Nigerian News

Confusion As Lagos Bus Drivers’ Strike Continues

The Evangelist
November 3, 2022

Efforts to resolve the grievances, which forced members of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association of Nigeria (JDWAN) to embark on a strike in Lagos State have proved abortive. TAJUDEEN ADEBANJO reports that all the parties may return to the negotiation table to iron out all issues.

As the strike embarked upon by the Joint Drivers Welfare Association of Nigeria (JDWAN) enters the third day in Lagos State, commuters said the impact was largely not felt across Lagos metropolis. This is due to the fact that only a handful of commercial bus drivers complied with the directive.

At a briefing last Friday at Rights House, 43, Adeniyi Jones Street, Ikeja, JDWAN vowed to go ahead with its planned seven-day strike and boycott of services over multiple and excessive extortion by the management of parks and garages in the state. Its leaders – Akintade Abiodun, National Leader; Opeyemi Sulaiman, Chairman; Ajimatanarareje Feyisayo, General Secretary and Taofik Hassan, Assistant Secretary, said JDWAN is a broad association of commercial bus drivers that earn their living through “our profession of driving.”

The association said they will continue to boycott the roads until certain conditions are met. “Our demands are: No to charging drivers’ three passengers’ money after loading in parks or garages. We are demanding it should be one passenger’s money per bus. We demand that only Lagos State government ticket should be the only ticket in Lagos.

Others like Lagos State Parks & Garages Management and Lagos State Caretaker Committee (both established by the Lagos State Government in lieu of the suspended National Union of Road Transport, NURTW and Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria, RTEAN,) are not acceptable to all drivers in Lagos State.

“We kick against paying motor park thugs at every bus stop. All illegal money paid after we leave the garages and parks should be abolished immediately. Harassment of law enforcement agencies and intimidation with guns, cutlass, broken bottles by the Lagos State Traffic Maintenance Authority (LASTMA), Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences Unit (Task Force) and Rapid Response Squad (RRS) must end immediately. They collaborate and hire thugs to attack and extort us every day without violating any law.

“We have lesser bus stops for commercial vehicles. Most bus stops in Lagos are strictly assigned officially to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system only and we get arrested for dropping off passengers at existing bus stops, which are known to commuters as official bus stops for decades. We demand that the Lagos State government should provide official bus stops in each community to avoid incessant arrests and stress for commuters who complain of having to trek several kilometres back to their bus stops.”

According to them, failure on the part of government to quickly respond to avert the current anomaly will only attract more protest and total boycott. However, on Sunday, the association General Counsel and Legal Adviser, Ayo Ademiluyi, told The Nation that the protest would not go ahead, but the boycott will as announced.

This may be due to a meeting held with the officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation on Friday and another one scheduled to hold today.

Confirming meeting with state officials, National Leader of JDWAN, Abiodun Akintade, said the meeting yielded no fruitful result. According to him, “The state government has since made no concrete response to JDWAN’s demands; rather, their representatives only asked for another letter to be submitted on Monday, which is regarded as a joke on our part. Having released press statement with concise demands, we also honoured the demand to deliver physical copy of the letters to the Lagos State government, the SSS, the Commissioner of Police and Commissioner for Transport respectively.”

He stated that there is an existing restraining court order granted by Justice P.O. Lifu of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, against the Lagos State Government and all transport agencies, stopping them from ticketing, bus stop levies, motor park levies, dues and any form of extortion from commercial drivers with suit no: FHC/L/CS/224/2022 between applicant; Olukoya Ogungbeje, Transport Union Society of Nigeria (TUSON) and respondents; NURTW, RTEAN, NARTO, Musiliu Akinsanya (MC Oluomo), Mohammed Musa, Lawal Yusuf Othman, Lagos State Government, Attorney-General of Lagos State, Inspector-General of Police, Director General of State Security Service.

Akintade said: “It is sad that the representatives of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu are mocking Lagos drivers’ predicament and are disinterested in stopping the major factor causing high cost of living in Lagos, by asking for another letter and demanding that we call off the boycott without addressing our five demands.” JDWAN’s demands from the state government, he said, include compliance to the court order, which stopped collection of levies by motor park thugs at every bus, stop end to harassment by law enforcement agencies, and building of more bus stops, among others.”

On Monday and yesterday, the strike was effective in some areas, namely Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Ikorodu Road and part of Ikorodu; some sections in Alimosho and Badagry areas. There were long queues in the afore-mentioned areas. The few bus drivers working took advantage of the situation to hike the fare. School children were stranded at bus stops while few trekked to their schools. Some commercial bus drivers told The Nation that they were in support of the strike; while others believed that the association is a strange body.

“It is true that the amount we pay at garages is too much. Many of us do daily delivery. How do we get money to pay the owners of the busses and how much is left for us to take care of ourselves and family members,” Segun Olakunle said.

Olakunle, who plies Ikotun-Cele route, urged government to regulate the transport sector. Suraju Ajibola, who plies between Mile 2 and Oshodi, said he waited at home to see if the strike action would be effective. “When my colleagues started calling and asking if I’m not working, I decided to come out. I’ve lost part of the day already. To me, the strike is not effective,” he said.

Seun Ajagbe queried the audacity of the association to call for a strike action. According to him, many bus drivers don’t know the leadership of the association. “If they are accusing the park management of illegality, is their action too not illegal? We all know that government recognised only two union bodies (NURTW and RTEAN); they are not under any of them. Does that mean any group of people can just come out under any name and start disturbing the peace of the state? I don’t take them serious,” Ajagbe said.

However, Chairman of Lagos State Parks and Garages Management, Musiliu Akinsanya (Aka MC Oluomo), has called on the aggrieved commercial bus drivers to channel their grievances to the appropriate quarters. Akinsanya said the agency has conflict resolution mechanism to address grievances of bus drivers. He said that state secretariat of the agency is always open to address issues among their members.

“As we speak, we have not received any communication from anyone on the issue of extortion or harassment. They ought to have reported the matter to their branch chairmen or bring it to the state secretariat if branch chairmen are not forthcoming,” he said. He cautioned the group against politicising the operations of commercial transportation in the state.

“The purported strike action has a political undertone. If not, how come they are coming under a name unknown to the law? The government recognises two bodies – the suspended National Union of Road Transport Union (NURTW) in Lagos State and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN). The Joint Drivers’ Welfare Association of Nigeria (JDWAN) is not known. Despite that, the state government’s Liaison Officer to the Parks and Garages Management, Mr Hakeem Odumosu, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, has also waded into the matter and held meeting with them. Instead of adhering to the agreement reached at the meeting, they resulted to blackmailing the respected retired police officer,” he said.

On his part, Secretary of the Parks and Garages Management (Operations), Comrade Olayiwola Lemboye, denied the allegation of attack on members of the aggrieved body. “The Chairman of Lagos State Parks and Garages Management Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya is a peaceful person and will never subscribe to such illegalities. More so, our operations are limited in the Berger area of Badagry where they alleged that some of their people were attacked,” he said.

While enjoining members of the public to go about their lawful duties, he said Akinsanya has been liaising with branch chairmen of how to handle the grievances of the aggrieved transporters in a peaceful manner. The Lagos State Government said it is looking into the demands of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association of Nigeria (JDWAN), with a view to finding permanent solutions to the issues raised by the Association. The Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Sola Giwa, said the move becomes necessary following the alleged “harassment and extortion by motor parks and garages management.”

According to him, the Ministry of Transportation invited its leadership to a meeting on Friday, despite its non-affiliation to any of the transport unions known by the state government (NURTW and RTEAN). Giwa said most of the union members at the meeting were from the Badagry axis and it was resolved that the meeting be adjourned till today to have a larger house (the unions inclusive) and resolve the matter amicably. The outcome of the meeting, he said, will be made known to the public.

“The state government urges drivers to continue their daily routine without fear of molestation and intimidation as security agencies have been directed to maintain law and order. Those who are taking advantage of the situation to raise fares are warned to desist from doing so or face the consequences of their illegal actions,” Giwa said.

The governorship candidate of Action Alliance in Lagos State, Mr Tope Balogun, has called on Alhaji Akinsanya to quickly address the grievances of some commercial bus drivers. According to him, the strike action embarked upon by the aggrieved drivers is avoidable. Balogun said the issue of uncontrolled extortions speaks volume on how much they care less about the comfort of the residents of the state. (The Nation)

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