The Lagos State Chapter of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) on Monday said the stay-off-road action by commercial buses on the Lagos-Bagadry Road was unnecessary.
The Secretary of the chapter, Alhaji Abdulrahman Amusan, told the News Agency of Nigeria that the N800 ticket imposed on commercial buses in the state was for tax purposes.
NAN reports that the commercial bus drivers had on March 1, embarked on what they called “Cease Commuter Operation” on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway – from Badagry to Mile 2 – following what they termed an unbearable increment in ticketing and brutality by RTEAN.
The drivers are still off the expressway while passengers remained stranded at various bus stops. It is still not certain when they will return to the roads.
They claim that both the RTEAN and the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) unjustly increased the ticket cost from N500 to N800.
According to them, the situation is unbearable especially considering the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the average citizen.
They urged the Lagos State Government to intervene.
Amusun told NAN that the strike was illegal, saying that the N800 ticket was introduced by government.
He added that most commercial bus drivers evaded tax.
“I do not know the legality of the strike embarked upon by the bus drivers.
“Government came up and said that the informal sector, to which drivers and conductors belong, was not paying taxes.
“It invited transport unions to a meeting and informed us that it has decided to introduce tickets on a daily basis for drivers, and urged us to keep data so that at the end of the year, they will be issued tax certificates.
“Government also ordered that local governments should stop ticket issuance henceforth.
“These drivers plying the Lagos-Badagry route sometimes collect tickets from more than five local councils, and they spend not less than N200 on each ticket, but government decided now to centralise the ticketing. We consider the N800 reasonable,” he said.
He said that the drivers would henceforth be issued tax certificates after payment for a year.
“We have also called the bus drivers for a meeting to explain the benefits they stand to enjoy from buying the new ticket, but they have chosen not to understand,” he said.
He urged drivers to show understanding, saying that tax payment was important for the development of any state.
On alleged brutalisation and manhandling of drivers by members of the union, he said: “We have not received any complaint from anyone.
“None of these drivers has brought any complaint to the secretariat and was left unattended to; let them forward such complaints to us and mention the location, then the state will send its task force to address same,” he said.
NAN reports that no commercial bus has been plying the road since March 1 due to the action.
Some commercial bus drivers, who spoke to NAN, said they would not return to work on the axis until the state government’s intervention.
The drivers alleged that RTEAN and NURTW were extorting them through high cost of tickets.
A commercial bus driver, Kehinde Solomon, told NAN earlier that the alleged extortion had become outrageous.
According to him, drivers pay different exorbitant amounts of money at every bus stop to the unions.
He added that the unions collected the levies by coercion and would not hesitate to beat drivers and conductors, who delayed or refused payment.
“Commercial bus drivers usually pay N500 at every bus stop but we are now compelled to pay N800.
“We wake up in the morning to begin to hustle for our daily bread, but at the end of the day, we have no reasonable amount to go home with because it will all be spent on “agberos” at every bus stop,” Solomon said.
Another driver, Felix Nwanyawu, said that where any driver hesitated to produce the money, the agents of the union would go as far as vandalising his bus.