Conference: the National Union of Road Transport Workers in Nigeria

WhatsApp Image 2023 02 13 at 10.23.46On the 6th of February 2023, Laurent Fouchard, Research Professor at the Centre for International Studies (CERI) and at the Urban School of Sciences Po Paris, gave a conference at the Institute of African Studies of the University of Ibadan. He presented his current research on the political relations between the State and the National Union of Road Transport Workers in Nigeria (Lagos and Ibadan particularly) since 1978. Laurent Fourchard method involves the combination of historical and ethnographic approaches.

The Conference touched upon several aspects of Fourchard’s research that relate to his recently published book: “Classify Exclude Police” (2021). After obtaining authorization to conduct research in motor park from the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in 2020, Fourchard conducted observations and interviews with his research assistants Joseph Akinniyi, Abdulazeez Kayode Sikiru and Joseph Ayodokun in 2018, January 2020 and January 2023 with local Union members and Agberos in different motor parks of Lagos (Bariga, Obalande, Oshodi, Oyimgbo).

After the NURTW was created in 1978, it was a tool in the hands of political parties which took power over Unions and local governments during the second republic. Today, the All-Progressive Congress has very intricate links with the NURTW. Throughout the eighties and nineties, the NURTW took control of garages gradually, touts were not necessarily under the authority of the NURTW in the 1980s and 1990s (Ismael 2009, Momoh 1996, Okapara 1988). During the second republic, the NURTW functions were about defending workers right and, for instance, organizing bus driver strikes to defend their pensions, salaries and allowances. Today it is much more about regulating traffic in motor parks. Agberos are the ones regulating this traffic. They have a very bad image in the public opinion, but while some of the things that are reproached to them do occur such as harassment and extortions cases, they also conduct their job, chatting with and disciplining drivers that can also be belligerent.

While urban dwellers often complain about the insistence of Agberos trying to collect their dues, they often do not realize that Agberos follow the orders of the Executive Committees (Exco) that ask them to collect a fix amount of money during the day before getting paid themselves. Exco members in the past used to be old and incapacitated driver. Becoming an Exco member was a way to obtain a kind of pension in exchange of doing some “deskwork” within a motor park. The Lagos State chapter of the NURTW is being absorbed by the Lagos government since March 2022 which means that it is ultimately going to be subordinated to the department of transports and that the relationships between state authorities and what will remain of the NURTW are bound to evolve.

If you want to learn more about this topic, click here to read an interview conducted with Laurent Fourchard about his work.

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