COMMERCIAL DRIVERS EMBARK ON STRIKE IN LAGOS AGAINST EXTORTION
- For a Democratically Controlled Union or Association of Drivers to Defend Members’ Welfare
Commercial bus drivers in Lagos under the auspices of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association (JDWAN) went on a seven-day strike beginning from Monday October 31 over extortion and attacks by motor park thugs popularly known as “agberos”.
By Chinedu Bosah, Publicity Secretary, CDWR
For many years now commercial bus drivers and other road transport workers in Lagos and across the country have come under constant and daily attack, harassment and extortion from motor park thugs organized under the “Road Transport Union (National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW)”. These Agberos are quick to molest drivers and conductors including damaging their vehicles if their unjustified and outrageous demands are not instantly met.
This organized extortion has the backing of the government and some top government officials are beneficiaries. A report by the International Centre for Investigative Report and published in Punch Newspaper on July 23, 2021, has it that the extortionist activities of agberos in Lagos State generate N123 billion annually, something which is equivalent of the annual budget of Nasarawa, Niger, and Yobe states put together. The union’s head in Lagos, MC Oluomo, has become so wealthy from this illicit undertaking. He was the main subject of a 2010 BBC documentary titled “Law and Disorder in Lagos” which exposed the underbelly of this shadow economy.
This humongous money forcefully generated together with the kickbacks paid to politicians and top government officials is enough to guarantee the support of self-serving ruling elite in government for the extortion. This explains why following the recent clash of interests between the Lagos NURTW and the national leadership of the NURTW, the Lagos State government intervened to back the Lagos NURTW (MC Oluomo’s leadership) leading to the creation of the Lagos State Park Management Committee with MC Oluomo as the leader.
The NURTW is affiliated with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) but its activities lack democracy and decency; drivers and conductors do not have any opportunity to determine how the so-called union is run, no meetings of rank and file road transport workers are called, and no room to become a member of the union or dismember or withdraw membership. By and large, all its activities are driven by force and threat.
The money forcefully collected are not union dues but levies. The extortionist activities of these so-called unions, Agberos or ‘Park Mangers’ as well as lack of regulation, and price control of this dominant informal private sector are largely responsible for the high transport fares.
We of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) call for an end to extortion, harassment, and intimidation of drivers not only in Lagos State but across the country, and urge pro-masses organisations to actively support the struggle and demands of the beleaguered commercial drivers.
We commend the leadership of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association (JDWAN), which is an amalgamation of different drivers welfare groups, for standing up for their rights. We urge them to remain committed and ready to mobilize the mass of drivers and run a democratic platform wherein drivers and conductors will collectively and democratically determine the activities of the union that defends the interests of its rank-and-file members.