Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Two commercial motorcyclists unions in Ogun State, Articulated Motorcycle and Riders Association of Nigeria (AMORAN) and All Nigerians Auto Bike Commercial Owners and Workers Association (ANACOWA), are entangled in a blame game, over the fracas that nearly marred the march past to commemorate the Nigerian Independence Day celebration on October 1, 2019.
The celebration held at the M.K.O Abiola Stadium, Kuto, Abeokuta, started on a colourful note as trade unions, social groups, military and paramilitary, schools and other organisations, participated in the march past, with Governor Dapo Abiodun, on the rostrum watching the proceedings.
AMORAN and ANACOWA members also joined others for the march past. But observation by our correspondent from the stand at the stadium showed that there was a palpable tension between the two unions. It showed that the tension was rising between the rival unions, and the situation might lead to physical confrontation, if it was not nipped in the bud.
Shortly after, the hot verbal exchange led to free-for-all as members of the unions clashed, and by the time dust would settle, no fewer than five persons were seriously wounded and later hospitalised. In the melee, which lasted about 30 minutes, wooden planks, knives and broken bottles, were freely used, while charms of assorted types were displayed as probable weapons. Though, policemen did not waste time to wade into the clash and restore normalcy, the fracas sent jitters down the spines of the people.
The clash might not be unconnected with the alleged subterranean moves to substitute AMORAN with ANACOWA in the state’s commercial motorcycle transportation arrangement. While the AMORAN leadership accused ANACOWA of masterminding the clash, the latter insisted that its members were not the aggressors.
One of the AMORAN branch chairman, Ifo Constituency II, Agbado, Soji Onifade, said the “unwarranted attack” on the union members was premeditated to plunge the state into needless chaos and confusion. He berated the transport committee set up by the state government for the unfortunate incident.
He said the committee allegedly tried to put the “non-existent” ANACOWA in charge of issuance of revenue tickets in the state contrary to the usual practice: “On Sunday, September 29, the transport committee called us and said rather than printing the government tickets which we issue to commercial motorcycle riders alongside our own tickets, they are printing one for government and an other one for the committee itself.
“We felt this was not the usual practice and we protested. But they said they just wanted to do it that way so that they could properly monitor how much was being generated. We therefore agreed.
“But we later got to know that they had actually recruited the ANACOWA members for the issuance of the tickets. This, we protested, because there have never been any association like that and eventually.
“They reasoned with us and allowed us to start issuing the tickets from Monday, September 30. So we felt this attack was because we did not allow the illegality to sail through and we hope the security agencies will rise to our defence.”
Reacting to the allegation of unwarranted attacks levelled against ANACOWA members, one of the union leaders, Nurudeen Sogeyinbo, claimed, “AMORAN members masterminded the violence.” He explained that some of his injured members were taken to hospital in state government-owned ambulance after the attack:
“They lied against us. We came to the stadium to celebrate but they attacked us without any provocation. They wounded some of our members. As a result, our members retaliated.
“The ambulance at the stadium carried our injured members to the hospital. You can confirm from the police. Those aggressors even stoned policemen who were detailed to escort us from the stadium.
“They waylaid us while leaving the stadium. Thank God the police accompanied us. They started throwing stones and the police were forced to shoot into the air to scare them away.”
One of the members of the transport committee, Kunle Adeyemi, denied the allegation of any under-the-table deal levelled against it by the AMORAN leader. He said the committee has ensured smooth operations by the commercial motorcyclists in the state.
He added that the clash has nothing to do with goings on in the committee. He challenged the leadership of AMORAN to go ahead and prove the allegation of corruption levelled against the transport committee.
A member of another commercial motorcyclists union in the state, who preferred anonymity, told Daily Sun: “If you can recollect that during the campaign visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Ogun, AMORAN members who were drafted to the stadium to support the Allied People’s Movement (APM), actually unleashed terror on the ANACOWA members, who thronged the stadium in yellow vests and caps, in support of the then governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“In the melee that ensued, scores of ANACOWA members were seriously injured and others were chased out of the stadium. Therefore, I want to opine that clash on October 1st, at the same stadium, was a kind of retaliation against AMORAN members, who are perceived as the supporters of the opposition.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Abimbola Oyeyemi, said he could not confirm whether any suspect has been arrested in connection with the incident.
He, however, said the police were on top of the matter and promised to make it public when any arrest is made over the fracas.
A chieftain of AMORAN, Olawale Ajiboye, appealed to Abiodun to wade into the crisis: “I am appealing to Governor Abiodun, all security agencies to come to our rescue and forestall the repeat of such attack on our members.
“We protested recently the decision of the transport committee over a particular matter, eventually the committee reasoned with us and allowed us to start issuing our tickets. I don’t think AMORAN’s decision to stand against what we perceived as illegality, should warrant any form of attack on our members.”