It is almost obvious that the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) has reached a point where it has to fight to maintain its relevance and confront its existential crisis as reflected in the ongoing crisis in the Lagos State chapter of the union.
The creation of the Parks Management Committee by the Lagos State Government is what the union under Alhaji Tajudeen Baruwa is striving hard to undo as the practice now spreads rapidly across states especially in the South West following intractable crises in the local chapters of the union.
So losing Lagos, which is regarded as the hub of commercial transportation in the country and the state where it generates the bulk of its revenues, is one too many for the union and it is all out to reverse its degenerating fortunes.
Daily Trust reports that the crises in Lagos State stemmed from the move by the National Administrative Council (NAC), headed by Baruwa, to assert its authority over the Chairman of the State Administrative Council (SAC) under the powerful Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly called MC Oluomo.
MC Oluomo is a household name in Lagos. He is rich, highly influential and well connected. Within the Lagos State political establishment, Oluomo is a force to be reckoned with. Some analysts say as a popular transport union leader in the state, he had endeared himself to the ruling elites by deploying his influence albeit violently to help in winning elections.
But Oluomo’s ascension to the throne as the NURTW Chairman, succeeding Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede was probably the icing on the cake for the flamboyant transporter.
But today, the union is torn apart in the state largely due to the crisis of ego between Oluomo and Baruwa as many members who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said.
The crisis came to a head with the appointment of Alhaji Abiola Azeez, popularly known as Istijaba, as the Chairman of the Tricycle Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria (TOOAN) by the NURTW national leadership. This obviously did not go down well with Oluomo and the directive for his inauguration was allegedly declined. Based on this, he was queried by the Baruwa-led administrative council.
The NURTW in a letter dated February 14 by the General Secretary of the union, Alhaji Kabiru Ado Yau, accused Akinsanya of refusing to carry out directives given to him by the national body especially on the appointment of Abiola.
Akinsanya was also accused by the National body of using thugs to forcefully take over branches of his perceived enemies.
In his reply Akinsanya stated that he faithfully complied with the laws guiding the union’s operations in his dealings with other affiliate unions.
He assured that he would not do anything “to tarnish the image of the union nor bring the union back to the inglorious position of being branded as thugs and disturbers of the public peace in Lagos.”
Making reference to the appointment of Alhaji Azeez Abiola as chairman, Lagos State NURTW Tricycle Operators, Akinsanya said Abiola was announced on February 9 in Abuja as one of the State Trustees and Chairman, Zone ‘C’ Tricycle Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria (TOOAN) of NURTW and not overall chairman of TOOAN in the state.
“But unfortunately, before we got back to Lagos, Abiola has been parading himself on social media as the new state chairman of TOOAN and posting a letter of appointment I was not aware of.
MC Oluomo suspended
Apparently dissatisfied with his response to the letter, the NURTW on March 9 announced the suspension of Oluomo for not showing remorse over his actions even after he was directed to explain reasons for embarking on such.
But hours after the suspension, Oluomo announced that he is pulling out of the NURTW with his loyalists while asking the state government to immediately take over the running of affairs of the union by constituting Park management committees for motor garages and parks in the state as the tension over the union’s crisis escalated.
The state government the same day, in a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotosho, announced the suspension of NURTW activities and promised to set up a park management committee.
As the crisis festered, it was learnt that the NLC intervened in the matter with a view to get it resolved. Sources said it was agreed that Oluomo’s suspension would be lifted provided he apologises to the union and implements its directives.
Lagos NURTW council dissolved
But following his refusal to apologise as demanded, the NURTW dissolved the Lagos State council under his chairmanship.
However, Oluomo through one of his aides, Jimoh Buhari said the dissolution has no effect because his principal has ceased to be part of the NURTW.
Hours after the dissolution, the state government named a 25-member Parks Management Committee chaired by the same Oluomo.
The information commissioner in a statement said this was in fulfillment of the government’s promise to ensure that events in the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) are not allowed to threaten law and order.
This triggered outrage from members of the public who accused the government of taking sides in the matters while some civil society organisations faulted the constitution of the committee describing it as illegal as there is no known law in the state backing it.
They also argued that according to the 1999 Constitution the management of all parks, garages and bus-stops within the state falls under the purview of the local councils.
But the government said it was in tandem with the Lagos Parking Authority Law which the House of Assembly recently passed and assented to by the governor.
Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, Temitope Adewale, said the legislative arm had been very proactive as it already passed a law creating the Lagos State Parking Authority, which should now oversee activities at all the parks in the state.
Analysts say the current crisis in the Lagos NURTW has exposed the underbellies of the union and threatened its existence which some say might be a big relief for members of the public. They believe it will bring to an end the culture of thuggery and brigandage allegedly perpetrated by its members, especially during elections.
But the union doesn’t seem to be comfortable about it. One, the implication is the depletion in its source of income and the waning of its relevance.
“Imposition of park management committee is unconstitutional. The union is among the 42 trade unions formed as a creation of Decree. A letter issued on August 15th, 1978 was communicated to the secretariat of the ‘Union’ as a Trade union with number 00054.
“With this development, park management committee is not known to any law establishing the union, rather is meant to encourage reign of terror.”
Even as the Lagos State Government has constituted the parks management committee, the NURTW constituted a caretaker committee for the state.
In a letter addressed to the state government, the committee, led by Fatai Adeshina, is tasked to fill the vacuum in the administration of the union’s activities following the dissolution of the council chaired by Oluomo.
Speaking on the development, the General Secretary of the Federation of Informal Workers Organisation of Nigeria (FIWON), Comrade Gbenga Komolafe said, “The culprit in all of this is actually the Lagos State Government which has actually supported illegality, open brigandage, extortion of members of the public and grand theft of public funds through the monster they created called the National Union of Road Transport Workers.”
He said the parks management committee has not changed anything.
“What they are doing now is even more ridiculous. Having lost out, they are creating another ‘legal monstrosity’.
“The so-called Parks Management is another attempt to accommodate the thugs. As far as Lagosians are concerned, nothing has changed. The extortion goes on and nothing has changed.
“They are still extorting people. Four, five drivers have approached us that they are fed up with the extortion, with N11,000 every day, N1,800 from tricycle operators every day, they have cried out and we are going to address the press on this very soon and then follow with a mass action.”
A veteran union leader and former NURTW Chairman in the state, Chief Rafiu Olohunwa, said the solution is for all parties to come back to the drawing table and dialogue. He said the dialogue should be spearheaded by the state government.
“I stand with the NURTW. I am a unionist to the core. I stand with NURTW. Whatever solution anybody may think, we should go back to the union because that is where everybody originated from. I will just appeal to the state government to come down to the table and let us dialogue with the government. I think that will be the solution.”