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Return of Oshodi war lords

…Untold story of how and why Hamburger was killed
…As peace gradually returns

By Olasunkanmi Akoni and Bose Adelaja

JUST as in time past, Oshodi, the bustling centre of commercial activities in Lagos, is once again in the news for the wrong reasons. Indeed, Oshodi was for years perceived as a wild jungle which served as a convenient battle ground for both criminal and non-criminal elements, including rival factions of traders and transport unions who usually engaged in bloody showdowns at the slightest provocation.

That was until it was seemingly tamed by the administration of former Governor Babatunde Fashola which descended on the place with bulldozers, sacked the chaotic order there, paving the way for its redevelopment and transformation.

And thus a new Oshodi was born, a marvel to behold with the roads and bridges rehabilitated, the markets and bus-stops redesigned and the entire area well lit to prevent miscreants, hoodlums and robbers from continuing to use it as their enclave to unleash terror and perpetrate other criminal activities. But even with this development, the peace in Oshodi was occasionally truncated by activities of factional members of transport unions as a result of supremacy tussle over control of territory or collection of dues.

Police men and members of the Lagos State Task Force at Oshodi

This was the case on February 25, 2015 when  a clash between hoodlums representing rival factions of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, left one person dead, several others injured and no fewer than 12 vehicles vandalised and 15 others burnt. And as security operatives intervened to stop the mayhem, business activities in the Mosafejo and Under-brige sections of the popular market were grounded with traffic on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and the Ikorodu Road at a standstill for hours.

Imposition of candidates

The crisis was a fallout of a misunderstanding within the Lagos branch of the NURTW over the outcome of a National Convention in Abuja which elected new executive members of the union for another term. The result of the election was said not to have gone down well with forces that saw it as mere selection process and imposition of candidates against the wish of the majority.

Those disenchanted with the situation were identified as   Musiliu Akinsaya, popularly called MC Oluomo, who was the state Treasurer and also the branch Chairman in Oshodi;  Mustapha Kunle, popularly called Seego, a state Auditor who controls Lagos Island and Sulaimon Ojora, aka Kudeleti, an ex-Officio, in charge of Ijora area.

The travail of the trio, who were seen as being very powerful members of the union, started when they lost their positions in the last national election on October 8, 2015 in Abuja. The development led to the factionalisation of the union.

Lagos State Task Force on patrol of roads in Oshodi

The loss, it was gathered, was due to an alleged grand plot by some forces to upstage the current Chairman of the NURTW in the state, Tajudeen Agbede, who enjoys tremendous  support of the national President, Najeem Yasin and majority of members.

The grouse of the faction stemmed from the fact that Agbede was elected as the national financial secretary and at the same time retaining the chairmanship in Lagos as encouraged by Yasin. The group contended that the act negates the constitution of the union which stipulates that any member who is elected as national officer automatically ceases to be a state executive which was what played out in this case.

The national president of the union, it was gathered, had prior to the election in Abuja directed members to return all state chairmen who are loyal to the national body and were doing very well in their respective states, hence, the return of Agbede. Yasin who was said to have been piqued by the audacity of the faction to flout his directive, urged Agbede to relieve the dissenting members of their posts in the state executive and confine them to chairman of branch level as a punishment.

Agbede carried out the directive and relegated them to branch chairmen which did not go down well with the trio and their supporters who have been threatening to fight back in a violent manner to get justice. Agbede replaced Oluomo with Baba Ajilo, a long time union loyalist as the new treasurer.

Subsequently, the swearing-in of the 24 new state executive members which was scheduled to take place at the union’s headquarters at Abule-Egba was shifted following feelers of likely disruption from the aggrieved party.

Status-quo remains

The swearing-in, it was gathered, later took place at Agbede’s hotel somewhere in the Ogba area of the state. The other party saw it as a victory, arguing that the status-quo remains as the so-called new exco was not properly formed. They claimed that they still have the power of the state executive to function. This further heightened tension among the union members who were spoiling for action.

It will be recalled that a similar incident happened between Oluomo and former NURTW boss, Rafiu Olohunwa, which resulted in a violent clash between their supporters before the intervention of Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu who facilitated an accord being reached, thus calming the situation. Prior to the 2015 general elections, Oluomo was declared wanted by police authorities for alleged criminal acts associated with the power tussle. He was said to have gone into hiding for several days to avoid arrest.

Oluomo was, however, said to have used his connection within the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, which considers him a political asset due to his popularity and supporters escape further police harassment and possible prosecution.

The belief is that his absence  during the general elections affected the chances of APC in the area. For the first time the progressives, APC, lost quite a large number of votes and seats to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Ambode’s intervention: Afraid that the crisis might spiral out of control, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had summoned  an emergency stakeholders meeting the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, where all frayed nerves were calmed after an exhaustive session. A source who was part of the meeting, told Vanguard INSIGHT on condition of anonymity that Ambode impressed it on the warring parties to sheathe their swords in the interest of the state and the country and that government would not allow any breakdown of law and order.

Having listened to both sides on the matter, the governor, it was learned, urged the union leaders to maintain the status-quo and reverse the decision relieving the aggrieved trio of their positions in the state executive. Subsequently, Agbede, Oluomo and others were made to sign a peace accord before the state Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, where it was expressly stated that they allow peace and tranquility to reign and anything contrary would be seriously be dealt with.

Hamburger’s death: However, fresh crisis erupted on May 29, 2017, which escalated into violence and eventually led to the killing of a leader of the Motorcycle Operators Association of Lagos State, MOALS, in Oshodi, Alhaji Rasaq Bello, popularly, known as “Hamburger.” Hamburger was killed around Oshodi, precisely, Agoowu Street, by yet to be identified armed men during the APC primaries in 377 wards held recently. Enraged by the development, his supporters had launched a retaliatory attack which led to the death of two others persons.

Private meeting

Hamburger, it was learned, had recently ditched the PDP to pitch his tent with the APC. It was gathered that few weeks ago, he had a private meeting with Tinubu where a deal was sealed for him to assist APC in the area, especially in the forthcoming July 22 local government elections across the 57 councils. Hamburger’s supporters are alleging that Oluomo who has been in control of the entire area felt threatened by Hamburger’s affiliation with Tinubu and the APC.

In the ongoing investigation, three transport union leaders in the area were arrested in connection with the killing. The arrested leaders were simply identified as ‘Taloo’ ‘Alayoo’ and ‘Ijee.’ Obviously disturbed by the development and its grave security implications, Governor Ambode was compelled to act. The state government had, after due consultation with relevant stakeholders, announced the suspension of further activities of the NURTW in all the seven branches in Oshodi, with a threat to extend the measure to the rest of the state if there is any violence as a result of the suspension order.

“Any escalation of the crisis arising from the ban will lead to government taking sterner actions against the branches where violence is recorded,” the Governor warned the warring factions of the transport unions in Oshodi through the Acting Commissioner for Transportation, Prince Anofiu Elegushi. Elegushi, who listed the seven affected suspension locations as Lob A, D, J, Oshodi A, B, C and D, disclosed that state government officials and security personnel are to henceforth oversee and mandate transport operations within the affected branches in Oshodi.

“The suspension of transport union activities will remain in force until peace and harmony returns to the area. And for us to know that, it would be based on appropriate security reports.

Appropriate security reports

“Police investigations are ongoing on the said death and all persons found culpable will be prosecuted in line with the dictates of the law. Any escalation of this crisis will lead to the government taking tougher action against the activities transport union in the state,” he added.

Elegushi explained that extensive consultation with stakeholders and the determination to protect lives and properties forestall further breakdown of law and order, were the reasons for the suspension.

We will issue interim report on the crisis this week—Police

Reacting on the crisis, Deputy Commissioner of Police, DC (Ops), Oluwole Edgar, who did not disclose the number of transport union leaders arrested and detained, said that those arrested were still in detention, adding that “investigation has reached advanced stage.” He assured that anyone found culpable in the crisis would be prosecuted in accordance with the law, and that the state government, in partnership with the police and other relevant stakeholders, was working towards a lasting peace. Edgar added that the report of the preliminary investigation by the police would be out before the end of the week.

The DC (Ops) who refused to comment further on the investigation urged union members to close rank and shun rumours, bickering, insinuation and unverified information. He urged the leadership of the NURTW to take charge of their men.

On his part, NURTW chair, Agbede, said the branch was in support of the decision of government to suspend all union activities in Oshodi indefinitely, saying that the union was adequately consulted before the action was taken.

“I like to confirm that the decision of the State Government to suspend union activities in Oshodi was supported by us. We also want lasting peace in Oshodi and we know that with this decision, people can go about their duties without let or hindrance. I am sure if the union had handled the issue of Oshodi, we would have arrived at the same decision to suspend activities for now and I want to urge our members to cooperate with government in its bid to ensure lasting peace. Going forward, we have been educating our members on the need to eschew violence and we still want to reiterate it that,” he said.

Also, chairman of the Lagos State Task Force, Superintendent of Police, SP, Olayinka Egbeyemi, while giving assurance of safety of lives and property said security team of the Taskforce and other security agencies have been strategically deployed to the area such as Mafoluku, Shogunle, Sadiku, Ladipo and the entire Oshodi area of the State in order to ensure safety.


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