By Christopher Oji, Lagos
Many people were injured and vehicles vandalised when commercial bus drivers protested alleged police extortion and government insensitivity to their plights at the Cele area on Mile 2/Oshodi Expressway, Lagos on Tuesday.
Hoodlums hijacked the protest, using the opportunity to rob passersby and destroyed some vehicles.
The hoodlums set bonfires with used tires on the road, causing serious panic that caused shops to close down and commuters to run for safety.
Already, 16 suspected hoodlums have been arrested by the police in connection with what the police described as a public disturbance.
Daily Sun gathered that the commercial bus drivers were protesting police extortion and the installation of road signage on roads that used to serve as bi-directional ways as one-way.
A commercial bus driver, Mark Lukachukwu, said: ‘We are facing serious extortion from the police, Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LATSMA), Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO). We are like rabbits as all the government agencies set traps for us and there is no way we can escape all the traps. The National Union of Road Transport Workers also collects their own dues. The extortion is becoming too overbearing because we can’t bear it anymore. All the agencies collect money from us and we won’t have enough to give to the owners of vehicles and take home. We are working for the agencies.
‘We decided to be on the street today to notify the state government to do something about the situation. We protested last week so as to sensitise the government, but the government is insensitive to our plights. We shall continue with the protest till the state government takes action and save us from monumental extortion from the government agencies. Many people were injured while running away from the police who were firing gunshots.’
The protest forced commuters to trek long distances as drivers refused to operate on the expressway.
According to the Head, Public Affairs Unit, Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Unit (Task Force), Mr Femi Moliki, the agency arrested 16 miscreants believed to have masterminded violence and robbing of commuters in Iyana Cele and Iyana Isolo.
‘The miscreants, who capitalised on the peaceful no work protest embarked upon by drivers of commercial buses on Oshodi-Mile 12 Expressway to unleash mayhem on commuters, were caught molesting passersby and destroying public facilities.
‘The Chairman, Lagos State Task Force, CSP Shola Jejeloye, who was in the area to maintain law and order as well as listen to some of the aggrieved protesters called for calm, saying that the government would address their grievances.
‘He added that no official of Lagos State Task Force operates between Toyota and Mile 2, adding that the agency is presently rejigging its operation in order to prevent reported incidences of illegal Task Force operatives in the metropolis.
‘He noted that he has listened to all complaints against the officials of the agency noting that genuine complaints would be addressed.
‘It was learnt that the drivers decided to protest the installation of road signage on roads that used to serve as bi-directional ways as one-way.
‘The miscreants arrested include Lekan Fatai 29, Tosin Ajakaye,32, Sakiru Lanre,38, Lekan Salaudeen 36, Hakeem Oyetoro 47, Daniel Adeojo,38, Ramon Moshood,30, Lekan Nureni,37, Okolawon Oluwaseun 39, Olajide Qudus, 24, Uchenna Idima, 28, Dada Hamid, 23, Tega Monday, 28, Rafiu Pelumi,20, and Wike Odigbi,27.
‘Recovered from the miscreants were machetes, charms, cudgels and other harmful weapons.’