There is no better time than now for well-meaning Nigerians and the government at federal and state levels to interview and stop the unwholesome activities and the breach of fundamental human rights of freedom of association been carried out by different groups of people masquerading as members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, (NURTW) operating at various motor parks.
In recent years and for several months, the activities of those persons have been so frightening that many travelers, commuters and observers are becoming very worried over their safety at the motor parks as they fed exposed to introduced behavior by all manner of people.
The motor parks have become unsafe, a haven of miscreants without law or decency.
What is most troubling these days is their non-chalance at repeated outcry and complaints of commercial drivers and commuters.
The National Union of Road Transport workers, (NURTW) is believed to manage or control all commercial vehicles plying the roads in Nigeria.
The union also decides the routes drivers should ply as well as the owners of the vehicles that operate from the various parks. Therefore (NURTW) cannot claim to be unaware of the activities of their members or touts claiming membership of their union.
Today, the union has continuously and defiantly established motor parks at several locations without government approval and in flagrant disobedience to the order of the state government.
This is inspite of legitimate Motor Parks built and established at different locations by the state and local government to enable passenger’s board vehicle to various destinations with easy and comfort. Several abnormalities’ characterize the multiplicity of motor parks fees and touching by miscreants.
There have been illegal collections such as community fees, union fees, police fees, loading fees, security fees, daily tickets among others, means and ways devised to extort money from commercial drivers and park users.
Refusal to pay such fees leads to removal of essential part of the vehicle by the union members. Put the reactors have often resulted in fight and violence and many commuters have been victims of this lawless situation.
Perhaps the union does not appear to understand or simple do not bother about the problems associated with the illegal collections of levies that are more like extortion.
No wonder, our roads and streets are flooded with different kinds of illegal task force members whose stock-in trade is to constitute public nuisance, by collecting various kinds of illegal money from commercial vehicle operators.
Also, the union perhaps have come to terms with reality that the touts who are often not members of the union or commercial drivers, dictate the pace and mode of operation to the drivers who are the genuine members of the body. It is inconceiveable that the touts who operate freely without care from morning to evening everyday in the presence of NURTW officials and security agents, even impose routes, tariffs, fare and number of passengers to be carried by the commercial drivers as the case maybe.
If any driver dares to protest or disobey their dictators, he get instant and, serious sanctions including denial to carry any passenger and even, manhandling.
In some bizarre twist of mutual antagonism, these touts often form rival unions and wage war against themselves, resulting to bloodshed.
Again, these happen under the nose of the union officials who for one reason or the other are unable to call them to order.
The question that readily comes to mind is whether the activities of these outlaws are known to the appropriate levels of government and also those who know are scared of dealing with the touts popularly called “Agberos” who have constituted themselves into public nuisance and laws into themselves.
It is also noteworthy, that because of the gains derived from these ill-activities, there is huge power politics in the leadership of the union leading to pockets of crises with various factional leaders and union members always at logger heads, to gain control of economic empires resulting sometimes to frustrated litigations and police cases.
For instance, in Rivers state, some years back, members of the NURTW were in legal battle as to who was the authentic chairman and whose camp should collect fees at various parks.
However, this crisis did not degenerate into violent disturbances and casualties as is the case in some part of the country in the state.
In Lagos state, gunmen, some years ago assassinated the chairman of the NURTW. Also, the Ondo state branch of the union was also thrown into mourning as a chairman aspirant of the Ipele unit of the union was allegedly killed by gun men.
Again, there were reports of crises that rocked the Oyo state chapter of the NURTW. Hoodlums, suspected to be members of the union went on rampage in many motor parks and major areas of Akure and Ibadan, the state’s capital. In a case of two rivals fighting for the chairmanship position, they attacked one another in a free-for all, with dangerous weapons including guns, matches, bottles and knives.
The notorious activities of the union in Ondo state prompted the state Governor, Akeredolu to proscribe the union and its activities in the state.
There is need for the government at federal and state levels to protect the interest of commercial bus drivers from the activities of outlaws controlling commercial vehicle operatives and keep the motor park safe for members of the public. Even more is the need to ensure the safety of road transport operators who may not want to be associated with NURTW and allied organizations or better still, regulate their activities in line with existing rules or institute new laws that will enhance public safety and profitability for all stakeholders.
Omah resides in Port Harcourt.