Motors parks and garages have been used as a medium to exercise political clientelism, violence and corruption in Nigeria since 1978.
The Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), is an independent trade union that serves the interest of transport workers in the road transport sector, by calling for collective obtaining and pushing for social stability for all workers in the transport sector as defined in its constitution, according to BusinessDay’s checks.
The politicisation of the management of motor parks started in Lagos, as the then capital city was the seat of two concurrent powers: the Federal Government led by President Shehu Shagari, and his party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) on the one hand, and the governor of Lagos State, Lateef Jakande, according to an article by Hal Open Science.
“The practice of hiring drivers of the union as thugs was, however, not restricted to Lagos as NURTW extended its operations to the five other South-Western states of Ogun, Oyo, Bendel, Ondo and Kwara, the article claimed.
According to NURTW and the politics of motor parks in Lagos and Ibadan, a book written by Albert, I.O, during the second republic, since the return of a civilian regime in 1999, the position of NURTW chairman has been highly contested between the two main political forces in South-Western Nigeria, the Action for Democracy (AD)/Action Congress (AC) and the Peoples Democracy Party (PDP).
“The relationship between union chairmen and governors is shaped by negotiations. Most chairmen of the union align with the governor and influential patrons known as godfathers, who have a large clientele of people who deliver services in exchange for material and non-material rewards, the book stated.
NURTW chairmen provide thugs among union drivers to assist the governor during his electoral campaigns, to intimidate, and if necessary eliminate perceived “obstacles”. In exchange, the union chairmen are given money and autonomy for levying taxes in the motor parks of the state, according to an article by Hal Open Science.
“In Ibadan, Lamidi Adesina became governor of Oyo State in 1999 partly as a result of NURTW’s chairman, Lateef Akinsola’s backing. Godfather Lamidi Adedibu, whose personal money and direct ties with President Obasanjo have turned him into the principal benefactor of Ibadan politics.
“The 2003 governorship election was allegedly rigged, making Rashidi Ladoja the governor of Oyo State. Ladoja corroborated this to Human Rights Watch but claimed that while in office, he tried to break free from Adedibu’s control right away, the article stated.
According to Lamidi Adedibu and patronage politics in Nigeria, a book written by Omobowale A.O. and Olutayo A.O., for more than fifty years, Lamidi Adedibu was a significant force in the politics of Ibadan and Oyo State.
“Consequently, during the 2007 election, NURTW members were allegedly recruited as political thugs by Lamidi Adedibu, to ensure the elections go in favour of his new PDP governorship candidate who eventually won the election, the book claimed.
Musiliu Ayinde Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, was the former chairman of NURTW in Lagos. Prior to his emergence as the union chairman, he was the association’s treasurer and chairman of the Oshodi branch. Oluomo has never hidden his loyalty to Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Following Oluomo’s recent disagreement with the national leadership of the NURTW, which led to his suspension and eventual sack from office by the national body on account, the Lagos State government on April 7, 2022, appointed him as chairman of a 25-man Lagos State Parks Management Committee. The committee is charged with the task of overseeing the affairs of motor parks and garages in the state.
The committee is different from NURTW because the government has full authority over its operations.
Some pundits have, however, knocked the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led government for appointing MC Oluomo as chairman of the parks management committee, describing the romance with the former union leader as patronage for political gains ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Prior to this, the NURTW’s national president, Tajudeen Baruwa and general secretary, Kabiru Ado Ya’u, signed a statement on April 6, 2022, sacking MC Oluomo wherein they cited impenitent act, insubordination and ‘unruly attitude.’
Apart from the belief in some quarters that politics is at the heart of the action of the Lagos State government, the NURTW, particularly in Lagos, controls billions of naira raked from members and commercial transporters.
Lagos is the second-largest city in Africa and the most commercialised area in Nigeria with the highest population of 21 million people, making it a fertile ground for revenue generation.
Read also: NURTW suspends MC Oluomo indefinitely
According to a statistical report by the International Centre for Investigative Report (ICIR), NURTW pockets about N123.078 billion from commercial vehicle operators annually. This could serve the annual budget of Nasarawa, Niger and Yobe,
“There are 75,000 commercial buses (danfos) in Lagos, according to the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) estimates.
“Each commercial vehicle driver pays at least N3,000 to ‘agberos’, also known as ticket touts, every day, according to oral testimonies and estimates obtained from more than 50 commercial bus drivers in 21 out of 37 local council development authorities (LCDAs) in Lagos,” the ICIR has stated.
“The report also shows these drivers pay an average of N225 million each day, N6.75 billion each month, and N82.125 billion each year to ‘agberos’ in Lagos.
“That is not all. There are at least 50,000 tricycles (Keke Marwas) in Lagos, according to a 2020 report by Techcabal – Never mind the Lagos State government’s recent ban, which is just a mere pronouncement, the investigation showed.
“More than 60 tricycle drivers in 21 LCDAs in the commercial city told this reporter that they paid at least N1,800 to ‘agberos’ each day. This, therefore, means that each day, ‘agberos’ walk off with N90 million from transport taxes collected from tricycle drivers. Every month, their pay reaches N2.7 billion, rising further to N32.85 billion every year.
“The average collection, however, is higher in Mushin (N2,500 – N3300), Isolo (N1,900-N2,200), Oshodi (N1800-N2,300), Coker/Aguda (N2200-N3,000) Itire/ Ikate (N2,200 -N3,200), Iru-Victoria(N2,300-N3,200), Ikeja (N2200- N2500), and Onigbongbo (N2200-N3,000) LCDAs, among others, the investigation by ICIR stated.
Pundits say the billions of naira flowing through motor parks and garages in Lagos and the strong bond between MC Oluomo and the Lagos State government, may have informed the decision to install him as chair of the parks management committee despite his controversy with the national leadership of NURTW which sacked him.
Many have also asked what is it about MC Oluomo and Lagos State Statement?
Gbenga Omotoso, the state commissioner for information and strategy, in a statement he issued on April 7, just a day after the MC Oluomo-led state exco of the NURTW was dissolved by the national leadership, justified the government’s action.
Omotosho in the statement said: “The Lagos State Government has set up a committee to oversee the affairs of all motor parks and garages in the state.”
Although Omotosho was silent on why the government zeroed in on MC Oluomo as the chair of the parks management committee, he, nevertheless, explained why the action became necessary.
“In fulfillment of the government’s promise to ensure that events in the NURTW are not allowed to threaten law and order”
“The government has, therefore, exercised its constitutional powers to ensure that no vacuum, which can disrupt the peace of our dear state, is allowed to exist in the parks. This is a duty we owe all Lagosians and visitors.”