Motor park touts defy ban, operate as usual

Extortion

A suspected tout

MANY Lagosians expected the menace caused by motor park touts, otherwise known as agberos, would be a thing of the past under the new administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, but from the look of things, the agberos seem to have assumed a more menacing dimension than in the past. They have emerged more forceful even in more strategic locations in the metropolis.

The state government, had on August 3, 2012, banned their activities at both motor parks and at bus stops. But a visit to major motor parks and some notorious spots in Lagos metropolis showed that the agberos are still in business as usual without hindrance.

Their operations are getting even fiercer and daring, wreaking havocs on hapless and helpless commercial bus drivers. This is in spite of the Road traffic laws enacted by the state’s House of Assembly under Babatunde Fashola’s administration.

To herald the implementation of the Lagos State Traffic Law, at that time, the erstwhile Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, at a press conference had said the government would no longer tolerate extortion on highways.   “Henceforth, union activities are no longer allowed at our motor parks.

They are to relocate to offices from where they will operate just like the National Union of Teachers and the National Union of Journalists. Also, no union member must be seen collecting money on the road,” Opeifa pledged at that time.

Today, their operations are not hidden in various bus terminals like Berger, Iyana Oworo, Alapere Estate, Ketu- Mile 12, Oshodi, Mushin, Ojuelegba and Barracks to mention but a few.

Investigation revealed that lack of enforcement of the law on the ban is responsible for their presence on the road. Some government officials said lack of state police to enforce the ban is to be blamed.

A common feature of the touts is that they often go about with a cane/stick and, in some cases, a marker, which they use to mark the bus whose driver has paid their dues.

At bus stops and other strategic places, they extort money with brute force from commercial drivers and conductors. The sticks they wield become useful in a situation where the conductors hesitate to part with money they demand.

At times, they can smash vehicle’s side mirrors, pull off bus’ wipers and at another occasion, cause traffic obstruction at will. No security agents dare stop them. They are ready tools of causing mayhem in the hands of desperate politicians.

The levies they impose on drivers are many and these include ‘Owo weekend, Owo loading,’ ‘Owo olopa,’ ‘Owo task force,’ ‘Owo organising’, ‘Owo traffic’, Owo environmental, Owo LASTMA just to mention but a few.

Owo means money in Yoruba Language. Expressing worries on government’s inability to check the activities of these agberos in the state, a lawyer, Akingbolu Aina, said there is no excuse for failure to enforce the law.

He said the argument is not only primitive and unsustainable, but also ridiculous. “ It is another way of accepting failure by the government that the citizens rely on to save the situation.

He called on the new government of Akinwunmi Ambode to find lasting solution to the menace. Another Lagosian, Mrs. Shola Arowobusoye, who was recently robbed of her belongings at Oshodi, blamed the agberos for the lost of her bags.

She said her handbag was snatched whilst she attempted to enter a Mile 2 bound bus at Oshodi Oke, when the agberos blocked the entrance in a bid to collect money from the bus conductor.

She appealed to the government to do something to stop agberos at the bus stops to save innocent citizens from molestation or brutalization by the uncouth touts who often reek of nauseating illicit gin or Indian hemp.

Relating some of his bitter experiences with the agberos, a commercial bus driver, who identified himself simply as Jide, said almost half of what he earns daily is lost to the illegal activities.

Jide, who plies Ketu- Iyana Oworo- Mile 2 routes said: “When we heard that the activities of Agberos have been banned, I was relieved that they have left the road for good, but within a short while, the touts soon found their way back to bus stops.  “Out of the N10, 000 I make daily, N 6,000 goes to the owner of the bus, and I end up giving out about N3, 000 to these touts who collect money with various names.

At the end of the day, I share the little that is left with my conductor. We are not happy about this situation, and government should not only make orders, they should also ensure compliance.”



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