Opinion

Living In The Jungle Of Extortionists, By Shina Loremikan

“I was again shocked  like Buhari this year when a paragon commercial yellow bus driver informed me that many LASTMA operatives on the road do “Ajo” of N50, 000 to N100, 000 per week  in the Ajo group he belonged. That’s ordinary LASTMA o! You can imagine the financial worth of many notorious SARS operatives who freely make money at gunpoint on the roads”

Comrade Shina Loremikan

Have you heard of “Owo SARS” before? Ask Lagos commercial  bus conductors & drivers. Some other  “owo” (money) paid daily include: “owo” Olopa, LASTMA,  Task Force, Soja (area where you have army barrack like Oshodi) Owo Council, National, U-Turn, Owo Reverse, owo Illegal, (Levy for illegal  reverse, u-turn, mostly during traffic jam and illegal  parking to get passengers).

Are you wondering why “owo SARS” is different from “owo OLOPA and it’s much  more , after all SARS is a police unit?” Don’t guess wrongly. It’s simply because  SARS is not a mate but superior  to ordinary police “onikondo” who carry batton or plywood about harassing and extorting drivers. SARS guys carry  guns around with fierce face at times dressed like criminals, are more brutal and any stubborn conductor who doesn’t “cooperate” can be shot or arrested. And when arrested for not “cooperating” the unlucky conductor and driver can be “converted” into armed suspects with suspected stolen vehicle having failed to provide  “orishirishi patikula” like mcr, proof of ownership, purchase receipt, custom papers, chassis number & engine number not clear, no receipt for tyres, windscreen for a dying LT or paragon bus that is over 10-20 years on the road.

Some years back, I once consulted for Molue Drivers Association, (MODA) in their attempt to rebrand, acquire more buses for members and be independent of NURTW. I was shocked when they informed me that an average, small Molue bus paid an average of N10, 000 to N15, 000 and big  Molue paid between N15, 000 – N20, 000 per day as “Owo Orita”  depending on the routes.

“Owo Orita” is an apothegm for different kind of illegal levies paid to all sorts of road terrors by commercial vehicle drivers in Lagos. It runs into billions of Naira per year and this huge sum never enters government purse. You should know now why the relationship of Lagos State government, ruling  political party stalwarts and NURTW, and all sorts of motor parks /bus stop  touts will for ever be cordial socially and politically except there’s is system change not just mere regime change.

When there’s a better system by a revolutionary party, such huge human and monetary  resources will be better organised with leaders and members of the unions to fully develop the state transport sector into a huge functional industry where all will be fully engaged  responsibly with living wages instead of living and earning  their wages on the roads  on the basis of survival of the fittest violently. These are responsible men and women but  conditioned to be road extortionists and touts by the system that deliberately unleashed  on them a violent inhuman style of living to  get rich quick without scruple because they are usable as instruments of political violence. 

I was again shocked  like Buhari this year when a paragon commercial yellow bus driver informed me that many LASTMA operatives on the road do “Ajo” of N50, 000 to N100, 000 per week  in the Ajo group he belonged. That’s ordinary LASTMA o! You can imagine the financial worth of many notorious SARS operatives who freely make money at gunpoint on the roads.

If  only Forbes ranks richest policemen and road workers  making money through extortion in the world, you will start respecting our SARS and NURTW members.

Comrade Loremikan is the Convener of Campaign Against Impunity

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