Ayodeji Seriki Commercial drivers on Wednesday protested against alleged extortion by officials of the Lagos State task force, grinding pedestrian operations and marketing activities across parts of Lagos State.
The protest affected mostly passengers along the Agege-Ogba-Berger axis of the state.
As of 12.14 pm, gridlock had begun to build strong along the route with many passengers trekking long distances.
Some of the drivers were seen carrying dangerous objects, including 'weapons' in a bid to resist arrests.
The drivers were seen attacking their colleagues who made efforts to convey passengers and dislodge others, seen such members as betrayers.
They barricaded the road at the popular Omole junction.
One of the drivers, David, explained to the media he was made to pay N20, 000 by the task force officials.
Said he: "I was in the park when they arrested me. I was buying sachet water and I suddenly found some of them (task force officials) in my vehicle. I asked them what my offence was but they only said I have been arrested. I eventually paid N20,000 before I was freed,” he added.
According to another protester, some task force officials made it difficult for them to break even in their investment in the transportation business.
He said: “They said we should not drive Okada (motorcycle) again, we bought Keke Napep (tricycle). They banned that again and we bought minibusses. They still collect money from us as if we are operating illegally. We are tired of being treated like criminals. We cannot continue to pay illegal fees again. Anytime they stop you, they start to demand N20,000. This is unfair.”
However, the spokesman for the Lagos State Task Force, Mr Taofeek Adebayo, denied the allegations that the commercial drivers were being extorted, wh n he was contacted on telephone.
Said he: “The fact remains that their protest will not stop the agency from carrying out its statutory functions in enforcing the Lagos State Transport Reform.
“Since the #EndSARS protest, most of the commercial drivers have been driving with impunity across the state. They follow one way, allow passengers to alight at an undesignated bus stop. No responsible government will allow this kind of thing to continue.
“The enforcement will continue irrespective of their protest. Nobody would have arrested them if they committed no crime. We only impound vehicles of offenders.
“It is high time we separated the operatives of the task force from other enforcement officers. Those arrested by the task force, we charge them to mobile court. It is the court that stipulates your fine. Those extorting them are not our officials. There is no room for cash payment in Lagos State task force," he said.