By Ibironke Oluwatobi
Transportation is an important element of any community, especially if it serves a population in excess of 21 million people. It is sure for these people to access different quarters of the area for commercial and personal purposes. This system is best maintained without obstruction of the free flow of movement. More so, extortion of people in the process of locomotion or transportation of materials is an erratic thing to do. Not only would it have a responsive extortive effect on individuals, it would lead to an imbalance in the economy of that area. Since a few black marketers would be enriched at the expense of the general populace.
The operation of hoodlums on the roads, which has become a culture especially in Lagos, is a veritable example of this lamentable picture. The sad bombardment of roads with hoodlums, popularly called Agberos remains a mainstay in the list of problems facing the traffic system in Lagos. They have become popular members of the road administrative team. The allowance their establishment has enjoyed over the years, has given reason for suggestions that they have the nudge of the government. This idea seems wild but with the present system, it is difficult not to think of it that way. It becomes right to ask, has the government of the state been so occupied not to have observed this long-living menace?
Agberos have been allowed so much space that their tentacles have spread to other states across the country, which now have similar illicit structures in their quarters. The mission statement of the hoodlums has been spelled around administration of parks and regulation of traffic, but I write to dispel that guile. Their true actions are extortion of road users, both drivers and passengers by sporadically changing bus fares. In some areas in Lagos, Agberos collect as much as a thousand naira daily from individual bus drivers, who in turn increase the fares for passengers. They are responsible for exploiting social issues such as traffic congestion, scarcity of fuel to make financial gains. They increase fares at the whiff of petrol scarcity or the sight of bottlenecks. It has become so rampant that commuters find it difficult to predict the sporadic nature of bus fares, owing to their actions.
This group alter bus fares based on mood and interest, holding commuters to ransom by making them pay exorbitantly. The situation has now degenerated to a point that, a trip which initially cost #100 could be made as expensive as #300 when returning, which could result in an unsuspecting commuter being stranded. This problem bearers are responsible for deliberately causing hold-ups on the road in their bid to collect their illicit charges from reluctant bus drivers. They delay buses at the bus-stops and layby at the same time, leading to traffic situations which sometimes extend to the road.
Though different policies have been adopted to improve the system of transportation, the impact has so far been light. Several indecent factors have clawed these intended life-easing policies. The hoodlums and their cohorts are major players in the act of frustrating beneficial policies. They do not represent any good to the state of affairs. It is expected that the present government should seriously investigate the activities of these extortion agency. If the Agberos are beneficial to the ambience on the road, why don’t countries with enviable transportation system tolerate Agbero-like structures?
A good suggestion is that the activities of these black hats should be checked by the government. Direct supervision by the state government would be necessary for the effectiveness of this process, as it has happened overtime that some government parastatals have shared the assignment of traffic management with them, sometimes complimenting each other. It would be a welcome idea to engage the Agberos in more productive areas since complete abolishment might cause them to devise other social vices. It is noteworthy to mention that an economically fair transport system to commuters, profitable business to bus drivers and effective road utility to the government is the ideal transportation system. Therefore, hindrances such as the increasing menace of the Agberos, the exploitative tendencies of commercial buses and their administrators are all elements that need to be swept away in an attempt to make the traffic situation better. Increased level of welfare and tactful adoptions would give long-lasting answers to this disturbing issue.
Ibironke Oluwatobi firstname.lastname@example.org