Commuters in Kaduna were stranded at major bus stops on Monday as bus drivers withdrew  services in protest against operations by the Kaduna State Traffic and Environmental Law Enforcement Agency, KASTELEA, which they described as stringent and unfriendly. The drivers accused KASTELEA operatives of making unrealistic demands from them and making their work unbearable.

Most Civil Servants found it very difficult to go to their places of assignments, as other commuters were also seen trekking to far distances.  Many of the commercial drivers spoken to said they were fed up with the way they were being treated by the officials of KASTELEA. They, therefore, called on governor Nasiru el-Rufa’i to immediately repealed the agency for the interest of all in the state.

A commercial driver, Malam Nasir Mohammed, noted that since taking over the streets of Kaduna and other towns in the state by KASTELEA, life had never been the same with the commercial drivers.”The cheating and harassment is too much that we can no longer bear it, and that is why we are out in our numbers to tell the world that we are not happy with the way we are being treated by this so called KASTELEA,” he said.

According to Danladi Bala, a bus driver, who plies Kawo and Sabon Tasha route, the KASTELEA operatives pushed them to stage the protest. “We are worried and cannot bear the abuse anymore. They demand too much from us. Even if you present particulars of your vehicle, they will still find something to nail you with it. We are tired and we cannot take it anymore,” he said.

At the popular Ahmadu Bello way, Ali Akilu road, Kawo and Unguwar Rimi, the allegations were the same, as many of the buses were seen parked by the roadside while bus drivers and their conductors gathered in groups to discuss the development.

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Meanwhile, reactions have continued to trail the disruption of commercial transportation in Kaduna metropolis by the bus drivers who are insisting that Governor el-Rufa’i should disband KASTELEA, claiming that their charges for traffic offences are outrageous.

Reacting to the issue, however, the Kaduna State Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, (NURTW), Alh. Alhassan Haruna 313, described those who flooded the streets in the name of protesting over extortion and harassment as thugs who want to seize any available opportunity to cause chaos in the state, saying that they are not members of the NURTW.

“The union is not part of any protest, because I was in KASTELEA office earlier to meet with the D.G on the way out over the policy of tax collection from motorist, but funny enough, as we were in a meeting with the top officials of KASTELEA, information reached me that some hoodlums have taken over in the name of NURTW to disturb the peace of Kaduna residents by forcing passengers out of vehicles and stopping drivers from carrying passengers,” Alh. Haruna explained.

However, the actions of touts, some of whom shattered windscreens of commercials buses where the drivers refused to discharge the passengers in the vehicles, have been condemned by many, thereby given credence to the saying that there are perhaps people behind their actions.

“I believe some politicians or individuals are behind these actions, simply to discredit the government of the day, ordinarily, these touts should have channeled their reactions to the appropriate quarters,” a bemused observer said.

On her part, Mrs. Sarah Peters, a Civil Servant, who complained that the activities of the hoodlums made her report for work late, urged the government to investigate and apprehend the masterminds of the disruption with the aim of bringing them to book and to serve as deterrent to those who may want to do same.

Others argued that there was the need for measures to be taken to further educate the officials of KASTELA for effective and efficient service delivery to the general public. They stressed that the essence of the agency was to ensure harmonious working relationship for the interest of all stakeholders in the state. They also called on Governor el-Rufa’i to urgently intervene and ensure that both parties enjoyed a good relationship rather than being confrontational everyday.

However, the DG KASTLEA, while addressing pressmen in his office, described the act as a strategy by the opposition to undermine the government of the day, thereby making the state ungovernable. “In six to seven months, the agency has been existing and there is no any form of protest by motorist, why now? We need to find out who this guys are and where they are coming from, because from all indications, it shows that they are imported into Kaduna state to come and cause disorderliness,” he emphasized.

Meanwhile, an official of KASTELEA said the bus drivers were to blame. “They never have papers for their vehicles and sometimes they even attack our personnel,” she said.

But some of the touts who spoke but did not want their names on print said their actions ware occasioned by the high charges KASTELEA demand for traffic offences, saying “we have been sold out by our leaders. They are only representing their interest, not ours.”

Nevertheless, Policemen took over strategic positions in the metropolis to guard against any breakdown of law and order even as there were no personnel of the KASTELEA at all junctions visited.