By Abdulrahmon Sodiq.O
Lagos State is a state in southwestern part of Nigeria. Of the 36 states in the country, Lagos State is the most populous and smallest. It’s bounded to the south by the Bight of Benin and to the west by the international border with Benin Republic, Lagos State borders Ogun State to the east and north making it the only Nigerian state to border only one other state. Named for the city of Lagos—the most populous city in Africa—the state was formed from the Western Region and the former Federal Capital Territory on May 27, 1967. The governing body in Lagos State is being ruled by Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and being headed by Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the sitting governor of the state.
Economically, Lagos State is one of the most prosperous states in the country as a major financial centre and would be one of the largest economies in Africa, if it were a country with a gross domestic product of $84 billion comparable with Ghana’s $75 billion, Angola’s $70 billion, and Ethiopia’s $93 billion. Lagos State is also a key culture, education, and transportation hub for Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite being beset by overcrowding and chronic debilitating traffic, Lagos State has the highest Human Development Index in Nigeria and numerous developmental projects. Lagos is no doubt a success story among its 35 other counterparts in the country, but there is one thing that is denting the image of this prosperous state as being projected as a mega city — touts.
Touts, the untamed monsters, appear to be empowered to act independently without checks and balances. In Lagos, the motorists, drivers and even residents now live in palpable fear over the unruly actions of motorpark touts, otherwise known as agberos stationed in almost all major street junctions and bus stops across the city of Lagos.
Originally, agbero is a Yoruba word for an individual who scouts for passengers from commercial transit and helps to carry luggage at motor parks. However, the story has now changed, they are now the beasts feasting on the daily incomes of motorists, drivers and unsuspecting residents.
Usually, they are armed with a cane or stick sometimes, and in some cases, with markers to label and identify buses and bikes that had paid their forceful token (Owo aro, Awo osan). Agberos use force and extra-judicial tactics to extort money with impunity from commercial drivers and conductors.
These touts are stationed everywhere and immediately they sight motorists or okada riders, they spring into action, drag the key from their victim, shouting at the top of their voices, ‘Owo mi da?’ (Where is my money?) as if the illegal due is their birthright.
From experience, their actions, at times, lead to chaos that causes loss of life, and some other times, uncountable injuries are recorded. Despite the enactment of the Lagos State Traffic Law on August 3, 2012, which banned their activities at motor parks and bus stops, many residents can attest to the fact that these touts still operate at bus stops across the metropolis.
Sometimes, they destroy vehicles and obstruct traffic without fear of being challenged by government authorities. They are also ready tools for desperate politicians. And even the so-called guardian of the state, the Nigerian Police Force make use of them to extort money from commercial buses. Undoubtedly, Lagos harbors various criminal activities that need to be stopped.
The issue along Apapa Oworonshoki express way, Ketu, Agric, Fadeyi and other major bus stops in Lagos needs urgent government attention as the uncontrolled activities of agberos create bad publicity for the state.
The lives of the Lagosians who pay exorbitant transport fare due to the forceful token collected from commercial drivers by agberos should be of great concern to the Lagos State Government. As a matter of urgency, this madness must end.
Abdulrahmon Sodiq writes from Lagos. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org