Transport union lawlessness births in FCT

THE culture of habitual violence by the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers members recently spiralled into the Federal Capital Territory when its two factions engaged in a bloody clash over the control of the union and its national headquarters. The decades-long nightmare suffered by South-Westerners in the hands of transport union thugs and their political patrons has arrived in the FCT. Residents, the National Assembly, and other stakeholders should push back now to avoid the ‘agbero’ tyranny that South-Westerners endure.

FCT residents should not be complacent or view the unfolding saga as just another intra-trade union leadership tussle. It is more than that. It follows a template of state-capture, notoriously employed by the two major political parties in the South-West states where they support rival transport union factions, whose members then double as party thugs, and coercive electoral foot soldiers. That nefarious system is coming to Abuja.

The NURTW National President, Tajudeen Baruwa, and the former National Vice-President, Tajudeen Agbede, are vying for control of the union. As usual, apart from litigation, rival suspension and expulsion orders, the union members’ instrument of choice in the contest is violence. During the clash at union’s national headquarters, one person died and several others were injured.

Unfortunately, the police, and the Department of State Services, instead of even-handed and stern law enforcement, have exhibited worrisome partisanship.

The Minister of the FCT, Nyesom Wike, the police and the DSS must rise above politics. They should not allow the unions to afflict residents with the extortionist, violent transport unions the way Lagos and other South-West cities have been traumatised. Already, the FCT is facing other security challenges, including kidnappings, armed robbery, and herdsmen and bandit attacks in its suburbs.

Experience in Lagos shows how the unions break every traffic rule, cause gridlock, extort transporters, and engage in political thuggery, petty crime, and cultism.

In responding to the fracas, security agents arrested and detained Baruwa and 21 others, but curiously left the other rival faction untouched.

Nigeria’s leaders have made the country unsafe by mixing politics with law enforcement. Such behaviour allowed terrorism and banditry to birth and metastasize in the North. In the South-West, it has created a monstrous problem with union enforcers, cultists and land grabbers. In the South-South, criminally-minded militants hijacking the region’s struggle for resource control and aligned with politicians have become non-state potentates perpetually acting above the law.

According to the International Labour Organisation, trade unions are meant to address the needs of workers, and collectively bargain with stakeholders to enhance the lives of their members. But in Nigeria, transport unions specialise in extortion. Membership, payment of dues, charges and tribute are violently enforced.

Union overlords consider parks, routes, vehicles, and offices as conquered territories for self-enrichment. A report by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting stated that in Lagos, the unions obtain N123 billion annually from commercial vehicles. Their activities are estimated to make average transport fares three times higher.

All over the South-West, violence, killings, and general mayhem are the handmaidens of the unions. Some stockpile weapons, use drugs openly, and mess up public bus stops, and terminals. They must be stopped. Of the 29 unions affiliated to the Nigeria Labour Congress, only the transport unions routinely ambush transport operators and workers on the roads and forcibly collect dues.

The Acting IGP, Kayode Egbetokun, and the FCT police commissioner, Haruna Garba, should not compromise. US federal law enforcement officials have investigated and charged Hunter Biden, a son of the sitting president, with criminal activities. That is the stuff of democracy and societies governed by the rule of law.

Nigerians should join residents to resist the replication of the transport union lawlessness in the FCT. South-West residents, especially in Lagos, should also protest against the ‘agbero’ tyranny and the complicity of the state governments.

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