By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Lagos State Government has read the riot act to members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN, following incessant violent clashes at Mile-2 end of Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, in which at least five persons reportedly lost their lives in the latest clash, last week.
Chairman of the Lagos State Traffic Management on Apapa gridlock, who is also the Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Oluwatoyin Fayinka, warned that the state government would not hesitate to wield the big stick by suspending their activities if the unions refuse to let peace reign and comply with the extant laws of the state.
Fayinka, at a peace meeting with both parties in Alausa, Ikeja, Tuesday, described the last week Monday’s fracas that claimed at least five lives in Mile-2, Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of the state as ‘unfortunate and avoidable,” warning that, “The state government will not tolerate needless killings and lawlessness in the state.”
Present at the peace meeting are; Alhaji AbdulRamanu Amusan, State Secretary RTEAN, Alhaji Olabode Ogungbade, Zonal Chairman RTEAN, Alhaji Waheed –Alamu, AlhajiRasaki Zulu, comrade Salami Ismail, comrade Ojora Sulaimon, Deputy State Chairman NURTW, Comrade Tunde Raji, Comrade Wasiu Bello, Comrade Abiodun Ibrahim.
The representatives of Lagos State Police Command and the Military were not at the meeting, though duly invited.
Fayinka, reiterated that as part of efforts to return peace to the area, the state government has suspended further sale of tickets to truckers in the axis, while it awaits the report of the Police on investigations into the latest crisis.
Fayinka stated that the Lagos State Government, through the Ministry of Transportation will not relent in carrying out enforcement without fear or favour.
In response to the violence that marred Mile-2 and Amuwo Odofin Axis between the RTEAN, and NURTW, Amuwo division, the Lagos State Government has declared that any more clashes will attract a suspension of their operations.
Fayinka stated that the state government will proceed with dealing with the case intrinsically as soon as the Nigerian Police present the report of the crisis, stressing that looming problem of multiple levies on truckers by the unions around the axis had been the trigger for the dispute and would not be tolerated.
Expressing his disappointment at the unfortunate incident that left 5 people dead, the Special Adviser warned the unions to beware of infiltrators as this will spoil their reputation and lead to an abrupt end of the activities by the state government as the safety of lives and properties is first and sacrosanct.
Admitting the claims made by Fayinka, Vice Chairman, RTEAN and Head of Haulage, comrade Adeola Adeyemi, explained that the NURTW had breached the agreement earlier signed by both parties, stating that their violent insistence on selling ticket suspended by the state government to truckers registered under RTEAN had resulted to the death of five members last week.
In defense to the accusation levelled against NURTW by RTEAN, the Branch Secretary NURTW, Amuwo, comrade Adewale Adeyemi, who claimed that two of their members were also killed, T-Boy and one other, stated that the Council of Maritime Transport Unions and Associations, COMTUA, was responsible for the crisis which was ignited at Fatgbem, adding that they were the ones that went to dislodge the violators of the aforementioned agreement and the violators were handed over to the police.
He further revealed that the reprisal attack by RTEAN with the intervention of OPMESA, military security agents, equally led to casualties that occurred.
Responding to all explanations, the Special Adviser, assured that necessary steps were being taken to nip the reprisals in the bud, warning strongly that the state government will not hesitate to suspend union activities if they will impede the development and peace of the state.
‘There is room for improvement and we will improve. Because of the rivalry, we had mediated between both parties on many occasions,we are going to solve this at the root. We will do our job as the government’ Fayinka stated.
Closing the meeting, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Kamar Olowohago described the ugly incident that occurred at Mile 2 as avoidable, unnecessary and unfair. He warned that the communique signed by both Unions will be binding.
The meeting came to a close with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) duly signed by both NURTW and RTEAN.
“It was agreed that none of the unions are to extort or collect tolls from trailers/trucks in any form of disguise. Also contained in the MOU is the constitution of a Seven-Man Committee consisting of three members each from the unions and an official from the Ministry of Transportation to establish areas of conflict and recommendations within a month.
Recall that at least three persons were reportedly killed and several others sustained various degrees of injuries during a clash between the two transport unions last Wednesday night at Mile-2 along Apapa –Oshodi Expressway, Badagry Expressway, in Amuwo-Odofin LGA, Lagos.
The casualties were: Emma, Rilwan Ege and Shehu Bade, were said to be members of RTEAN, while T-Boy and one other died on the side of NURTW.
An earlier attack on Tuesday, reportedly left 15 RTEAN members with gunshot wounds, at the Tin-Can First gate and Fatgbems Gas station on the Apapa/Oshodi Expressway.
Trouble started brewing since two months ago until it reached its climax on Monday, last week.
After initial findings, ticket fee for truck drivers, access into Apapa Ports was the major cause of the fight.
Erstwhile, RTEAN, had been issuing tickets to truck drivers who are its members at N800.
However, NURTW was said to have forced its way into the toll collection from truck drivers and increased the fee to N2000.
But RTEAN was said to have kicked against NURTW’s involvement, insisting that the NURTW had never been part of the toll collections from onset and that truck drivers were members of RTEAN.
In the hit of the brewing misunderstanding, in order to avoid the situation to degenerate into full blown crisis, the Lagos State Government waded into the dispute, through the Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, ordered a stoppage of issuance and collections of ticket or money by either of the parties.
However, in defiance, the toll collection continued unabated, until the dispute between them snowballed into violence.