Bida: Uneasy calm trails power tussle among bikers’ unions

Members of Metropolitan bikers’ union during their protest.

There is uneasy calm in Bida Local Government Area of Niger State following bloody clashes between two rival transport unions: Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycles Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN), Bida chapter and their counterparts, Metropolitan Incorporated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Operators Association of Bida.

Trouble began on Thursday, June 2, 2016 following a face-off between the opposing groups that led to the near death of one Danladi Kafa, a 42-year-old member of the Metropolitan Incorporated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Operators Association, who was said to have been pushed down by a mob, but now on admission at a private hospital in Bida being treated for partial stroke, while others suffered varied degrees of injuries in the aftermath of the stampede.

The unhealthy situation has led to a charged atmosphere in the ancient town of Bida as residents feared reprisal attacks by the opposing motorcycles rival groups.

Arewa gathered that the crisis between the two transport unions began way back in 2012 after members of the Metropolitan Incorporated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Operators Association of Bida decided to form their own separate commercial motorcycle union as a parallel transport union within the council areas, the situation which was said to have not gone down well with the already existing ACOMORAN group.

Further checks revealed that no sooner had the crisis of confidence broken out between the two rival motorcycle transport unions in the council areas than the Metropolitan Incorporated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Operators Association of Bida approached its legal counsels, Olu Oluwole & Co., for registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission under Part A, of the Companies and Allied Matters Act.

Thereafter, the request of the association was said to have been obliged by the law firm which succeeded in getting them duly registered on October 8, 2012. Appropriate authorities were reportedly notified at the council’s secretariat at the period and at the state police command among others, of the existence of the registered transport union.

Confirming this, a lawyer at Olu Oluwole & Co., Barrister Chukwuemeka Ajah, informed  Arewa that the association also went ahead to seek the cooperation of the appropriate authorities as well as their support to ensure there was peace in the council areas, adding that the association  operated in harmony with the already existing association known as ACOMORAN.

Speaking further, he said: “In a letter dated October 22, 2012, addressed to the Area Commander, Nigeria Police Force in Bida, we explained to them and notified them that there was an association and whatever was expected of us, to make sure that members of Metropolitan Incorporated Commercial Motorcycles Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria were known to the security agencies and whatever security procedures or protocol we needed to observe, we were ready to recognise them.”

Ajah, however, noted that despite the steps so far taken by his clients, the old association, ACOMORAN, was not comfortable with the existence of the Metropolitans, adding that ACOMORAN started causing trouble. “Being law abiding citizens, we advised our clients, that they should not retaliate or attack the ACOMORAN members,” he said.

“Thereafter, we ran to the local government authorities and surprisingly, we observed that they were not also comfortable. They started harassing our clients, arresting them, intimidating them and at a point they were beaten by thugs and uniformed men who we do not know.

“At that stage, we had to approach the court to help us clarify if our clients or anybody in Nigeria has the right to form any association or belong to any association or withdraw his membership from any voluntary association. In view of that ,we now filed a case on November 18, 2013 at the High Court of Niger State.”

The counsel equally sought a perpetual injunction against anybody for stopping or harassing its clients. It was gathered that when judgment was delivered, Barrister Chukwuemeka explained that, “the court now said there were some rights and fundamental, those fundamental ones the local government cannot stop our clients from enjoying it. So, one of the reliefs granted was that the court declared that the applicants, i.e. Metropolitans, were entitled to their personal rights of liberty as guaranteed under section 35 of the 1999 Constitution.

“That was what the Court declared and it went ahead to declare that the applicants were entitled to join any associations of their choice, to protect their interests and they were equally entitled to withdraw from becoming members of any association.”

But in a swift reaction, counsel to ACOMORAN, Barrister Sebastine C. Ugbogu, of S.C. Ugbogu & Co, has declared that in a well considered ruling by Justice Aliyu M. Mayaki, in the case re: Abdullahi B. Abubakar and 40 others versus Bida Local Government and 60 others in suit number NSHC/MN/202/2013, the court had struck out the entire application.

This, according to him, was on the ground that it was baseless, while the judgment earlier delivered in same matter could not give rise to such application.

The counsel, in a letter addressed to the chairman Bida Local Government of Niger state dated May 30, 2016, a copy of which obtained by Arewa stated that the effect of the decision of the Court on May 25, 2016 was that any activity by Metropolitan Incorporated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Riders Operators Association in Bida as regards operation without approval from Bida Local Government and the state Ministry of Transport was illegal and should be stopped with every necessary measure.

“The only recognised motorcycle union that should be operated within Bida and Niger State is ACOMORAN and no other. Consequently, any individual who engages in commercial motorcycle business must do so under ACOMORAN,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the chairman, Bida Local Government Council, Niger State, Honourable Bala Sadiq has denied knowledge of the skirmishes between the two unions, just as he confirmed that the problem was an inherited one by his administration at the council.