Makinde has restored political order in Oyo — RTEAN spokesperson
Spokesperson of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Oyo State chapter, Muktahiru Abdulmalik, speaks with DARE ADEKANMBI on the achievements of Governor Seyi Makinde in 100 days, how the association can help the government boost its internally generated revenue, what differentiates RTEAN from the NURTW, among other issues.
Although he is just 100 days in office, do members of the RTEAN feel any change in the running of the affairs of the state under Governor Seyi Makinde?
We have felt a tremendous change in governance in the state under the governor, a gentleman we always refer to as the people’s governor. You will recall that the outcome of the election that brought him into office was unprecedented at least in recent history. He won in 28 out of the 33 local government councils in the state. Let me start by saying he is not a governor for himself and his family alone. That is one big difference we have noticed in his government. He is a compassionate man who wants everybody to be happy and prosper. He does not like cheating and does not support anyone who cheats or oppresses others. He is just and fair.
We are feeling the impact of his policies, particularly the one on the abolition of N3, 000 hitherto being paid in schools. He also recently said he would give exercise books free of charge to students. By this, he has lifted some burden off our shoulders as parents. Also, we all know the economy is in a bad shape, but Governor Makinde’s prompt payment of workers’ salaries and pension has helped eased cash flow problem in the economy of the state. Civil servants now go to the market to buy foodstuff, patronise artisans like auto mechanics and others, as well as pay for services rendered to them. By the time the government is in full gear and starts to award contracts to local contractors as the governor has promised, there will be more money in circulation and job openings will be created for the army of unemployed youths in the state. We as stakeholders in the transport industry in the state also stand to benefit a lot from government patronage of local contractors.
We know a lot more will still come from the governor in terms of good policies and programmes. But in just 100 days of assumption of office, we are already seeing that there is a new way of doing things in the state. There is a new thinking in government and this new thinking is for the benefit of the people and the poor and so we are glad we have GSM as our governor. There is a fresh of breath air in the state and people are expecting and are already seeing things being done for the welfare of the people. At the beginning of last week, we saw long retired workers, who got their gratuity from the N1.4billion the governor released, gather at Molete, showing off their cheques and praising the governor to the high heavens. Governor Makinde is indeed a God-send to the people of the state. We wish him more success because he has started well.
How has the governor affected RTEAN positively since he came on board?
He has affected us positively because the philosophy of his government of peace has enhanced our image as an association of peace-loving people. In the parks and garages, where RTEAN operates, there is peace and our members are as law-abiding as they have always been. The focus of the government tallies with our own focus too. We have found a listening leader in the governor.
But are your members operating in the garages and parks when the government has proscribed your counterpart, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW)?
Yes, we are operating because we were not banned. I am happy you mentioned that it was the NURTW that was banned and not RTEAN.
What is the difference between the two of you? Six and half a dozen you are.
I disagree with you. We are quite different from the NURTW. Without intending to run down our brothers who are NURTW members, RTEAN has a mode of operation that is uniquely different from NURTW’s. One, our members don’t forcefully take over garages and parks with guns and other dangerous weapons. In the 22 local government areas where we operate in Oyo State, have you heard of any violence traced to our members? We have not been in the news for the wrong reason. We have rules and regulation that guide us and we follow such rules religiously. We are for peace and we are law-abiding. Even during the just-concluded elections during which our members massively voted for Governor Makinde, we did not foment any trouble. Our philosophy is that violence is an ill wind that blows no one any good.
There are 33 local government councils in Oyo State, why did you restrict your members to only 22?
It is not that we restricted RTEAN members to the 22 councils where we operated in Ibarapa, Oke-Ogun, Oyo and Ogbomoso. Our brothers in NURTW did not allow us to function in the garages in the 11 councils in Ibadan. Even though we both have equal rights and privileges in the trade union of 2004 as co-equals in the transport industry, the NURTW members have been acting like bullies, restricting our members to other parts of the state. This is unlike the practice in the other 35 states of the federation, particularly in the South-West and Kwara State. In Lagos, both the RTEAN and the NURTW operate. In Ogun State, RTEAN operates in all garages for one week and allow the NURTW to also do its own week. In other Yoruba states, it is one-by-one loading in all garages for the RTEAN and the NURTW members. But in Oyo State, only the NURTW dominates Ibadan. This is unfair. We complained strongly to the last government; nothing was done because the NURTW members were claiming it was their government. We are trusting God that now that we have a people’s governor in place in the state, our case will be looked into and Governor Makinde will see to it that we operate in Ibadan.
One great gain of breaking the NURTW monopoly in Ibadan garages is that there will be healthy rivalry between us and them. For instance, during major festive seasons when the NURTW members transport at a high fee, the RTEAN will lower the price without compromising on quality. The quality of fleet of vehicles will also improve greatly.
One thing the governor has made very clear is that he wants to improve the IGR of the state in his pursuit of prosperity for the vast majority of the citizens and residents of the state. What does the RTEAN think about this?
Right from the time he won the election, we have drawn up a proposal on how we will partner his government to increase the IGR and ensure that money that government should be getting does not go into private pockets. Let me mention that the availability of slush funds is the reason there is always tension at the garages where there is monopoly by our brothers. Much of these funds ought to go into government coffers for onward use for the benefit of the people. It is government that provides infrastructure and it surely needs a lot of money to do this and maintain that which has already been provided. At the risk of revealing our revenue drive proposal, let me give you a few things the RTEAN can do to help Governor Makinde in the area of increased revenue generation. We are ready to partner government at the state and local levels on daily sale of tickets to all vehicles, tricycles and motorcycles registered under the association. On this, a mutually agreed sum will be remitted to government coffers on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on the modalities agreed. We will also encourage the timely purchase of vehicle licences, hackney permits, roadworthiness and emission permits on a yearly basis by our members. Already, we have mandated our members in the state to get and use only the number plates of Oyo State in their vehicles. We can also help the government with the introduction of haulage revenue on articulated trucks bringing goods into the state. These are some of the plans we have to key into Governor Makinde’s revenue drive.
We also would like to propose the establishment of a transport advisory committee that will comprise the executives of both the RTEAN, and the NURTW, representatives of the Ministry of Works and Transport and other relevant government agencies, security and traffic management agencies. RTEAN is ready to partner with Governor Makinde to boost IGR and enhance his peace and security agenda for the state. We at RTEAN are ready to act as a positive change agent for the government of Makinde, particularly in realising his vision of boosting the revenue of the state through our activities.