When next you are charged an outrageous fare in Lagos state, know that the money does not belong to the driver alone but to a chain of illegal levy collectors which include uniformed men and government officials.
I witnessed a scuffle between a Keke Napep rider and an illegal levy collector around Ikeja bus stop in Lagos which made me ask questions from a fellow rider.
The rider was slapped and beaten up by the collector because he argued over the levy he was being charged and forced to pay, if not he will not be allowed to operate any longer.
In the midst of the confusion and not been able to understand what was happening, I approached the Keke Napep rider who preceded to carry me on a long conversation.
Keke Napep or Maruwa as they are popularly called carry an average of four passengers including the rider.
The fares of Keke Napep has recently skyrocketed due to the proscription of commercial motorcycles. I decided to monitor and find out the reasons for arbitrary increases in the cost of transportation among the riders.
From Ikeja under bridge to GRA costs N100 and a times goes for N150, this an operator told me is due to the different levies paid to different groups of officials in the state.
Mr. Sunday Akide explained to me that each of the riders pays an average of N3,000 every day to a union that imposed a levy on them. Police men - who come under different platforms - some will say they are from Area, others would say they are from zone - some of the policemen who are under the okada task force raiding also come. We also have LASTMA men and area boys.
"Also in this our Ikeja area, every junction where there is traffic warden - "yellow fever" or LASTMA, we pay N100 or more. And we pay N1,000 flat to our own union officials as a ticket to enable us operate".
"If you work till late in the night you can only make at most N3-5,000," he stressed. This is not helping our business because most times, passengers quarrel with us about our fares but it is not our fault. We are paying levies all around the state. I don't know if the government want us to go back to our villages or turn to criminals," he lamented.
The proscription of commercial motorcycle operators on major roads across Lagos has led to a high dependence on these tricycles otherwise called Keke Napep by commuters in the state.
When Governor Babatunde Fashola made the announcement, he disclosed that the operation of commercial motorcycles in the state has increased the level of crime, as criminals easily rob and dispossess innocent residents of their belongings using okadas.
This announcement did not go down well with the okada riders. They protested and cried out loud that the state governor, after using them to achieve his second term in office, has now turned around to call them criminals.
Since then about ten okada riders have lost their lives during raids by task force police set up to monitor their activities.
Though it was not easy for residents of Lagos due to the traffic prone nature of the state and insufficient means of transportation but over six months since the proscription, Keke Napep operation as a means of transportation has increased in the state.
For how long will this extortion continue? And for how long will commuters pay for the circle of corruption in the transport sector?
It is believed by most residents of Lagos that the illegality of levy collectors in the transport sector has been overlooked and this has made the collectors to assume that their operations are legitimate.
Many scuffles and civil disturbances are being experienced at various bus terminals in the state between different transport operators and this group of illegal levy collectors. Analysts believe that the buck stops on the Governor's table or perhaps, the legislators's doormat.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters