…Leaders trade blame over cause of fight
…6 persons arrested as Police mount surveillance
By Evelyn Usman & Esther Onyegbula
Commercial activities were disrupted at the ever-busy Obalende area of Lagos, yesterday, following a violent clash between members of National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, and the Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria, RTEAN.
Dangerous weapons, including guns, were used during the free-for-all. Commuters scampered for safety in the ensuing fracas to avoid being hit by stray bullets, while motorists hurriedly made U-turns.
Vanguard gathered that there had been an ongoing move to take over parks in contention by one of the parties, an action that had taken both parties to the Police in Lagos command and the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
It was gathered that a meeting between members of the unions was fixed for yesterday at the Force Headquarters, Force Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department, Alagbon. The fight reportedly broke out at Obalende while the meeting was ongoing.
Leaders of both parties blamed one another for the cause of the fight when Vanguard contacted them.
The media aide to the Chairman, NURTW, Lagos Chapter, Mr Jimoh Busari, told Vanguard that members of RTEAN invaded his union’s park early yesterday and attacked his members, in a bid to forcefully take over the leadership.
He said but for the intervention of other members of his union and the Police, the situation would have gone out of hand.
He said: “Those arrested were all RTEAN members. They were the ones that came to attack us. Our members were not among those arrested. We’re peaceful people.”
However when the Chairman of RTEAN, Alhaji Mohammed Musa, was contacted, he described the situation as unfortunate, stating rather that NURTW members attacked his men.
Musa explained that out of the 21 units in Obalande, RTEAN had only two while the rest were being manned by NURTW.
He said: “We have been operating in these two units without rancour. Yet NURTW wants to take over the only two units we are occupying.
“NURTW reported the matter at Kam Salem Police formation, we were invited there and after hearing our side of the matter, some of our boys that were earlier arrested were released. Later, they reported us to the IGP Monitoring Unit, we went there, explained our part and we were exonerated from blame.
“Last month, our union was invited by the CP Maritime Police for the same investigation into the two parks. again, we explained our part.
“They went to the FCID. Both parties were asked to come by 11 am today (yesterday). When our members went to work in the morning, one of the leaders of NURTW organised their members to attack our members.
“Out of the whole local governments in Lagos State, RTEAN operates in only six, which are Badagry, Ojo, Amuwo, Epe, Ikorodu and Surulere. We are law-abiding people.“
Normalcy, however, returned in the area at about 11 am, following intervention by policemen from the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, and those from the Area ‘A’ Command, Lion Building.
At press time, policemen on foot and vehicular patrol were patrolling the area while shop owners, who had closed up for the day, resumed business.
Six persons, according to the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, were arrested in connection with the fracas.
He said: “Based on preliminary findings, the crisis that occurred today (yesterday) was between transport unions in the area and no life was lost. Six suspected hoodlums have been arrested and handed over to state CID, Panti, Yaba for discreet investigation.
However, the Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, has warned that the command will not condone any act of lawlessness and criminality in the state. He, however, directed the Area Commander, Area A, Lion Building, ACP Bode Ojajuni, to intensify efforts on flushing the hoodlums out of the area and on Lagos Island in general.