Some commercial drivers plying the Iyana-Ipaja area of Lagos State and its environs, on Tuesday, protested alleged harassment and extortion by personnel of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Special Offences Unit.
The drivers, who carried placards with various inscriptions, left commuters stranded for hours.
The drivers noted that over 30 buses were impounded on Monday by the agency in the Ojodu-Berger area of the state.
While urging the Lagos State Government to scrap the agency, the drivers alleged that personnel of the task force usually extorted between N40, 000 and N50,000 whenever their buses were impounded.
One of the drivers, Abel Ayoade, claimed that the agency’s illegal operation had made life unbearable for the commercial motorists.
He stated, “The officers usually come out as early as 5am and start impounding vehicles, which they take them to their office in Oshodi, and we have to pay between N40,000 and N50,000 before each bus can be released.
“So, we decided to withdraw our services today (Tuesday) to protest the illegal activities as well as bring them to the attention of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the relevant authorities so that they caution the task force men.
“The harassment and extortion must stop; they are getting unbearable. We have families to fend for. We are not armed robbers; that is why we are doing legitimate work.”
Another driver, Tajudeen Owolabi, told our correspondent that one of his colleagues, who took off from Ojodu Berger and was heading for Sango, was stopped by the task force personnel in the Agege area of the state and had to pay N5,000 before his vehicle was released.
“It was like a war on Monday when the task force men stormed our park despite that we are not on the road ; we were in the garage built for us by the state government. Some of my colleagues have relocated to their states of origin, because of the stress of the transport business in Lagos, while some have taken to other businesses.
“We are begging the state governor to save us from the constant harassment, because we don’t drive against the traffic and we are not parking on the roadside.”
Reacting to the allegations by the drivers, the Public Relations Officer for the task force, Adebayo Taofiq, stated that the drivers were responsible for the gridlock being experienced in the state.
He said, “In as much as the drivers are not ready to comply with the state’s traffic law, they will continue having problems with the state traffic law enforcement agencies, particularly the task force.
“The drivers cannot differentiate between a garage and a bus stop; most of them will line up at designated bus stops and turn them to garages, which the state government will not tolerate .