Agbero: Lagos drivers still pay multiple charges despite ‘harmonisation’
Harmonisation is a gradual process, says Oladeinde
When the Lagos State government announced it was getting street urchins, popularly known as Agberos off the roads, in January 2022, it made a law mandating commercial drivers to pay N800 daily, many heaved sigh of relief.
While some Lagosians said the law will increase transportation fare, taking a toll on passengers, others said the fees announced by government will not stop bus stop collection by touts. But the state government said the move was designed to harmonize dues collected by the government from commercial motorists at parks and garages.
The levy was introduced under the Consolidated Informal Sector Transport Levy and imposes about N24,000 monthly fee, and N290,000 annual fee on each commercial bus operator in Lagos State.
The government said the harmonisation would stop multiple collections by the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and ensure that the state government, NURTW (now Lagos Park) and Local Government come out with a sharing formula.
But after the announcement was made, the then Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of NURTW, Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, who was later named the Chairman of the Lagos Parks Management, after he was suspended indefinitely by the national body of NURTW, who gave a nod to the agreement during a press briefing where the state’s Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Rabiu Olowo unveiled the harmonization plan. He later said the transport union was in agreement with government to consolidate the fees collected by different LGAs and agencies to make the collection easier for the governments, claiming the arrangement but it does not affect the operation of the union.
Since the announcement, drivers have continued to pay other levies in addition to the N800 charge by the Lagos State government.
A driver in Ajah, Lagos recently told The Guardian that the Lagos park management has added to the number of bus stops its members operate from. “Now we are made to pay different kinds of levies; from the park to Ajah we pay money, money for security, money for turning at the roundabout, morning, afternoon, evening levies. What is more absurd is that we are taxed whenever the chairman has a visitor, they call it ‘Owo Alejo Chairman’, so, we should pay for the chairman to entertain his visitor?
“I drive a seven-passenger bus and I charge each passenger N500 from Ajah to Obalende, I pay N1,500 to agbero in the park and I continue to pay at almost every bus stop till I get to Obalende. Agbero get more while we as drivers get less. Are we made to serve them? How much is left for me to take care of my family? We still carry Agbero, police, and soldier in uniform for free because they call themselves staff.”
When asked why drivers are still being subjected to multiple payments, Lagos Commissioner of Transportation, Dr. Fred Oladeinde said: “We are moving from the unregulated to the regulated and we have started seeing high capacity buses on our roads. So, we can remove Danfo from our roads, over time we will be able to eradicate these people but in the main time, we have asked all the actors to collect their dues at parks. And a lot of people collecting money on the roads are being arrested. They are being taken off the road in Apapa and we have been having meetings with them and that is one of the reasons we are moving from collecting cash to using cowry card, so cash will not exchange hands and distribution of dues due to the Union is being done at the backend using computer and that is why technology is becoming prevalence in Lagos.
He added: “This is a gradual process which will improve and will make sure that we go cashless. Recently we started installing validation machine on some of the Danfo so they can be using cowry card rather than cash. So, when they see that there is no cash on them, some of these people will disappear. Some of them are touts while some are genuine union workers and we have mandated the union to collect in garages and not on the road but we still find area boys collecting on the road, but we will deal with them over time.
“We are doing a lot to get these people off our roads and we will make Lagos a conducive city to live for all of us. A smart city is what we are beginning to implement but a lot of people are fighting with technology but we will get there and we will start seeing what is happening abroad happening in Lagos.”