Commuters were on Saturday stranded along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway as drivers of commercial bus popularly known as ‘Danfo’ protested alleged extortion and constant manhandling by louts.
No commercial shuttle was seen pliying the roads while several commuters were spotted trekking.
Only commercial motorcycles were seen having a field day bargaining and conveying passengers on an agreed payment condition.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that commercial bus drivers had embarked on a “cease commuter operation” along the Lagos-Badagry axis up to Mile 2 area of the state, following what they termed an unbearable increment in their ticket fees.
Some commercial bus drivers, who spoke to our correspondent, disclosed that they would not return to work along the axis unless government intervened to address an outrageous hike in ticket fees by transport unions in Lagos.
The drivers alleged that unions under the aegis of National Union of Road Transport Workers and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria are responsible for regulating the affairs of commercial buses in the axis.
They said that members of the unions are allegedly extorting bus drivers by collecting exorbitant ticket fees, as well as allegedly brutalising drivers who failed to cooperate with them.
According to them, the union has indiscriminately increased the price of their ticket from N500 to N800 without a warning notice. They described the situation as unbearable especially considering the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had left a majority of bus drivers in want.
A commercial bus driver, Mr Kehinde Solomon, said that the ticket fees collected by those he described as “agberos” had become outrageous.
He stressed that drivers pay different exorbitant amount of money at every bus stop, adding that members of the union collect these monies by coercion and without empathy.
He said that they often beat up drivers and conductors who delay or refuse payment and even vandalised their buses.
“Commercial bus drivers usually pay N500 at every bus stop but we are now compelled to pay N800.
“We wake up in the morning to begin to hustle for our daily bread, but at the end of the day we have no reasonable amount to go home with because it will all be spent on “agberos” at every bus stop,” Solomon said.
Another driver, Mr Felix Iwuanyanwu, said that commercial drivers are now compelled to pay N800 at each bus stop as against the initial N500, notwithstanding whether they have conveyed passengers or not.
He said that where any driver hesitate to instantly produce the money as demanded by the union, they go as far as cracking windscreen, removing wipers, deflating tyres and even gang beat up against such driver and his conductor.
Iwuanyanwu described this as very oppressive and unacceptable to any right thinking citizen, and urged the Lagos State Government to come to the aid of commercial bus drivers in the state.