COMMERCIAL vehicle drivers are grumbling that they are the suffering victims in the midst of the current crisis.
They complained they have been subjected to double taxation by paying the recently introduced state-controlled N800 consolidated levy and the numerous NURTW dues enforced by Oluomo’s boys at bus stops and parks. Besides the dues that the enforcers collect at virtually every bus stop, Oluomo’s enforcers at the parks and garages, The ICIR learnt, also collect what a driver termed “emergency taxations.” These could be anything from money to host Oluomo’s visitors whenever he said he had them, to money to massage his fancies whenever he felt like it. His word was law.
A driver, Olaoluwa Famogbiyele, plying the Berger-Iyana-Ipaja route, told The ICIR that he was not interested in the union’s activities, as he operated his business independently.
Famogbiyele said, “You look at the way I was apologising to my commuters today, telling them sorry because this is where I get my daily bread from. This moto (vehicle) is where I get my daily bread from. What I fight for on a daily basis is to get what I eat and drink and, because of that, I am not a part of any union.”
To his understanding, the N800 ticket should not be given to drivers but should be replaced by the N200 ticket gotten from the local government councils.
“According to what I heard, they said we should not be giving drivers N800 tickets, but we should be paying N200 for council,” he said.
Another driver operating a mini-van at the Berger park, Lawan Hassan, noted that most drivers were confused on the way forward.
“We don’t really know what is going on for now. We still collected tickets this morning. What we received today was the N800 consolidated levy introduced by the government last month instead of the NURTW ticket,” Hassan said yesterday, showing our reporter a picture of the ticket and lamenting how fuel scarcity had been making the double taxation a bigger burden on drivers.
He said, “How much do I make daily? This extra fuel spending is in addition to the N2,500 we spend on taxes, inclusive of loading and ticketing. If all these tickets go down, it would be easy for drivers.
“We don’t know what action the union will take because nobody has called us to any meeting. There is no next step, we are still observing if something would change or if there is anything they are going to tell us.”
Government responds to The ICIR investigation
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Toyin Fayinka, in an exclusive interview with The ICIR, declared that contrary to some public comments, only the state government’s N800 tickets were being sold. He also stressed that the NURTW has been suspended in the state, warning drivers to stop giving hoodlums or thugs money.
He said, “We have suspended national union activities but we have not suspended the tickets of the government. That one is still in force.
“The drivers are members of the union. They are mature enough to know they ought not to pay another person on the street asides from the government agents. We have printed our tickets numbered and well-covered with security code. Agents sign for the ticket, and the money is remitted to the coffers of the Lagos State government and reconciliation made. We will come out with a monitoring team to picket and stop random buses. Once you are not with the ticket, you will be sanctioned accordingly.”
Fayinka explained that the government has the telephone numbers, photographs and signatures of the designated agents given the wholesale tickets to sell to the drivers to enable government to track revenue leakages. He noted that these plans were made even before the suspension of the union activities.
Despite Fayinka’s assertions, a statement purportedly emerged on Monday, March 14, 2022 from the office of the suspended Lagos NURTW chairman, Oluomo, directing the union enforcers to continue operations.
“This is to formally inform all NURTW Chairmen and entire members to operate your day-to-day union activities at the various motor parks & garages. Disregard any patrol policemen parading themselves to disrupt your union operations,” the statement read.
The notice advised that any disruption of activities by the police should be reported to the leadership “for rectification”.
Oluomo has, however, denied issuing such a statement.
“I am a law-abiding citizen. I have never authorised the sale of union tickets. Lagos State tickets issued (are) being sold at all the parks and garages. I cannot stop the sales of government tickets. I don’t even have such powers,” he said.
The Seyi Makinde Parks template in Lagos
Although the Lagos State government, while banning NURTW activities, stated it would “immediately” be constituting a committee to manage parks and garages in the state, it is yet to do so. The expectation in some quarters was that Governor Sanwo-Olu would be borrowing the parks management template of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, who banned the similarly volatile operations of NURTW in the state and established a parks management committee, which he picked a former chairman of the NURTW in the state, Lamidi Mukaila, alias Auxilliary, to head.
It was even rumoured that Sanwo-Olu had picked Oluomo to be the General Manager of a Lagos State Transportation Parks and Garages Management Committee to be established, a talk the Lagos State government quickly debunked.
Responding to this development, Fayinka explained that the government would speak at the appropriate time. “We don’t want anybody to stampede us, we will speak to the public at the appropriate time,” he said.
The suspension of Oluomo may have been investing some commercial vehicle operators with the courage to dare the Lagos NURTW enforcers, something they dared not do when Oluomo was in full flight. On Tuesday, March 15, 2022, some commercial bus drivers plying the Iyana Ipaja/ Ikotun route withdrew their service in protest against the outrageous levies they pay to the Lagos NURTW.
The drivers, who said there was nothing to show for the daily levies running into tens of thousands of naira, said they were tired of paying such “unwarranted” levies.
Many commuters were stranded at every bus stop between Ikotun and Iyana Ipaja as the drivers turned back all commercial buses and tricycles who disobeyed the call.
Support for Oluomo
A body that called itself ‘The Lagos State Council Group of Elders of the NURTW’ has thrown its weight behind Oluomo and asked the national body of the union in Abuja to withdraw the suspension imposed on him “within seven days.”
The elders issued the ultimatum in a letter titled, ‘Resolutions of Lagos State Council of NURTW Elders Forum on the current crisis in the Union’ and dated March 14, 2022, addressed to the national body of the union.
They also asked the national body to withdraw a letter appointing another chairman for the Lagos State chapter of the Tricycle Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria.
Oluomo dreams to be king
There is no gainsaying that Musiliu Akinsanya has become a phenomenon in the socio-economic and even political affairs in Lagos State. With so much money at his command, tens of thousands of naira pouring into his coffers, Oluomo can afford to have many hangers-on worshipping at his feet, as he can afford his family living and studying abroad. Last December, a video went viral on social media of two of his children graduating from an American university. He was reported to have gifted a daughter who graduated from a foreign university a jeep worth N17m.
He is said to have a luxury home in the Ejigbo suburb of Lagos and another house in Ajao Estate. He owns Akima Hotel, Oshodi. His deputy and right-hand man, Ganiyu Oyedepo, popularly known as Koko Zaria, also last November opened his own Zargaza Hotel and Suites estimated to be worth over N500 million in Lagos.
Koko Zaria, believed to be the chief enforcer for the Lagos NURTW, has declared that Oluomo owns the union in the state and cannot be removed.
Oluomo is described as a philanthropist in his own right, with donations, especially to performers in the entertainment industry. He is a close friend to many actors and musicians; The ICIR learnt he bankrolls many movies and music productions, especially of the Yoruba hue.
Oluomo has the Oshodi area of Lagos State, from where he operates so much so in his control that he has been scheming to become its traditional ruler. Oshodi has been without a substantive king in 52 years.
His apologists claim Oluomo is an Awori from Oshodi, adding that his grand-uncle, Seidu Akinsanya, was a Baale in Oshodi some decades ago.
Oluomo has been pursuing the dream and was waiting until his tenure as NURTW chairperson was over. His dream got a fillip two years ago when a close ally of his, Sulaimon Adeshina Ashade, popularly known as Jafo Authority, was installed as a traditional ruler, the Oniba of Ibaland in the state.
One source said, “Right from time, people have been saying that MC is the traditional leader of Oshodi. The fact is that he likes it but he was not really making any concrete efforts to be installed as the Oba of Oshodi. But since the day he visited one of his friends, Jafo Authority, before his installation as the Oniba of Iba kingdom, his love to become the Oba of Oshodi has increased. Some of the people who are very close to him are even pestering him to use his influence with the Lagos State government to actualise his dream of becoming the Oba of Oshodi.”
Some figures in Oshodi, who described themselves as the true princes of the Oshodi kingdom, have, however, been kicking against the idea. On December 31, 2021, the Head of the Olushi Onigbesa royal family, Kabiru Eyantan, at a press briefing, appealed to Governor Sanwo-Olu to stop Musiliu Akinsanya from becoming the Oba of Oshodi.
Eyantan said, “The attention of the Olushi Onigbesa royal family of Oshodi Awori Kingdom has been drawn to the picture of Alhaji Musiliu Ayinde Akinsanya, aka MC Oluomo, Chairman, NURTW in Lagos State, circulated on numerous social media platforms where he was dressed in traditional kingly attire intended for an Oba in Yorubaland.
“Our attention has also been drawn to the trending videos and news in social and conventional media with reference to the message delivered by a first-class Oba in Ikorodu Division at the coronation anniversary of Oniba of Iba Kingdom in Iba Town, Ikeja Division on the issue of intended aspiration of Akinsanya to become Oba of Oshodi.
“Alhaji Akinsanya is not a member of the Olushi Onigbesa royal family in Oshodiland and has no right to be the Oba of Oshodi stool and, therefore, is not eligible to aspire or to be appointed to the stool of Oba of Oshodi.”
This is in contrast to what the Secretary of the Kupoluyi Royal Family, aka Almaroof, Prince Abdulwasiu Almaroof, believes. He declared Oluomo as worthy of the throne.
“He (Akinsanya) is from the Kupoluyi Royal Family and that is not contestable. The family held a meeting recently and picked him (Akinsanya) as our candidate for the Oshodi monarch. We expect other ruling houses to also announce their candidates. From those
candidates, a monarch would eventually emerge.
“So far, in Oshodi, we have had eleven Baales but out of these Baales, only two were recognised by the state government. They are from the Ajenifuja and Kupoluyi families. This made the Kupoluyi family a prominent ruling house in Oshodi.”
He explained that a Supreme Court ruling confirmed Arota Ologun as among the ruling houses in Oshodi.
“The first prominent kingmaker in Oshodi, who happened to be my grandfather, Pa Salaudeen Almoroof Ewa, was also from the Kupoluyi ruling house. This makes our family entitled to the stool. Akinsanya is a bonafide member of the Kupoluyi family. The family of Pa Salaudeen Almoroof, known as Arota Ologun, comprises 13 branches. One of the children is Alhaja Sadia Almaroof, who gave birth to MC Oluomo’s father,” he stated.
So would Musiliu Akinsanya, a union activist with a mix of good, bad and ugly controversies trailing his image, become the king of Oshodiland on Lagos?