Students, drivers clash over palliative buses in Kwara

There was pandemonium between 7:00am and 10:00am at Poly-Gate Bus Stop along Muritala Muhammed Road, Ilorin, Kwara State, on Tuesday as drivers and students clashed over luxury buses provided by the Federal Government to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal.

The Kwara State Government had announced that two luxury buses out of the buses made available to the state would be plying from Post Office Junction to Kwara Poly. But on Thursday, the state government deployed six more buses in the area.

However, the commercial drivers, who have been plying the route before the palliative buses were introduced, opposed the introduction of more buses saying it would affect their source of income.

The students and other passengers, who had gathered as early as 7:00am at Poly Gate Bus Stop, were surprised that the commercial drivers prevented the luxury buses, being managed by Safetrip Limited, to convey them to their destinations.

Angered by the development, the students pursued the drivers from the area and made sure that no passenger boarded their vehicles.

They also caused some passengers, who had boarded some of the commercial vehicles, to alight. The confusion lasted for about three hours. But normalcy was later restored.

The Financial Secretary of the Road Transporters Employers Association of Nigeria, Polygate, Muritala branch, who identified himself simply as Alhaji Idowu, said the drivers opposed the idea based on the initial agreement that only two buses would be plying the route.

He said since more buses started plying the route, his members had been out of business.

Idowu said, “What happened is that we have been here transacting our business as drivers.  All the buses they brought for this route now are many.  We have not been plying our route again because passengers are no longer patronising us.

“We are tired of this frustration that is why we embarked on this exercise.  We have been hearing on the radio and television that only two luxury buses are allowed to be plying the Post Office-Polytechnic route.  

All other vehicles meant for Eyenkori, Garrage Offa, UITH and others are now plying Polytechnic route.

“Now, there are six more buses plying this route. We are pleading with the government to reduce the number of the buses allowed on the route.  Let the two they promised for the route continue.  We will not fight with anybody and we will not be offended.  We are not fighting with the students but the students prevented us from carrying passengers. That is what happened.”

One of the students, Yinka Balogun, cautioned the drivers against making things difficult for the students and other commuters.

He said if they were not comfortable with the introduction of more buses, the drivers could change to other routes rather than frustrating the buses.

The Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Dabo Ezekiel, confirmed the development in a telephone interview with our correspondent.

He stated that normalcy had been restored after police intervention.

He said no casualty was recorded and no vehicle was  vandalised.

Also, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Alhaji Abdulwahab Oba, said the government had intervened and had restored normalcy to the area.

He advised people to avoid taking laws into their hands, saying the government was discussing with the stakeholders and the affected people on the amicable resolution of the misunderstanding.

Oba said, “Government has taken full charge of the situation. That is why there is restoration of normalcy. The buses were increased because the students are having their examinations. As soon as the drivers reacted negatively, government quickly intervened and restored normalcy.

“But everybody should learn to work and be happy with others.  As at now, government is having a meeting with all the stakeholders and all the issues are being addressed. All stakeholders should remain calm, law-abiding and avoid taking laws into their hands.”
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