Citizen is a column that explains how the government’s policies fucks citizens and how we can unfuck ourselves.

So you’ve probably seen members of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in action. Usually sporting their white and green uniforms, they are the independent union behind the drivers of commercial buses, tricycles and motorcycles — danfos, kekes, and okadas as they are fondly known. But what you might not know is how much the NURTW makes daily, monthly, and yearly.

According to the International Center for Investigative Report, the Lagos State chapter of the NURTW made roughly ₦121.392 billion in 2020 alone. Yeah, e shock you. 

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In statements from 50 danfo drivers in 21 out of the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in Lagos State, NURTW’s ticket collectors, not so fondly referred to as Agberos, collect at least ₦3,000 from about 75,000 of these drivers in Lagos state alone, every day. This means that the union makes up to ₦225 million per day, ₦6.75 billion per month and roughly ₦81 billion from danfos per year.

You’d think they’d go easier on the kekes but nope. According to the Lagos State Maritime and Transport Agency (LAMATA), there are 50,000 kekes in Lagos State. The keke riders say that the union charges them at least 1,800 per day

Some quick maths shows us that the union makes up to ₦90 million per day, ₦2.7 billion per month and roughly ₦32.4 billion from kekes per year.

Then there’s Okadas. There are about 37,000 okada riders in Lagos. They each pay an average of ₦600 every day to the NURTW, enriching the union with about ₦22.2 million per day, ₦666 million per month and ₦7.992 billion per year.

So you see how we finally arrive at 121.392 billion in a year of Lagos State levies alone. There are some other undocumented levies from taxis, tankers and trailers, but the main gist is these people are collecting serious money

But Is The NURTW Even Relevant?

A union is supposed to protect the interests of its members, but it seems that may not be the case with the NURTW. When asked by Al Jazeera if a union executive protected him from police harassment, Yusuf, a keke driver in Lagos replied, “Which union? The executive was only there to talk to the policemen to negotiate the bribe. His presence only helped to reduce it.”

In another interview with Al Jazeera, Afeez, a danfo driver in Lagos recalled that he once fought with a ticketing rep from the union who stabbed his conductor in the eye with a key because the conductor had refused to pay the “afternoon due”. 

Professor Gbadebo Odewumi, a professor of transport at the Lagos State University concludes that “the union leaders just reap from the chaos of the system and enrich themselves”.

What Can Be Done About The NURTW?

The union was established in 1978 and is supposed to fight for the welfare of Nigerian drivers and road transport workers who constantly suffer abuse from security personnel like the police, traffic management and vehicle inspection officers. 

Ideally, they should work with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to fight economic issues that seriously affect drivers like sudden fuel price hikes or bad roads. The dues the union collects should also be used to support its members.

Sadly, the NURTW has been riddled with corruption, bribery, nepotism and violence ever since. 

State governments can suspend the activities of the NURTW if they violate the rights of citizens. But there are reports that politicians use NURTW ticket reps as thugs to fight opponents and manipulate elections, and this is the reason why the NURTW remains ‘untouchable’ in many states. Some states like Oyo have already banned the union because of the frequent violence and factional clashes by its members. 

Clearly, there’s work to be done about some of the NURTW’s activities. Unions like these must do the work they were originally created for. But until the issues are fixed, we assume the ‘fees’ will continue being collected and bus fares will continue to rise. Sorry guys.

Image source: Unsplash

We hope you’ve learned a thing or two about how to unfuck yourself when the Nigerian government moves mad. Check back every weekday for more Zikoko Citizen explainers.


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