BusinessDay

Lagos’ transport drivers in the throes of park managers

The crisis has festered for a long time. It is not surprising that the transport unions in Lagos State embarked on a seven-day strike to call the attention of those in authority in the state to their plight.

The regular harassment comes in the forms of rough handling, destruction of their vehicle parts such as side mirrors, or seizure of vehicles for not complying with the orders of officials of the Park Management Committee in the state.

Commuters in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos State, had difficulty going to their places of work on Monday, October 31, 2022, due to the industrial action embarked upon by the road transport unions in the state. The seven-day strike declared by Joint Drivers’ Welfare Association of Nigeria (JDWAN) is primarily to stop the constant harassment and extortion by the Parks Management Committee led by Musiliu Akinsanya, otherwise known as MC Oluomo.

The JDWAN complained about paying illegal fees in as many as 25 bus stops in a single trip. In addition, these hapless Nigerians are also forced to pay ridiculous fees such as entertainment fees, security fees, unit chairman’s food fees to the leadership of the park management officials. Failure to comply with the demands of the park management officials will be met with violence. Unfortunately, on most occasions, the Nigeria Police Force will look the other way.

The annual official road taxes revenue accruable to the coffers of the Lagos State government is far bigger than the annual IGR of 17 states in Nigeria

Transporters contribute to the Lagos State economy in no small measure. They are the reason workers in Lagos State could move from their homes to their offices daily.

The workers, especially those in the formal sector, are the major source of Lagos State’s stupendous internally generated revenue (IGR). In 2021, Lagos State generated N753.46 billion as IGR, representing 39.7 percent of the N1.89 trillion IGR made by the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.

Employees in the formal sector of Nigeria’s largest state economy, Lagos State, paid N430.44 billion as income to the state through the payment of Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax, amounting to 57 percent of Lagos State’s IGR.

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Lagos State also generated N40.3 billion through direct assessment tax, basically collected from players in the informal sector who also rely on the drivers to enhance their movements as well as their goods.

From the transport union themselves, the Lagos State government generated N19.70 billion through road taxes in 2021.

In fact, previous findings by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) established that the Lagos State government generated more revenue from road tax than what is usually announced, only that the difference is lost to the numerous undocumented players in the sector.

The annual official road taxes revenue accruable to the coffers of the Lagos State government is far bigger than the annual IGR of 17 states in Nigeria. This really shows how important commercial transport drivers are to the Lagos State economy.

Commuters in Lagos State have bad experiences to share on the activities of the officials of Lagos State Parks Committee. Especially at the peak hours, these officials most times dictate the transport fares to drivers, which are often times higher than the usually known transport fare per route. Any driver that protests against this order will either not be allowed to carry passengers, or he will only be allowed to carry passengers only for that trip with instructions not to return to that bus stop or park ever again.

It is overzealousness that will make officials of parks management committee to add this responsibility to their activities, especially as adding extra cost to transport fares, increases the burden of Lagosians majority of whom have not received salary increase in the last four years, even at a time inflation has eroded the purchasing power of money in the country.

It is high time the Lagos State government listened to the grievances of transport unions in the state. The sector where these individuals operate is so essential that without them the economy of the state will cease to function optimally.

Imagine what would have happened to the billion naira fruits and vegetables market in Mile 12 if the traders could not transport those produce to their different stalls and shops. Imagine what would have happened to the numerous patients in need of urgent medical attention across the state. In other words, transporters deserve decent treatment from the Lagos State government, its agencies and agents.

By and large, there is a need for members of the different transport unions in the state, and by extension, Nigeria, to raise the level of literacy. They should organise enlightening programmes for their members regularly on what their rights are, and when trampled upon, should not hesitate to seek redress at the law court.

Some of their grievances like extortion could have been addressed through the law court. The law court in Nigeria is the hope of every law abiding person. Transport unions should avail themselves of this opportunity.

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