Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

The Anti-poor Lagos Government Bans the Use of Tokunbo for Taxi Operation

The Anti-poor Lagos Government Bans the Use of Tokunbo for Taxi Operation

In line with its obsession to build a mega city out of Lagos, the Lagos state government has consistently unleashed brutal attacks on different sections of the poor working people like commercial motorcyclists, petty traders and taxi drivers. It does not give a damn if its action deprived the poor who eke out a living in a depressing economy, their only source of livelihood. It demolishes shops and houses without providing alternative or adequate compensation for the victims.

This attack has been taken to an outrageous level with the ban of the use of Tokunbo cars (imported fairly used cars) for taxi operation. This policy is ridiculous in a country where more than 80 percents of the car owners including the middle class use Tokunboh vehicles. The taxi drivers are asked to buy brand new cars tagged megacity taxis in whose dealership some top government functionaries have vested interested. The cars cost at least N4.5 million. This price is clearly beyond the reach of the poor working people who operate taxi in the state.

But the anti-poor government of Babatunde Fashola does not care as much as the policy gratifies the profit-first and self-serving interest of the elements in government and their private contractors. Any taxi driver that cannot afford the cars are given only option of becoming drivers working for the super profit interests of the government lackeys or look for another job.

Though there is no enabling law in Lagos state that proscribes the use of tokunboh, the state government perpetuates the brazen illegality through its agencies like Licence Office to deny the taxi drivers the registration of tokunboh for taxi operation. The taxi drivers argued that the tokunbo cars should be inspected thoroughly by the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) and any one that is found not to be roadworthy should not be registered for taxi operation. But driven by self-serving interest and not the safety of the passengers such position does not make any sense to the Lagos state government.

It is unfortunate that the leadership of the Lagos State Taxi Drivers and Cabs’ Operators Association (LASTDCOA) has compromised with the state government and has been used to intimidate and harass the taxi drivers who are fighting against the policy of the government. Indeed, they are witnesses in the case of trumped-up charges by the government against the two members (Mr. Kola Afolabi and Otunba Arogundade) who have been arraigned in court since last year after their illegal arrest and detention at Ikoyi prison for “breach of peace”. The real crime of these taxi drivers was their audacity to write a petition to the House of Assembly over the continued refusal of the Lagos State Government to allow registration of Tokunbo as taxi.

Besides, it is no longer safe for the fighting taxi drivers to gather as their meetings were often disrupted by sponsored thugs.. Some of them also claimed to have received threat to life from some elements in the leadership of LASTDCOA. As a result of this the rank of the taxi drivers openly fighting against this policy has depleted. However, a group of the taxi drivers have gone to Lagos high court seeking judicial order to stop the illegality of Fashola government.

The labour and pro-masses’ organisations must actively support the struggle of these hapless taxi drivers against this flagrant abuse of power by the Lagos state government. This despotic monster which is the Lagos state government must be fought and defeated with mass actions. It is unfortunate that many of the so-called civil society and human rights organizations are in the pay of the Lagos state government hence their criminal silence as the state government daily grips the throat of the working people and the poor with its fang. 750 percent increase in LASU fees, dismissal of 788 medical doctors, non-full implementation of minimum wage, daily harassment of petty traders and commercial motorcyclists, demolition of houses and shops without alternative or compensation and now the ban of tokunbo car for taxi operation. The list is endless.