As unemployment is aggravated by the extravagant nature of our leaders and other government officials who pleasure in wasting public funds, and amassing of ill-acquired wealth, extortion has become a very lucrative industry for many youths in most towns and cities across the country.
Extortion though, not new in the country is so prominent in road transport sector with the Centre of Excellence, Lagos State, at the leading position where almost all the bus stops have been converted into money making quarters.
These bus stops are always manned by vile, ruthless, abrasive, violent and vicious youths coercing commercial bus drivers to pay varying amounts of money per trip.
Many, including my very self believe that the withdrawal of police officers by the new Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed D. Abubakar from the highways and eventual abolition of road blocks and checkpoints paved the way for these miscreants (‘Agberos’) under the guise of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to take complete control of this dastardly, illegal (may be legal) toll offering in bus stops across the over populated metropolitan Lagos.
Prior to their withdrawal from the roads, the police officers were making huge financial profits so to say running into millions of naira from the numerous checkpoints created by them until the assumption of office of Abubakar who instructed their removal from the roads to the police stations.
Generally known as “agbero”, a Yoruba parlance for those, usually able bodied youths, who load and scout for passengers for commercial buses at assigned motor parks, they now operate outside the parks, situating themselves an all the bus stops, enforcing all sorts of levies, dues and charges on commercial bus drivers. While in a bus last week, a fellow passenger told me that this unruly act is exhibited with the tacit encouragement by the Lagos State Government.
The National Union of Road Transport Workers’, NURTW leadership, which is recognized as a Labour Union, employs men who collect money from unfortunate commercial transport operators, in many occasions using physical force in open display of brutality.
The impunity, viciousness, barbarism and inhumanity exhibited by these people in collecting money from bus drivers and conductors portrays Lagos as lawless, ‘beasty’ and uncivilized so to say. In spite of everything, this wickedness is exhibited openly in the day and night, in a state that prides herself as the ‘’Centre of Excellence’’.
Both commuters and commercial bus drivers go through this upsetting experience daily at the hands of these wicked NURTW officials or agberos.
Each of the bus stops has its unit of agbero operatives, properly trained in Gestapo way to extort money from the commercial bus drivers. The agberos are well equipped with weapons such as woods, sticks, rods and canes to harm buses who refuse to stop at the bus stop to pay financial offerings ranging from #50, #100, #200 and even higher.
Any conductor who hesitates to pay as quickly as possible would have himself to blame as wind screens are always broken, side mirrors are smashed or even pulled out, wipers, fuel tank lids are removed. Even spare tyre is sometimes removed. The very barbaric ones among them even go to the length of entering the buses and remove the seats and when this is done, the bus conductor would have to pay far more than the normal amount to reclaim the seat.
Many a times, delay in payment or refusal to pay the toll charge could even lead to more merciless beatings of the conductor and driver by group of agberos.
On Lagos roads today, the fear of agberos is the beginning of wisdom for commercial bus operators.
On the other hand, motor cycle riders (okada) are also harassed and openly exploited by another sets of agberos, who claim to be working for Local Government Councils in whose area they run.
Finally before I end this piece, my question is: Is the state government not aware of this exploitation or do they benefit from this as well?
May God save us from these heartless monsters!
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