Commercial drivers operating in the Iyana-Ipaja area of Lagos State and its environs embarked on a protest against alleged harassment and extortion by personnel of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Special Offences Unit.

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The drivers, who carried placards with various inscriptions, left commuters stranded for hours.

The drivers noted that over 30 buses were impounded on Monday by the agency in the Ojodu-Berger area of the state.

The drivers alleged that personnel of the task force usually extorted between N40,000 and N50,000 whenever their buses were impounded.

One of the drivers, Tajudeen Owolabi, revealed that one of his colleagues, who took off from Ojodu Berger and was heading for Sango, was stopped by the task force personnel in the Agege area of the state and had to pay N5,000 before his vehicle was released.

He said, “The bus was later released to him after he parted with N5,000; this is what we are battling with on a daily basis; most of the money we make goes to the task force personnel, who arrest and impound vehicles indiscriminately.

One of the drivers, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “I am tired of the harassment; we are all Nigerians and we contribute to the development of the state; we don’t have another business to carter for our family members.

“I am begging the state governor to save us from the constant harassment because we don’t drive against the traffic and we are not parking on the roadside.”

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Reacting to the allegations by the drivers, the Public Relations Officer for the task force, Adebayo Taofiq, stated that the drivers were responsible for the gridlock being experienced in the state.

He said, “In as much as the drivers are not ready to comply with the state’s traffic law, they will continue having problems with the state traffic law enforcement agencies, particularly the task force.

“The drivers cannot differentiate between a garage and a bus stop; most of them will line up at designated bus stops and turn them to garages, which the state government will not tolerate.

“If drivers are arrested, they are always arraigned before the mobile court; there are instances of some persons impersonating the task force personnel, but we use to tell them that our men have their jackets with their names inscribed on them.

“If the drivers are ready to comply with the law, then, the government is ready to allow them to work. There is no room for extortion and nobody is harassing them unnecessarily.

What we are telling them is to comply with the law and if anyone of them feels that they were unduly harassed, they have the right to approach the chairman of the task force at our office at Bolade, Oshodi, to lodge a complaint.”