An unorthodox union and an unregulated transport system leave many Nigerian bus drivers vulnerable to poverty and abuse.
Lagos, Nigeria – It is 7pm on a Wednesday in late September. Afeez* has just left a bus park at Iyana Isolo, a small busy road near the popular Ojuwoye street market in the district of Mushin.
In a leased danfo – the privately run yellow and white minibuses that serve as unofficial public transport in Nigerian cities – the 32-year-old plies through the busy streets, breaking off before traffic signals, in a rush to get his passengers to the nearby suburb of Oyingbo.
“I am in a hurry to return to the park and do more trips,” the driver explained. His conversations with passengers are terse; he has no time to listen to their complaints. “I have to deliver [the rental fee] to the owner of the bus tonight.”
The only thing momentarily slowing him down along his route are the agberos – the motor park touts he hands 100 naira ($0.27) bills to every time he passes their junctions. Some run after the bus, demanding their due.
In Yoruba, agbero means “to carry passengers”, but this does not connote what the agberos do. These men, mostly clad in white and green uniforms but sometimes in plain clothes and carrying sticks or canes, collect dues from motorcycle, tricycle, and danfo bus drivers on behalf of the drivers’ union – a toll that allows them to pick up passengers.
The cost of dues can vary. But drivers say they generally pay three types: “booking” is paid so they can start work at the motor parks every morning; before each trip, they pay a “loading” fee, which is usually a sum equal to the fare of two passengers; and “tickets” are undefined charges which are paid once or twice a day depending on the parks they use.