Truck owners under the aegis of Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN, and Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, yesterday, protested the continued extortion by the Police and officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, just as they called for a reduction on money collection checkpoints before the port.
To drive their point home, both associations blocked the Apapa-Oshodi expressway, causing traffic gridlock on the road.
They also chanted songs and displayed placards with inscriptions such as 'Extortion must stop', 'Don't give, don't take', 'Enough is enough', 'Extortion is corruption', 'Stop extortion of truckers', 'Extortion is killing our economy', among others.
Motorists held in traffic
The situation left motorists and other road users stranded on the expressway for several hours, with commuters trekking long distances to their destinations.
Investigation revealed that there are about four unofficial extortion points from Mile-2 to Under Bridge, with truckers paying N5,000 for a 20-footer truck and N10,000 for a 40-footer truck at each extortion point.
At Otto Wharf Bus Stop, where a terminal owned by Ports and Terminal Mul-services Nigeria Limited operates, there are multiple collection points from truck drivers, vehicles released from the terminal, vehicles that want to make U-turn to Mile-2 inward Oshodi.
That bus stop is mostly controlled by hoodlums, who collect about N1,000 from every vehicle coming out from the terminal before being allowed to make the U-turn. In some cases, the hoodlums could engage in negotiations with truck drivers for several minutes, causing gridlock for other road users.
Why we protested--NARTO, RTEAN
Speaking with Vanguard after the protest, Vice-Chairman of RTEAN, Mr. Adeyemi Adeola, said that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, had ordered the affected agencies to desist from extorting truckers with an electronic call-up, yet they created about 10 difference extortion checkpoints.
Adeola said: "We are protesting against extortion, we are truck owners and we are being extorted by LASTMA and the Police. The governor and the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, have said that nobody should collect money from us, once we have our electronic E-call up by the TTP, and that we should have free access to the road.
"But the LASTMA and police have refused; they have created about 10 different collection points before the port to extort us. We have complained and nothing has been done; to get the attention that we needed from the leaders, we decided to embark on this protest to tell them that even with our E-call up they are still extorting from us.
"The police and LASTMA are working for the government, and the same government asked us to register under "Eto" Call-Up system to stop extortion. We have done that. The government should help us in stopping this extortion. We are protesting to say no to brutality and harassment from the police and LASTMA against truck owners."
Also speaking, Taskforce Chairman of NARTO, Mr. Hassan Adekoya, said: "We are protesting on behalf of all truck owners, we are tired of the atrocities and extortions on the road, all these extortions are sabotaging our economy and it is not going down well with the truckers, truck maintenance is high and we cannot tolerate the extortion anymore, we are back and we are here to manage our business to ensure free flow of traffic. We want checkpoints reduction."
We're not involved in alleged extortion, says Lagos govt
Reacting to the development, the Chairman of the Lagos State Traffic Management Committee, Mr. Oluwatoyin Fayinka, has absolved his team of any complicity.
Fayinka, who is also the Special Adviser on Transportation to Governor Sanwo-Olu, described it as " unfortunate," lamenting that previous achievements by the team were being threatened by the nefarious activities of some recalcitrant police officers who were bent on collecting bribe from the truck drivers.
He said: "I am the chairman of the traffic management committee on Apapa and I can tell you for free that I know nothing about the collection of bribes and none of my committee members has any hand in extortion of truckers, I assure you.
"We are equally worried over extortion in the area despite all efforts by Governor Bababjide Sanwo-Olu administration to restore sanity in the area."
"Infact, police do not take directives from me as the chairman of the traffic team on Apapa management, so how can we be involved in extortion."
However, Fayinka, while appealing to the protesting truckers to give peace a chance, said that "steps have already been taken to address the situation from the police authorities in the state."