(By Waheed-Kaakaki Olawole)
“The other negative side of this agbero business which, perhaps the Lagos State government is not taking cognisance of is the alarming rate at which the “agbero” business is breeding and turning our youths to nuisance over night. The age bracket of people engaged in this business is between 20 and 35. The nature of the business demands that one must be agile and aggressive so that he can run after buses to extort money from them. Expectedly, youths that are supposed to be in schools or in one legal business or the other are recruited by the godfathers called union leaders to do the job. The youths who ought to be the valuable tools and engine room of development are gradually being turned to nuisance.“
ANY society or state whose law is ineffective is as bad as a state of nature. State of nature in simple and clear term means, or was in the time immemorial, when man’s actions and attitudes were hardly different from those of wild-life animals. In the times of state of nature, man had no stipulated laws which regulated his behaviours and relationship with his fellow man. So, the man at that time was lawless, clueless and uncivilised. Some scientists, historians and anthropologists have described man in the state of nature as “homo habilis” while others asserted that it was “homo erectus”. There may be a controversy about the most appropriate term of the two names that can be used to describe the earliest man during the period, what is not disputable is that man at that time was guided by no law.
The above expression and description might seem offensive if it is used to describe Lagos State traffic system, for Lagos has laws that regulate and guide its habitants and their activities. But the law is weak on the traffic aspect that concerns majority of the masses, particularly the poor/average ones. A majority of Lagosians, the commercial bus operators inclusive, face hardship, which is not caused by the economic situation in any way, but through the inhuman and atrocious actions and attitudes of the so-called touts known as agberos. Every Lagosian who depends on commercial buses for his/her movement pays up to 50 per cent extra in this harsh economy. This unimpressive development is biting and painful. One cannot really blame or condemn the commercial bus operators over this as they have defended the hike in the transport fares times without number and their reason is genuine.
Their only reason has always been the exploitation and extortion they face in the hands of agbero. These agberos truly are all over the major roads. In fact, the distance between one group of agbero and another is not up to 100 metres and the commercial bus operators must pay all of them the illegal toll, if they (bus operators) do not want their daily business activities disrupted. By the time the commercial bus operator pays not less than N1000 out of say N3500 he realises from passengers, he will be left with N2000 or less as his target for a trip. Whereas, if the menace of agbero has not been there, the fares the passengers would pay would be lower and moderate.
The other negative side of this agbero business which, perhaps the Lagos State government is not taking cognisance of is the alarming rate at which the “agbero” business is breeding and turning our youths to nuisance over night. The age bracket of people engaged in this business is between 20 and 35. The nature of the business demands that one must be agile and aggressive so that he can run after buses to extort money from them. Expectedly, youths that are supposed to be in schools or in one legal business or the other are recruited by the godfathers called union leaders to do the job. The youths who ought to be the valuable tools and engine room of development are gradually being turned to nuisance. This ugly development, if not hastily checked, will have a devastating effect on the state, if not now definitely in the very near future.
Lagos State, particularly under Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola has been a role model, not only in the area of development but virtually in all human endeavours. The state government noticed this anomalies and the use of motorcycles (okada) on the highway and aptly made laws against them. While the law against okada operators was received with mixed feelings and reactions, perhaps because such law was bound to render many jobless that against the agbero was welcome with wild jubilation. In fact, the jubilation could be compared to that when military coup occurred in those days to usher in a new military government in the country. It is surprising that the law was only effective for less than a month. These agbero withdrew back to their shell for a while. On realising that the law was only effective against the okada operators, they trooped out again and continued their normal business.
The government knows what to do to stop them (agberos), it did it against okada operators and it worked. It is a matter of implementing a law and backing it up with mechanisms that will make it effective. If the governor truly wants to save the numerous youths from destruction, lessens and eliminates the pains of bus operators and passengers and does not care to step on toes of few who are feeding fat on the agbero business, he is not just an erudite lawyer, he is a Senior Advocate, he can stop this menace and be a role model to other states in this area as well as he has been in several others.
Olawole is a historian and public analyst.
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