By Onome Amuge
The role of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) as an alternative government in Lagos State with massive powers to collect daily taxes from thousands of unwilling members, has once again raised questions over the state government’s ability to rein-in some of the unwholesome action of the union’s executives across the state.
This came into sharp relief again on Tuesday as commuters along Mile 2, Oshodi, Apapa and other environs of Lagos were faced with the dilemma of boarding motorcycles and tricycles, also known as Keke Marwa, at inflated rates, or walk long distances to their destinations following the refusal of commercial bus drivers to ply major routes over allegations of extortions by transport unions and task force officials.
There have been a lot of concerns over the role that the NURTW plays in the state, especially in its political space, where it is strongly perceived that they form a major part of the state political machinery and as such are able to get away with the unwholesome activities ascribed to the union, especially extortion, as well as collecting unaccountable revenues which runs into tens of billions yearly; and enough to make some states with paltry internally generated revenues green with envy.
Business A.M. gathered that the commercial motorists decided to boycott transportation activities as a protest against high ticket fees imposed on them by the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). They also complained of extortion by the Lagos State Environmental and Enforcement and Special Offences Unit (Taskforce officials) who under the guise of enforcing traffic rules, forcefully collect large amounts of money from the commercial motorists which, in many cases, is more than the money the drivers generate daily.
A bus driver identified as Lateef, while speaking to Business A.M, bemoaned that the transport union workers have made their operations lamentable by subjecting them and their conductors to inhumane treatments in the name of collecting daily tickets. He added that despite the huge sums of money generated daily by the unions through the collection of bus tickets, the bus drivers are yet to see any development in the commercial transport sector.
Recounting how his bus conductor was mercilessly flogged for refusing to pay more than the stipulated daily ticket fee, Lateef said the commercial drivers have resolved to continue the strike until the government takes a positive step to address their situation.
Commenting on the situation, Charles Adewale, a commuter who plies the Mile 2-Oshodi route, said he was shocked to discover there was no commercial vehicle plying the route as of Tuesday morning. He ended up boarding a motorcycle for N800, over 100 percent increase compared to the N300-N400 being charged before the strike.
Adewale confirmed that the drivers have been heavily exploited by the NURTW officials and street touts known as “agberos” and the recent boycott of commercial operations by the drivers is a good way to express their grievance and attract government attention. He however advised the drivers not to resort to any form of violence in their approach towards tackling the alleged extortion.