BY – Ololade Olu-Ojegbeje
Gunshots as two Factions of NURTW clash in Abuja,” headlines read on Tuesday. In minutes citizens began reacting to reports of the violent clash that occurred between two factions of the National Union of Road Transport Workers in the Federal Capital Territory.
Many took to X(Twitter) to express their displeasure, alluding that the union would turn Abuja to the lawless places for hooliganism which they have made Lagos State.
The Tuesday attack sprung from the leadership tussle between the supporters of the factional president, Tajudeen Baruwa, and the faction led by Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly called MC Oluomo and Tajudeen Agbede. Baruwa’s supporters tried to gain access into the NURTW’s headquarters which had been occupied by the Lagos Park Management Committee led by Agbede. Although the FCT Commissioner of Police, Haruna Garba, confirmed the death of one person, sources claimed that two people in Baruwa’s faction were killed.
The story has taken a rather interesting turn. On Wednesday, the Abuja Police Command arrested Baruwa, arrested alongside three national executives of the union. It was reported Garba invited Baruwa to a meeting which was also attended by MC Oluomo and Agbede.
According to reports, Baruwa honoured the invitation hoping that the meeting would lead to a resolution of the crisis in the union. However, Baruwa and the three national executive who had accompanied him ended up being detained and later arrested. Reports say they have been moved to the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) facility located in Guzape.
The spokesperson for the FCT Police Command, Josephine Adeh, said the workers are being charged with criminal conspiracy, culpable homicide, and breach of public peace.
Is Abuja Becoming Lagos?
Every commuter in Lagos is familiar with the daily struggle between Danfo drivers and workers of the NURTW. If they are not harassing a driver for money, they are beating a driver.
The NURTW has been reported to be a major revenue provider for the Lagos State Government, contributing up to billions annually. Many have alleged that the union operates a hierarchy that involves any sitting governor of the State and are controlled by Bola Tinubu who is now the President of the country.
During the campaigns leading up to the 2023 presidential elections, a major sentiment residents of Lagos State held was that if Tinubu emerged president, workers of the union will flood the streets of Abuja in their barbaric style.
They predicted that MC Oluomo, who has been alleged to work in Tinubu’s interest will have more access to Abuja and replicate the activities of the union in the FCT.
Recent developments in the State capital shows that their predictions may be coming to fulfillment. Tuesday’s violent attack is a cause of concern.
Somehow, the story may not end with Baruwa’s arrest as his supporters may attempt to retaliate and protest the arrest of their principal, leading to more attacks. A lasting solution is then needed at this juncture.
What is the way forward?
The government and security agencies are saddled with the responsibility of protecting lives and properties. They must act, as a matter of urgency, to greatly oppose groups who attempt to threaten the peace of the country. The NURTW has been responsible for numerous violent attacks across the country, yet the government has not found a lasting solution to the problem.
The important and plausible solution at hand is the complete reform of the union. The government should carry out a total sensitization of the union and its leadership structures. Members of the union should also be reoriented about lawful practices within the union.
There should also be a reorganized legal model of fee collection within the union. Drivers have alleged that they pay ridiculous amount of money without proper documentation or receipts to back their payments. The Minister of Transportation should investigate this and create an organized structure to collect these fees.
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More stringent laws and policies regulating the affairs of the union should be put in place. These policies should address the operations of the union and the law must punish the prohibition of any provision of the law.
But the question really is: Is the government ready to reform the system?