Agberos, a city’s untamed monster
ALTHOUGH the presence of agberos, otherwise known as motor park touts, could be felt in every state of the federation, their activities are, however, more fiercer in some states.
Agberos, Yoruba word for touts, who canvass for passengers for commercial bus drivers at motor parks, have recently expanded their activities by positioning themselves at bus stops, imposing ridiculous levies on both bus drivers, and tricycles and motorcycles riders.
In states like Lagos, Oyo and Ogun, the fear of agberos is the beginning of wisdom for bus operators and passengers because of frequent clashes, which at times lead to deaths and injuries.
Agberos take position at bus stops and extort money with impunity from commercial drivers and conductors.
A typical agbero is armed with a cane or stick, and in some cases, a marker with which he marks, for easy identification, the buses whose drivers he had collected money from.
In Lagos, where their operations are fiercer, agberos, who are often under the influence of alcohol and drugs, always become brutal to commercial bus conductors, who hesitate to part with money they demand.
They are always at bus stops across the metropolis, imposing levies such as: ‘Owo weekend, Owo loading,’ ‘Owo olopa,’ ‘Owo task force,’ ‘Owo organizing,’ ‘Owo traffic,’ ‘Owo environmental;’ to mention but a few.
At times, they destroy vehicles and obstruct traffic at will without fear of being challenged by government authority. They are ready tools in the hands of desperate politicians.
To check activities of touts on Lagos roads, the state government on August 3, 2012, enacted the Lagos road traffic laws, which banned the activities of the touts, both at motor parks and at bus stops.
At a media briefing to herald the implementation of the Law at the time, the Commissioner for Transportation, Kayode Opeifa, was quoted as saying that government would no longer tolerate extortion on the highways.
He had said: “Henceforth, union activities would no longer be allowed at our parks. They are to relocate to offices from where they will operate just like the National Union of Teachers and the National Union of Journalists. Henceforth, no union member must be seen collecting money on the road.”
But lack of enforcement of the section of the law restraining them to parks had remained a major slack of that law, as the agberos have continued to wreak havocs in the metropolis.
An official of the ministry of transportation, when contacted, blamed the slack on the refusal of the police to enforce the ban.
“The argument is that the state does not have its own police to enforce the law,” the official said.
But Mr. Taiwo Olushola, a Lagos based lawyer, said that argument is not tenable.
According to him, it is strange that the state government could muster law enforcers to enforce other sections of the law but could not do the same on those affecting agberos.
Olushola said the government is not willing to deal with agberos, stressing that it (government) only places emphasis on aspects of the law that will generate money for the state.
A bus driver, Emmanuel Ajie, said the inability to enforce the law has emboldened the agberos, who also hide under the umbrella of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to evade arrest, whenever the police raid them.
He said: “The agberos are not hidden at the bus terminals like Berger, Iyana Oworo, Alapere Estate, Ketu- Mile 12, Oshodi, Mushin, Ojuelegba and Barracks and other places
“They have inflicted harms on drivers and smashed the windscreens and side mirrors of motors at will, whenever they are unable to get what they are demanding from bus drivers.”
But the Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers, Lagos Council, Mr. Tajudeen Agbede, recently dissociated the union from the activities of the touts, saying he and executive members of the union had done a lot to ensure that members comply with the government’s directives, as well as with all the provisions of the Lagos State Traffic Law.
A commuter, Ojo Abbe, who works at Apapa, said it is not unusual to see the agberos delivering returns to their bosses, who provide them with NURTW covers.
The agberos, he said, have done so much damage and caused emotional stress to bus drivers and commuters in Lagos because most of the buses plying the state are now without windscreen wipers to wipe their windscreens even during the rainy season.
According to him, the violent clash at the Mafesejo section of the popular Oshodi market, on Wednesday, between factions of the NURTW members over leadership tussle and money sharing formular, was an indication of the danger the agberos pose in Lagos, which primed itself as the centre of excellence.
The violent clash, which brought vehicular movements and business activities to a halt, also saw the burning and vandalisation of many vehicles.
Pedestrians were not spared in the mayhem as agberos took advantage of the situation to rob them of their valuables.
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