Agberos have become a huge part of the circle of transport life in Nigeria. They’re hard to miss — you can find them in motor parks, bus stops and highways extorting commercial drivers, tricyclists and motorcyclists.
With street names like Shadow and Poison, they’re not the kind of guys you want to engage in a shouting match because they can do one or two things to your face or your vehicle.
In a state like Lagos, they’ve even gained some legitimacy — uniforms and all — to make transport operators pay them taxes, monies no one knows where they really go. Such illegal revenue generation by agberos has been mainstreamed all over Nigeria and transport operators have been the main victims of their activities.
It’s always, “Where’s your tax?” never, “How’s the family?”
On September 22nd, 2022, some of those transport operators in Anambra State protested against the burden of taxation and exploitation by agberos. The state governor, Charles Soludo, had recently ordered operators to start paying a ₦15,000 monthly tax to the government. But they told him first to get rid of the agberos already charging them tax illegally. They refused to serve Mammon and God at the same time because the economy is hard and sapa is taking hostages.
But only two days before this protest, far away in Abuja, a federal lawmaker was cooking a legislative action against the same villains.
A federal frown
On September 20th, 2022, lawmakers of the National Assembly resumed legislative sittings after two months of what they called “summer break”.
One of the pressing businesses of the resumption day agenda in the House of Representatives was proposed by this guy:
The name’s Edun… Lanre Edun
Edun’s motion raised alarm on the unruly behaviour of agberos operating in Nigeria and persuaded the Nigerian government to make efforts to contain the scourge. Because the roads are a major mode of transportation and contribute significantly to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the lawmaker believes it must be saved from the grubby hands of agberos.
“Grubby bawo? What’s the meaning?”
Here’s a list of problems he has with them:
1. They harass and extort commercial drivers, tricyclists and motorcyclists.
2. They’re under the influence of alcohol and hard drugs and often resort to violence.
3. The presence of agberos is increasing the cost of transportation for passengers.
4. Some law enforcement officers are either in bed with them or too powerless to stop them.
A call for reform
Edun’s motion expressed worry that the agberos have simply refused to go away despite many government efforts to remove them. It may have something to do with the unemployment rate being at the worst level in Nigerian history, but we’d hate to speculate.
Edun’s motion proposed four resolutions:
1. Governments at all levels must check the lawlessness of agberos on Nigerian roads.
2. Government authorities like the Ministry of Transport must develop methods to remove agberos from highways.
3. Security agencies must arrest and prosecute offending agberos.
4. An ad-hoc House Committee must be set up to investigate the activities of agberos in some states.
Looking at you, Lagos
Will this motion change anything?
The existence of agberos in the Nigerian transport ecosystem has been a controversial subject for decades. No one knows where they fit exactly, but their existence is provocative, especially for the motorists and commuters who are often their victims. They’re generating billions of naira from people struggling to make a legitimate living, but who’s benefitting from it?
Lanre Edun’s motion is a big step in giving the issue the attention it deserves at the highest level of government. But lawmakers stepped down the motion at the plenary because Edun failed to show up on the day his motion appeared on the agenda. We don’t know why a handsomely-paid public servant would fail to show up at work after two months on holiday, but we hope it wasn’t agberos that blocked his path.
Until he shows up to attend to his motion, agberos can continue their reign of terror on the Nigerian transport ecosystem.