How alleged impunity, leadership failure is ruining NURTW

Except there is a last-minute overture or change of mind, the president of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Alhaji Tajudeen Ibikunle Baruwa may be on his way out of his seat owing to ‘no confidence vote’ passed on him. KEHINDE OSASONA reports.

The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), a leading transport union in Nigeria is currently enmeshed in internal face-off that has culminated in calls for the sacking of the embattled Ibikunle Baruwa, who appears to be at the centre of the protracted internal crisis plaguing the union.

His alleged sins

Investigation reveals that the union with over two million members is currently embroiled in a legal brawl caused by Baruwa’s attempt to allegedly review the union’s constitution to feather his ambition.
Dissatisfied with such a move, aggrieved members, it was learnt, dragged the union president to a Lagos court for proper interpretation of his actions.
Far from the constitutional crisis, allegations over the inability of the embattled chairman to hold NEC meetings as stipulated is still hanging on his neck. Investigation reveals that since 2019, NEC meeting was held only once. Baruwa reportedly called the NEC in early 2022 when he wanted to contest for a position in the Nigeria Labour Congress election.
Aside from other allegations, a competent source who does not want his name in print described the violation of the provisions of the NURTW constitution as Baruwa’s greatest undoing.
As the matter gets to a head, it looks like the resolution mechanism of the union is not working, pointing to the utterances made by the union vice president, Alhaji Tajudeen Agbede who asked Baruwa to start preparing his handover notes.
Although Baruwa who has been NURTW president since August 29, 2019, is seeking re-election, Agbede it was learnt was recently endorsed by the South-west NURTW as its sole candidate for the position.
Further findings indicate that Agbede and some South-west leaders have passed a vote of no confidence on Baruwa, alleging that the crisis orchestrated by him has trickled down and has started affecting the unity in the union.
Consequent upon their stance, Baruwa was dragged to the Industrial court in Lagos to determine some of the allegations leveled against him.

More troubles

Further checks revealed that before now, the union which was operating in all the 36 states of the federation including Abuja and was adjudged as the most coordinated has reportedly slumped into abyss of incompetence which has continued to affect its image. Because of this, the union was losing most of its state councils to the Park and Garages Management committee set up by various state governments which infuriates the members, saying that what is currently playing out at the national level of the union was contrary to a complete and indivisible NURTW bequeathed to Baruwa.

A member of the unionA who preferred anonymity while speaking on the problem in the union said the issue stems from a lack of accountability, injustice, and impunity among other allegations.
“In the year 2019 when the Baruwa administration started, some secretaries were transferred from one state to another and were supposed to be paid but said up till now; they were yet to receive their ‘Transfer Claim’.
“We are talking about career officers here and they are entitled to it just as some who were transferred to two or more states after the first transfer are yet to get a dime. Many of staffs are owed two to three months’ salary as we speak. We have not experienced this before.
Speaking further on the coming election, the source who craved anonymity said the election was supposed to come up in May but for the court case.
“The constitution that ushered in this administration of Baruwa was last reviewed in 2018 and it was stated in that constitution that three national executives will come from the six-geo political zones, but due to the crisis we are having in the South-west, it is only the Ekiti State Council of the union that is working while others are not.

The last straw

As the crisis continued to split the union into factions, the vice president from the North-west (Zone 6), Al-hassan Haruna (aka 313) had allegedly rejected (Baruwa) too.

Our sources hinted further: “Al-Hassan, if you remember, also dragged him to the National Industrial Court in Abuja after which the court also pronounced that the constitution must not be tampered with and that the status quo must be maintained.
“What he (Baruwa) wanted to do is to make the contest open because of his selfish ambition so that an exco doesn’t necessarily have to go back to his zone as stipulated by the constitution but the court said no.”
Blueprint further learnt that Baruwa’s attempt to seek a second term as president may have suffered a setback as the Industrial Court sitting in Lagos has adjourned a case challenging his eligibility till 29th of November.
This is just as another Industrial court sitting in Abuja has also adjourned till October case of constitution review filed against the same Baruwa.
In a suit No: NICN/LA/111/2023, filed by their lawyer, Mr. Adejare Kambi before Justice Maureen Esowe, the aggrieved NURTW officers in the South-west zone who are the claimants in the April 12 originating summons seek a declaration that the first defendant has ceased to hold office as the president of the second defendant with effect from the dissolution of the Ogun State Council in 2020 and prayed court for a declaration.
“That the appointment of Caretaker Committees for the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo and Osun States by the first defendant single-handedly is illegal and unconstitutional not being the appropriate organ to run the affairs of the said affected state councils among other prayers. While Baruwa and the NURTW are the first and second defendants, the first to sixth claimants in the suit are Chief Tajudeen Agbede, Alhaji Sulaiman Ibrahim, Chief Ariyo Adetula, Alhaji Ademola Adeoye, Alhaji Akeem Adeosun and Chief Clement Adekola.
Some other respondents who spoke to Blueprint lamented that Baruwa has failed in all ramifications.
“The President employed some people called SAs who are now playing the roles of elected and career officers and even presiding over the union affairs which is against the constitution because the constitution does not recognize them in NAC and NEC meetings either but they are there blocking people from climbing the needed ladder to their peak’’, they said.
“Also, as part of the benefit, the former administration made it an open policy for interested members to further their education to any level via scholarship. Immediately after this man got there, he abrogated the policy, saying people should strive on their own to further their education.

“They have allegedly drained the purse of cooperative which is a separate body under the union where people contribute money from their salary to be part of it but as we speak you can neither get your savings let alone your savings to better our lots. That is the type of NURTW that we are contending with today,” he added.

Spokesman reacts

Reacting while speaking exclusively to Blueprint, the acting general secretary, Mr Asogua denied all the allegations, insisting that there was no crisis.
When reminded that the union is currently in court over a constitutional issue and that a vote of no confidence had been passed on his principal, he said, ” The truth is that there is no government that favours everybody and style of leadership differs from person to person.
“We don’t have any internal crisis in NURTW. It is just that when a new government comes, you don’t expect everyone to clap for you. The immediate past president, Alhaji Najeem Yasin too had his own challenges.
“So, when people talk sometimes, it is because they either want to contest for the same position or they don’t have the facts.

“Baruwa has changed the union for the better and it will be unjustifiable if people just wake up and start talking about passing a vote of no confidence on a leader without following the procedures.
“The question is who did it, how and who empowered them? They should tell you if they went through the prescribed procedure.
“Let them also mention how injustice was meted out to anybody on the issue of salary because the Baruwa administration pays those who are working. If you don’t work, how do you intend to get a salary? “Asogua explained further.