Big Money, Big Trouble: The Story Of Nigeria’s Multi-billion Naira Transport Union

Its wars, why they are fought The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) is a fat cow for all to milk, hence violence, killings. It may seem irrelevant in social cycles, but it is very powerful in so many ways. Its members may also not appear in corporate outfits, with latest technological gadgets to operate with, and use mostly “makeshift” offices, but they are worth billions of naira. The NURTW, believed to have about 4 million members across Nigeria, is reckoned with in so many ways. They control a large chunk of road transport revenue in Nigeria, spinning huge sums for the officials, power and influence in the society.

A member of the union in Kaduna State said it’s not a limited liability company; hence they are not required to invest. He, however, explained that they used such funds to meet the union’s financial obligations. Most times, these revenues are unaccounted or budgeted for. In fact, most of the workers and officials don’t even any vehicle plying the routes. The multi-billion naira union No doubt, the NURTW is a multi-billion naira union with “unending” revenue sources. A quick check will reveal that they rake in money from park registration for vehicles, registration renewal, daily ticket purchases, courier/goods services, penalties and loading fee, among other miscellaneous charges. For instance, from Berger Motor Park, Ogba, Ojota, Ikeja, Ojuelegba to Oshodi, CMS/Obalende, Iyana Ipaja, Iyana Iba, down to Ajah, Epe Park in Lagos, daily streams of cash flow into the NURTW coffers.

Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve centre, with an estimated population of over 21million people, is unarguably the most profitable state in Nigeria for transport business, with the commercial transporters conveying millions of passengers daily within and outside the city. Though there are no official figures on the number of commercial vehicles plying Lagos roads, at least all the parks combined convey millions of passengers daily. On a busy morning of Wednesday when our correspondent visited Berger Park under Ojodu Local Council Development Area (LCDA), many buses were on the queue conveying passengers to various destinations like Obalende, Oshodi-Gbagada-Iyana Oworo; Bariga, Ketu, Ahmadiyya-Agbado-Ijaiye-Tollgate-Sango Ota, among others.

It only took about 20 minutes to have the first bus on the queue filled up with passengers. The situation was not different at Ogba/Ijaiye motor park. Though many drivers were being cautious in reeling out important facts about their operation, what was glaring is the magnitude of tolling – legitimate and illegitimate – and charges paid to various groups and unions. Also at one of the motor parks in Ikeja, the blue cab plying Ikeja/International Airport road pays N100 on every trip, an equivalent of fare paid by a passenger.

One of the drivers, Mr. Ladipo Adewole, confirmed that the money is different from the daily ticket fee they pay on resumption of duty. “As you can see, we pay N100 from every N400 collected from passengers and we are left with just N300 per trip. The greatest beneficiary is the NURTW, which sells daily ticket to drivers for N200, apart from other charges. Besides, companies operating inter-state pay higher charges, depending on the mileage they cover by each trip. More than 60 per cent of drivers are members of the NURTW. There are also affiliate unions of motorcycle and tricycle riders.

Findings by Daily Trust on Sunday indicated that the NURTW in Lagos has 180 branches spread across the 20 local governments and 37 local council development areas (LCDAs). Each of the branches has a minimum of 10 units while some have as much as 30, depending on the size of the local government. Also, each unit has an executive of at least 13 members overseeing over a minimum of 1000 members.

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