By BENJAMIN OMOIKE
The acting administrator of Lagos chapter of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Oluwaseyi Bankole, has accused chairman of the Parks Management Committee, Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly called MC Oluomo, of seizing the union’s secretariat and chasing away staff of NURTW from the premises, with claims that he got an order from the State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to convert the office into park and garages complex.
He disclosed that all property of NURTW inside the secretariat had been converted to Lagos State Parks and Garages Authority and that MC Oluomo went as far as removing the name of the union from the building, using paints.
Bankole said the 11 vehicles belonging to NURTW were also seized by MC Oluomo and that he also barred the union members from entering the premises, including himself, the Acting Administrator.
Speaking exclusively on the new developments, the acting administrator revealed that the chairman of Lagos State Parks Management Committee took over the premises two days before he was announced as head of the committee by the state government and that his team had been causing violence in the area where the union office is located.
Bankole claimed that the Secretariat had been placed under siege by MC Oluomo after deploying members of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), and other armed men to ensure that no one gained entrance into the premises without his directives.
He equally noted that after taking over the premises, Oluomo had repainted the building to remove whatever could link the property to the transport body.
According to him, the move to take over the Secretariat started barely two days before the Commissioner for information and strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, released the names of the 25-man Committee for the Parks Management Committee.
“The office was not handed over to him (MC Oluomo), he took over the premises with force. And for now, NURTW does not have access to the building and he has deployed members of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), to take over the Secretariat security.”
He noted that the chairman has held his inaugural meeting at the Secretariat, after taking it over and has assured all members listed as committee members that the NURTW would serve as their Secretariat.
“When he announced that a meeting will be held with members of the committee, we were less concerned but suddenly we discovered MC Oluomo and some of his loyalists stormed the NURTW Secretariat in Agege and they vandalised the union property, as well as repainting the building, to reflect their plans.
“And before the final takeover, my office was burgled and the union tickets worth over N30 million were carted away and investigations revealed that it had been sold to members across the state.”
As gathered, during the takeover exercise, Akinsanya alleged that his actions were authorised by the State Governor, who directed that the premises be acquired for the Parks Management Committee, since it would serve as their meeting venue.
The national president, Tajudeen Baruwa, stated that the national body will not take any action that could cause a breach of peace in Lagos, and rather than do otherwise, the body will allow the Lagos State Government to take charge of the situation, as well as do the needful, by returning NURTW Secretariat to its rightful owner.
“The Secretariat in Lagos belongs to NURTW, it is our office and MC Oluomo came to seize it from us under the name of the Lagos State Government.
“Since we suspended MC Oluomo, we have resolved to peace and will continue upholding that, irrespective of any provocation that may arise from the transport union’s former member. NURTW is a respected union with members that are law-abiding, and the public should not expect anything otherwise from the body in Lagos and across the country.”
Meanwhile, a source from the Lagos State Governor’s office distanced Sanwo-Olu from claims that the governor gave directives that NURTW’s Secretariat should be seized from the union by a newly-constituted Parks and Garages Committee Chairman and that MC Oluomo must have acted on his own in taking over the said office.
He said that the governor is a law-abiding leader, who has respect for unions and would not violate the constitution of Nigeria that protects the rights of individuals and groups, as such, the source says it would be wrong to claim that Sanwo-Olu directed the seizure of NURTW’s office in Lagos.
“Sanwo-Olu knows the law and cannot act outside what is right, knowing full well what the constitution says about unions, particularly the NURTW. Taking over NURTW’s office in Lagos cannot be with the approval of the governor and the state will not support a forceful seizure of anyone’s property like that of the transport body that claimed to have been seized by MC Oluomo.
When the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, was contacted to find out about the matter, he refused to comment on the seizure of the property, but rather said that the Lagos State Government had done its bit to ensure peace reigns in the state.
He said: “I cannot comment on the seizure of the property, but what I know is that the government has done everything to ensure there is peace in Lagos.
“MC Oluomo and his people have decided to leave the union and they have the right to form their own union and the government cannot stop them from exiting one union to form another. It is their constitutional right and no one can stop them.
“NURTW should go and meet MC Oluomo, as well as retrieve their office from him instead of going to Police for assistance,” the commissioner added.
Efforts to speak with MC Oluomo over the seizure of NURTW’s Secretariat building and other property within the premises, proved abortive.
Calls were put through to his aides and SMS were sent to them but neither was responded to.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Parks Committee has directed his loyalists to continue operations at their respective garages.