By Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
The Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) has said that it would reject the alleged extortions of its members by the Caretaker Committee for the association constituted by the Lagos State government.
RTEAN’s national president, Musa Mohammed, who spoke to journalists in Lagos on Monday, said that its members would not pay any levy to the caretaker committee, describing the caretaker’s activities as “illegal”.
Recalled that the Lagos State government had on September 29, suspended all activities of RTEAN and dissolved the union’s elected executive members in the state following violence recorded in some areas in Ojo and Lagos Island the same day.
It would be recalled also the leadership of RTEAN earlier before this ban had announced the suspension of one of its Lagos State Vice Chairmen, Mr Oluwaseyi Bamgbose, popularly known as ‘Student’ for allegedly instigating unrest in the association.
Bamgbose was organising protests demanding the removal of RTEAN’s State Chairman who also doubles as the association’s National President.
Consequently, the Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Transportation, Mr Sola Giwa, announced on Thursday that a 35-member caretaker committee to take over activities of the union has been constituted.
Subsequently, the union instituted a case before the National Industrial Court, Lagos, challenging what it described as “illegal or unlawful action of the Lagos State Government”.
Mohammed said that members had been compelled to buy union tickets despite the suspension of operations.
He said, “They (the committee) have hijacked our operations because it is the same thing that we are doing that the committee the government set up is doing too.
“The government said they have suspended our operations in the state and our operation is for us to sell our tickets. Now that the government has asked the committee to print tickets and that is the ticket they are selling now to our members.
“Immediately after our last press release was out, the committee called another meeting to dissolve our constituted zones and chapels because those zones and chapels could not collect the N5 million and N400,000 they initially proposed to them collect respectively.
“The association has about 350 chapels and 50 zones. Asking all the 350 chapels and 50 zones to bring money to the chairman of the caretaker committee directly just because the collection of N5m and N400,000 did not work. This cannot work.
“We are calling the attention of the state government and security agencies to know that there is extortion of our members.
“Already we are aware that our operations have been suspended by the Lagos State government and we have gone to court because we are labour workers working directly under Federal Government,” he said.
Decrying the suspension, Mohammed said that, as a trade union, if the association had to be suspended, it should be the federal government, “if we have committed any offence, the state government can be called to constitute a committee to look into the matter.”
Mohammed explained that based on the outcome of such a report by the state-constituted committee, the Federal Government can then take action through the state government.
“I will write to the security agencies to look into the matter if it is constitutional and the public to know what we are going through,” he said.