient for him to pick them.

According to the driver, the VIO official suddenly jumped in front of his car, demanding for his car papers and faulting him for beckoning passengers while driving. The driver maintained that the VIO official didn’t ask for his car papers, which he said were up to date. “My car papers are up to date. They just got renewed. I believe that he was looking for what I cannot afford to give him. I have so much already on my hands eating me up,” he lamented.

Another disgraceful scene was between a truck driver and a LASTMA official exactly in front of the VIO office, Ojodu, Lagos. This time, it was between a much educated driver and a power drunk enforcement driver.

After much heated argument between the driver and the LASTMA official, who insisted on towing the truck away into the compound; the driver went naked in full glare of all passersby and motorists.

This aggravated the LASTMA official more and he insisted on towing the truck. Explaining to Sunday Telegraph, the Economics degree holder-truck driver said: “The LASTMA man stopped me demanding for my truck papers and charged me with smoking truck. I told him that it wasn’t in his place to arrest/harass me for smoking exhaust pipe of my truck and my papers.

He called the VIO official, who believed that I don’t have a right to talk. He came to shout me down that who am I to question their authority. He didn’t even bother to listen to the reason he was invited to the scene. At that point, I demanded that we go inside and meet his boss, where I believe I would get justice but without the truck going inside with me. Because I know if the truck goes inside, it would be different case entirely.

They know how to tell lies and twist issues.” How disappointed he was inside the compound, “the boss calmly told me to go pay the N25,000 fine given to me before he would give me a listening ear.

Well, I left the truck there and asked my lawyer to pursue the case. Five days later, I got a call to come carry my truck. I did without paying a dime. It’s not fair that the system should be extorting people struggling to make a living,” he said.

Part of the tough time for motorists is the issue of vehicle papers registration.

Motorists expressed dissactification about the policy that they cannot renew their expired vehicle license papers in another state different from where they initially registered it. One Mr. Olatunde is a commercial driver, who lamented bitterly on the policy of renewing his vehicle papers and licence. He said he registered the vehicle in Lagos but by the time the paper got expired, he had relocated to Ogun State, Mowe precisely. He walked into the OPIC building and got his papers renewed. But he was shocked and disappointed when he was apprehended in Lagos that he was yet to renew his papers. He told them he had done it. “They told me no way and not recognized if the renewal was not done in Lagos where I had registered it,” he said.

Some other motorists corroborated Mr. Olatunde that it is the same dilemma for them as drivers. While some find the policy as extortion and witch hunting, others understand it to be means of revenue generation for different states.

An official of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), who pleaded anonymity told Sunday Telegraph that any vehicle that has Lagos State number cannot renew in another state, adding that it is a Lagos State Act and not that of the federal.

She explained that it is a source of revenue generation for each state in the country.

But a motorist countered that it doesn’t make sense. He argued that should he be on a course in Port Hacourt and his vehicle papers got expired; “would you say because you registered them in Lagos , you would wait until the end of your course before you go and renew it in Lagos? I suggest that policy should be looked into thoroughly, so that they can make the necessary amendment,” he said.

Really worrisome for private car owners is the registration process of their vehicles in Lagos State. They complained that it is a cumbersome process for them to get their vehicles checked and get the papers validated as well road worthiness.

Mr Jeff Emenike spent about five days to get his SUV car papers validated at Lagos Computerised Vehicle Inspection Service (LACVIS), Ojodu branch. Going by his experience, which he termed horrible, his first day experience, he waited for about three hours. The service didn’t get to him. Three days later, it got to his turn but some faults were detected, hence, his car wasn’t certified road worthy yet.

After fixing the faulty part, it took him another five days to get his car certified road worthy.

And it didn’t come easy for him. On the fifth day, Emenike arrived at the centre exactly 9.30am, was number six on the queue but he couldn’t get his car finally certified until 5.37pm. He said against his policy, he had to bribe some of the officials to get his car checked quickly that day. While on the queue, he narrated that many cars that came pretty much late after him bypassed his car to get checked and leave the venue shortly after they drove in.

At the centre, Sunday Telegraph observed a fleet of vehicles driving in; the drivers stepped down from their vehicles, walked hurriedly and shook hands with various officers in exchange of some token. And a few minutes later, their vehicles were brought into the machine checking point, and got validated. All the vehicle owners on the long queue that lamented bitterly about their various delayed experiences described the process as horrible and time wasting.

 

Mr Japhet Olusesan complained that he got queried in the office for the six days that he tried to get his car road worthy certified.

 

Another person, Patrick Onuoha, who complained that he has been coming and going back for almost two weeks and yet wasn’t still able to get his road worthiness, said it’s a messed up process. He believed Nigeria was not mature for some exposures and technique of doing things and one of them is the road worthy process. He believed that the process was only meant to serve as a trap in order to cash out on them (private car owners).

Ironically, commercial vehicles were driving into the premises for one issue or the other, mostly with LASTMA officials, FRSC, VIO but definitely not with LAGVIS.

They are not bothered with the process of bringing in their commercial buses for check of road worthiness. It is common knowledge to all, that most yellow buses do not have functional pointers, rear lights, or headlamps; have faulty brake systems; without complete vehicle documentation, or are generally rickety.

Physically, a good number of them are in bad shape, without side mirrors, smoky exhaust pipes and worn-out tyres. In addition, most of the drivers are reckless and incorrigible, according to some commuters, who spoke to Sunday Telegraph.

According to one Mr Olumide Ezekiel, commercial buses are the ones who commute majority of the populace. As such, their vehicles and its worthiness need more of the attention than private car owners. “But our government turn away their attention from these drivers’ recklessness and rickety buses.”

Other drivers on queue that day pointed out that, commercial vehicles that deal directly with majority of the population go scot free, unchecked and don’t obey traffic rules, thereby endangering the lives of the people.

Reacting to the complaints that commercial buses do not go for test, Engr. Akin George Fashola, Director, Vehicle Inspection Service, Lagos State, debunked it. He told Sunday Telegraph that, “that is totally incorrect and based on assumption. He explained that “VIS inspection services take some of them at various centres and make arrangements for others to be done at different parks and garages. You need to ask,” he said.

Buttressing the above raised points and private car owners’ grumbling that commercial vehicles and their drivers need most attention in the transport sector, Nigerians recently were thrown into mourning as seven passengers were burnt to death in a commercial bus that was gutted by fire at Iyana Oworo, inward Third Mainland bridge area of Lagos.

A video shared online showed the vehicle burning along with the bodies.

Sunday Telegraph found that aside the driver’s  10recklessness and over speeding, the commercial bus was also not in good condition. The bus was said not to have fuel cover. Instead, it was covered with a nylon. It was also said to be smoking badly from its exhaust pipe.

Olufemi Osanyintolu-Oke, Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Emergency Agency (LASEMA), in a statement said that five out of 12 passengers survived the incident.
He said investigation into the incident revealed that it “occurred due to recklessness and over speeding by the driver, which resulted in the fire with 12 passengers trapped.”

“Unfortunately, seven victims were burnt to death (four female, two male adults and one male child ) in the bus,” the statement read.

“All the remains have been bagged by the Agency’s LRT Paramedics, LASAMBUS officials and handed over to SEHMU.”

This happened a few days after 10 people got burnt to death at the Ogun State end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, where a petrol-laden truck caught fire following a head on collision with another fuel-laden truck and other vehicles.

According to Babatunde Akinbiyi, the Public Relations Officer, Traffic Compliance and Enforcement Corps (TRACE), the fatal accident occurred when a white Iveco truck lost control while in motion due to overspeeding and rammed into a stationary petrol-laden tanker in front of a Conoil petrol station, igniting fire after spilling its content on the road.

Another ghastly motor accident occurred at Iyana-Isolo under–bridge, Lagos State, days after that . The accident claimed a six-year-old boy, also leaving several others severely injured. According to an eye witness account, it happened while commuters were waiting for Danfo buses in the morning. As the bus without side mirrors came and the passengers were filing in, a truck carrying container was said to be on high speed, lost control and ran into the Danfo bus and the few passengers. The six-year-old boy died on the spot.

Govt should please look into our plights

Meanwhile, commercial motorcycle riders and commuters are pleading with the Lagos State government for change of policy on the ban of Okada in some parts of the state, Grammar School in Ojodu, specifically.

In this part of the state, Okada has become a major transportation that carry commuters from various parts of Ogun State (Alagbole, Akute, Lambe, Matogbun and Ajuwon) to Grammar school. But the ban of Okada known as (motorcyclists) at Grammar School area of Ojodu has been disastrous to commuters and OKADA riders as it is now affecting them seriously more economically.

Speaking with a graduate, under anonymity, he said the government does not have any plan or sympathy for the masses in their agenda. The hard way, for them, is the only way. “We resorted to working as motorcyclists to earn a livelihood rather than engaging in any illicit business that will tarnish the image of our families and the reputation of our communities. We have an organisation ACROMORON, which is supervised by the Ministry of Transportation and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission. Everything was going well until we were told that the government had decided to ban us. It has been all about banning for some time. They haven’t given any cogent reason they took such a decision. They will say it is due to the rate of okada accidents; they said okada riders are working as thieves, which is false. But we should be careful not to turn commercial motorcyclists into criminals.”

He continued that some of those who are supposed to be in school have taken to riding okada. “Imagine taking that away from them! If you push them to the streets now, we are looking at the future criminals in society. Is it possible for someone to ride okada from morning till night and still be a criminal? How possible is it? It is not possible in any way. Everybody has a reason they became an okada rider; and now that the government is talking about banning OKADA, I don’t know what they want us to do. We are well-trained while growing up and even society has taught us manners,” he lamented.

Speaking with another commuter, he said: “I know an OKADA rider who is studying Microbiology and had to take a break from school. He resorted to riding OKADA to gather money for his project. Now that they have banned okada, what do you expect him to do?

“I don’t think the government thought this ban through and thoroughly or investigate to pick out the chaff from the wheat. “Banning okada can never be the solution to any problem. When there was a problem in the aviation sector, the government went there to make sure they sanitised the system and made it work.

They should do the same for us. We need collaboration with the government.”

A father of five children had been in the commercial motorcycle business for some time now. He lamented the unreasonable measures the Lagos State Government meted towards curbing crimes and social vices.

“There are other ways the government could deal with us. Yes, I agree that some of us are reckless and careless when riding. But regardless, banning us won’t solve the problem. It will only make the situation worse. Like the proverbial saying, the righteous do not have to take part in the punishment of the sinner. Like us that are riding from Grammar School to Ogun State. We have been very useful to the people living in Alagbole, Akute and Ajuwon (Ogun State) like businessmen and women especially students. Even if they want to ban us, what do they want us to fall back to? If we migrate to Berger, there will be a lot of competition and we will not make enough profit to feed our family.”

Speaking with another Okada man, he said, “since the ban of Okada on Grammar School, things have changed in my family”. He said he has now become a man that his wife will be holding his clothes because he has no money to drop before he leaves the house. He has now become a bad father to his children when he reduced their feeding money. “My profit has drastically dropped from N7, 000 to N3,000 and the price of tickets we buy from the garage touts otherwise known as agbero daily remains the same. Some of my friends have decided to stop the Okada business,” he added.

In a chat with another rider, he narrated that he was staying at Apapa, carrying people from one place to another before Lagos State banned them from riding around that location. “So, I decided to change my location to Grammar School, plying some parts of Ogun State and here am I stranded now. I can’t even go near Grammar School any longer because if I get caught, I will have to pay a fine which I can’t provide,” he cried.

“We Okada are always available 24/7 and ready for passengers where mini-bus and tricycles cannot reach. Consequently now, many of our customers have taken to trekking from Grammar School to their various homes. They can be lucky sometimes because some riders still try to have their ways by daring to operate. For instance, when one Okada rider surfaces, about five passengers would fight dirty over it.”

Speaking with a commuter, she complained that it had been very difficult for ease of movement for her and her family, especially when she was on morning duty.

 

“Whenever I’m on morning duty, I get to work late and my workplace has come to understand for me. That is the luck for me,” she said. Continuing that life was much easier with Okada available for ease of movement for them, she said that, “life was easier. They just carry you to your destination faster but now life has been very difficult and it is affecting us. Government should please look into it for us,” she pleaded.

Another commuter said that, “the banning of okada is the least of our problems because there are other issues that are important like flood, scarcity of fuel, e.t.c. and they are banning okada, people’s source of income, which is a wrong idea and it will surely affect everybody no matter what. So, let them concentrate on something else. They should be good research on this issue.”

Speaking with a student, Morewa, she said since the ban at Grammar school, she has been coming late to school which made her look like a bad girl now. “I was coming early before the ban. The reason is that you will hardly see a tricycle or mini-bus waiting at Grammar school ready for us commuters to Alagbole, Akute, Lambe and Ajuwon. They won’t be around. Even if they are around, before it gets filled up, it takes much time.”

Additional reports by Johnpaul Aborishade

 

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