Commuters may heave a sigh of relief on Monday if the proposed talks between the leadership of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association of Nigeria and the Lagos State Parks and Garages Management end on a positive note.
The state government, JDWAN members, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria and the parks management held a meeting at Alausa, Lagos, presided over by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Sola Giwa.
The meeting was to resolve the seven-day protest embarked upon by JDWAN members against alleged extortion, and harassment by officials of the parks and management formerly the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Lagos State chapter.
In a statement announcing the protest which ended today (Sunday), JDWAN national leader, Abiodun Akintade, stated that the affected members were drivers of mini-buses, coaster buses, Mazda buses, T4, LT, Ford, and cars. Our correspondent, who monitored the protest for four days, observed that normal activities took place in most of the motor parks.
In a telephone conversation with our correspondent on Saturday, Akintade stated that after the Friday tripartite meeting, the state government directed that a meeting should be held on Monday (tomorrow) between the JDWAN and the parks and garages management to amicably resolve the issue.
Akintade stated that JDWAN was an amalgamation of the drivers’ welfare association; a joint arm of individual registered transport welfare groups, noting that some of them had yet to register.
He added, “The meeting with the agberos will hold on Monday after which we will know the next line of action. We will give them a week to meet our demands. The JDWAN doesn’t have parks and part of our demands is for the agberos to return to their parks, collect only the acceptable N800 ticket assigned by the state government and desist from extortion on the roads. We cannot keep working like an elephant and eating like an ant. These are our simple demands.
“We concluded a meeting with the representatives of the state government on Friday and agreed to give them a week to deliberate on the issue. We will wait till November 13 for them to put their acts together and meet our demands. If that fails, we will embark on another protest. Our demands are not ambiguous; all we want is for them to obey the May 2022 court order released where our demands have been highlighted.”
The Lagos State Government and transportation stakeholders in January this year signed a Memorandum of Understanding for daily collection of levies from commercial drivers at parks and garages in the state. The Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Rabiu Olowo, noted that the N800 levy covers money for the local government, clearing waste from motor parks paid to the Ministry of Transportation, Lagos State Waste Management Authority and Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency.
For four days during the seven-day protest, our correspondent toured some of the parks and noticed that the protest lost steam after a few days. Commercial buses were seen loading passengers to different areas in the state. A lout (agbero) in charge of the Iyana-Ipaja area of the state was seen collecting levies from bus drivers before he allowed them to drive off with their passengers. Our correspondent spoke to the levy collector identified only as Sheriff who said he heard there was a protest by JDWAN members but it wasn’t observed in the area.
He said, “I have no idea why they didn’t observe it in this area but I heard it was ongoing in some areas especially the Badagry expressway. We have been working since Monday. I have no idea what the issue is about.’’
Our source earlier reported that some members of the parks and garages Management, aka agberos, mocked the protest, saying hunger would force the transport operators back to the roads.
One of the bus drivers at Iyana Ipaja motor park, Marvelous Olusola, was having a discussion with some of his colleagues on a sunny Thursday.
He told our source that the strike had not been called off, adding that some drivers defied the order to mitigate the hardship on commuters.
He said that the strike was tough at the Berger bus stop in the Badagry area of the state, explaining that the order was obeyed by some drivers in the Alimosho area of the state.
Olusola said, “The strike has not ended but I guess there are plans to resolve the issue soon. Our grievances should be looked into because staying at home to fight for our rights is not a waste of time. It is better than working for someone else. For instance, a driver working under the scorching sun makes N10,000 per day and someone who collects money from him rakes in about N8,000 daily. It’s not fair at all.
“This amounts to one working without any proceeds and one can barely feed well. Some of us got the bus on hire purchase and paying back in installments. These people don’t care about our welfare. All they want to do is take what they didn’t work for.”
He said that they paid multiple levies daily apart from the stipulated one at the park, adding, “If I convey passengers from Iyana Ipaja to Egbeda for instance, I will pay a levy at every bus stop where commuters alight before getting to my destination which shouldn’t be. If one doesn’t pay on time, they destroy one’s vehicle’s windscreens and other parts. We had to abide by the directive of our leadership. The day the strike commenced, many commuters suffered, waited under the sweltering sun, trekked long distances, and struggled to board the few available buses. Those who do not want our progress are the ones saying the protest will amount to nothing. We have to deprive ourselves of livelihoods for the few days to get positive results.”
Moreover, Mustapha Ibrahim, who plies between Iyana Ipaja and Ojodu Berger axis daily, said the protest was in their interest, noting that it positively affected their livelihoods. He added that the bone of contention was the government backing the louts because they were authorised government agents, wondering why touting should be allowed in a mega city like Lagos.
He said, “The effect of the strike will be on us because we do not have a government. The government doesn’t care about us. Ordinarily, in a sane clime, the strike should have yielded a positive result but it won’t because we have a failed government. We are suffering. It’s only God who can save us from the mess. If we sit at home, how do we feed our families? Those going to their workplaces got stranded too. Going on strike is not the solution because it will yield no positive result in the end.”
He noted that the parks and garages management was controlled by the government, stating that the agency would rather support the government than the drivers.
Another commercial bus driver who gave his name simply as Baba Wasiliu, said he was initially unaware of any protest, adding, “We have been working since Monday at Iyana Ipaja though some of the drivers joined the protest. I don’t know about the protest and I do not know why there is a protest in the first place.”
However, Akintade noted that low compliance by some drivers was expected, adding that most of the drivers refused to comply with the directive on the seven-day protest. He further said that if the drivers had complied, the state government would have addressed the matter and proffered a solution.
He stated, “That is why we have not been attended to yet. There is no cooperation between drivers.’’
Earlier, our source reported that the Chairman, Lagos State Parks and Garages Management, Musiliu Akinsanya, otherwise called MC Oluomo, debunked claims that bus drivers in the state were attacked and ordered the aggrieved commercial bus drivers to channel their grievances to the appropriate quarters. Also, Oluomo, through the Secretary, Parks and Garages Management (Operations), Olayiwola Lemboye, said the agency had a conflict resolution mechanism to address the grievances of bus drivers.
He said that the state secretariat of the agency was always open to address issues among its members, stating that they had yet to receive any complaint on the issue of extortion or harassment from anyone.
He stated that the government recognised two bodies – the suspended NURTW in Lagos State and the RTEAN, stating that JDWAN was unknown. However, he added that despite not being a recognised group, JDWAN was granted an audience but the group resorted to blackmail.
He said that the protest had a political undertone, cautioning the group against politicising the operations of commercial transportation in the state. But Akintade said that the drivers didn’t need to be a registered group to fight against extortion and harassment.
Reacting to the issue, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, noted that the JDWAN leadership held meetings with the state government at the state secretariat in Alausa, Ikeja, but decided to take the case to court.
He said, “The government has listened to their grievances. We told JDWAN that those extorting from them are not licensed. These guys are mainly from Badagry. The police are aware and have been making arrests as such. Though they have resorted to going to court, the strike has not affected the movement of buses in the state. We are in talks with them to resolve the issue.”