Okey Sampson, Umuahia
A war of attrition is raging in Abia State between the Commissioner of Transport, Chief Ekele Nwaohanmuo, and the State Chairman of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Eugene Eze Job, over the creation of loading bays in the State.
Job had while addressing journalists alleged that the Commissioner of the Transport Ministry engaged non-okada [transport motorcycle] operators, imposed illegal levies and forced each member of the units to pay a daily fee of N600 for registration and N500 for road rehabilitation.
‘How can okada operators be charged N600 daily and another N500 which they said is for road rehabilitation? The Commissioner for Transport collects money to create loading units everywhere. Those who refuse to pay the illegal tolls are assaulted by thugs. This is why the okada riders are fighting daily. He also imposed non-okada operators and thugs to lead the okada riders,’ Job complained.
Denying the allegations, Nwaohanmuo, who described Job as lawless, stated that the NURTW chairman has refused to obey regulations guiding the transport industry in the State.
According to the Commissioner, ‘the State NURTW chairman, Eugene Eze Job, doesn’t want other unions to operate. He is the one causing the problems. He is the Chairman of NURTW; he is the Chairman of SATOA; now they have floated another one, Motor Transport Union of Nigeria.
‘They applied to the Ministry of Transport, but I refused to approve it, and he asked them to come and register in the NURTW. Now, he has been causing confusion, chasing away any rider who is not a member of his union. He doesn’t want another union to operate in the State.
‘There are various motor unions such as Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), NARTO and Cooperative. The NURTW chairman wants every motor operator to be under his union. How can a keke or motorcycle union go to NURTW to register?,’ Nwaohanmuo asked.
The Commissioner warned that nobody had the right to create a motorcycle or keke [auto rickshaws] unit along the road, stressing that Local Government Areas have the right to collect tolls from keke operators, but not to give them permits to permanently stay on the roads.
Chief Nwaohanmuo insisted that ‘the roads belong to the State who suffers to maintain them, but you can observe that the motorcycle and keke operators have taken over. You can’t even access most of the roads in the cities. The NURTW chairman has been causing problems everywhere in Umuahia and Aba.’
He explained that the NURTW does not have a right over motorcycle and keke operators, but is only responsible for the operation of intra and interstate buses.
Okada operators at Zion by East Street and Obohia-Nkwo Ngwa units in Aba South had last week fought over the ownership of the loading bays, with most of them sustaining injuries.