A distressed road transport union

The National Union of Road Transport Workers is an independent trade union, established to serve the interest of transport workers in the road transport sector. This, they do by calling for collective, obtaining and pushing for social stability for all workers in the industry as defined in its constitution.

The history of road transport workers is as old as the transport industry itself but was more pronounced in Nigeria in early 1980s.  The road transport sector today constitutes one of the greatest employers of labour in the Nigerian economy.

The impact of road transporters can be felt in every aspect of the Nigerian society. According to South East investigation, right  from the 1920s when the use of motor transportation became generalized in Nigeria, road transporters have played very significant roles in the Nigerian economy, leading to the conclusion that they can indeed serve as agents of national economic development.

Transporters, it has also been generally agreed that transportation occupies an important place in the process of economic development.

But in spite of this, there is a general belief  that there has been a neglect of the study of the role and impact of the Nigerian motor road transporters today known as the National Union of Road Transport Workers.

There are absolutely no doubt that the road transporters in Nigeria  today number over  20 million people. Given their sheer number, the group exerts a considerable influence on the country’s national life.

Yet, this impact is often overlooked. According to a school of thought, the roles and impact of the motor road transporters on the Nigerian economy since the early decades of the colonial period cannot be undermined.

South East focus investigations have also revealed that the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and that of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, which operated in the state in the late 90s and early 2000 was responsible for the proscription of the transport union in the state.

The proscription, South East focus gathered, followed incessant clashes, killings, maiming and destruction of goods and services worth millions of naira indiscriminately in the state.

A onetime top member of the National Union who did not want his name mentioned, recounted how the leadership tussle between the ring leaders of the NAURTW and NARTO, the late Chief Nweke Ogbodo and Chief Osita Okosieme led to constant break down of law and order in Anambra State.

At a stage, the National Union of Road Transport Workers, under Nweke Ogbodo became a demagogue and indispensible and was calling the shots for various social and political activities in the state until the launching of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, a rival group which were hell bent on taking over the management of transport sector in the state.

In the ensuing crisis, a lot of heads rolled and the leaders of both unions were consumed while a few who survived the onslaught disappeared. This development led to the state government’s proscription and outright ban in Anambra State.

The survivors later regrouped and dragged the Anambra State government to court. The legal tussle however lasted for over 10 years before the court gave judgement in favour of the National Union of Roads Transport Workers.

But some years after the court Judgment, members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, now led by Chief Austine Udeozor are yet to commence operation.

South East Focus visited the State council headquarters of the Union, and discovered that the office is as quiet as a grave yard. The house and the gate were under lock and keys while the premises of the Headquarters at the Borromeo round about was occupied by the Onitsha South Transport mass transit.

A dependable source close to the office of the Union secretariat told South East focus that they were chased out by “authorities from the above.”

He said even though the case is before an Onitsha High Court, they no longer have any money to pursue their matter because they have been out of work for nearly 20years.

“Some of our members have died out of hunger and frustration. The remaining of us are feeding from hand to mouth. We are still appealing to the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, to return us to our parks following the judgment of the court”.

“We are established by the labour law and the constitution of the land but as it is today in the state, the Union is dead and no hope of resurrection.”

Meanwhile, investigation by the South East focus has revealed that the state is the most peaceful and secured state in Nigeria.

The takeover of park management by the government has streamlined the operations of transporters in the state and even enhanced the internally generated revenue of the state which was up to now being vandalized by illegal revenue collectors and hoodlums.

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