New Telegraph

Transport Union war: How COS, LG boss ignored Ikpeazu’s directive

A serious war is ongoing among the members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) in Abia State. New Telegraph learnt that the face-off which began at Ugwunagbo Local Government Area is currently spreading like wildfire as it has led to the death of one person at Ikwuano LGA.

Narrating the genesis of the crisis, Chief Peter Asagwara, NURTW Secretary, Ugwunagbo Local Government Area, told journalists in Aba that they have tried to manage the situation so that it will not escalate but regretted that some politicians are sponsoring the crisis underground. Asagwara specifically accused Dr Anthony Agbazuere, the Chief of Staff to Abia Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu of fueling the crisis and acting as de facto leader of NARTO in the state.

He also fingered Mrs Chinasa Nnata, the Chairman of Ugwunagbo LGA, as dancing to the tune of Agbazuere. He said the genesis of the crisis was the unconstitutional tenure elongation by Mr Chukwudi Ahuama (Eshiwe) who had against the constitution of NURTW stayed in office as Chairman of the Ugwunagbo branch of the union, for 16 years. Asagwara said as of 2016 when Ahuama insisted on ongoing for the third tenure, the crisis got so hot that thugs were sponsored by Ahuama to deal with the members, leading to Mr Chimyeze Irondi, losing one of his eyes, as it was plucked out by the hoodlums.

He also said in 2020 when Ahuama came up with his power elongation strategy for his fourth tenure, some stakeholders of the NURTW Ugwunagbo; Alozie Onuoha and Chidebe Adiele went to the National Industrial Court and instituted an action against that tenure elongation. Asagwara, however, said while the matter was on, Dr Agbazuere called him to see how Ahuama can be allowed and managed to remain in office, having been there since 2008.

He added that when Dr Agbazuere called him, he was still at Law School and that he bluntly told the COS who is also a lawyer that the issue of tenure elongation is a constitutional matter. Meanwhile, Asagwara said while at Law School that he got a series of complaints from his members of ill-treatment from Ahuama, whom he said was been sponsored by Agbazuere for some unknown political reasons. He added: “They complained that he doesn’t pay allowances, our National Union receipts were not being purchased. When I tried to call him, he kept giving excuses.

“When I came back and met him, he told me how he donated millions of naira to one brigade commander and how he donated for school buildings elsewhere, which I later found out were all lies. “I asked him why he should prioritise showmanship against the welfare of his members. A member of the Union was ejected from his residence, by his landlord, he went to Ahuama for assis-tance, which was his entitlement, but never got it. “Another member of the Union, who was also one of our trustees, gave that member N200,000 from his pocket and Ahuama disengaged him for assisting a member.

“Whenever he does these illegal disengagements, he uses the excuse that those people are not from Abia State and that they’re not Ngwa people, as yardsticks to justify his ill-treatment against them. I made it clear to him that this is the National Union of Road Transport Workers where every Nigerian who is a road transport worker has a right to be a member.

“On the 21st of September, the State Administrative Council (SAC) of the NURTW in an executive meeting called everybody involved and considered the implications of allowing Ahuama to continue as Chairman at Ugwunagbo which is an aberration to the Union’s constitution.

“After the deliberation, the Abia State Administrative Council of NURTW dissolved the entire Ugwunagbo LGA Executive of NURTW while caretakers were appointed.” Asagwara said to their shock, the next day, precisely on September 21, 2021 Ahuama came out with a letter from Mrs Chinasa Nnata, Ugwunagbo LGA Chairman, which purportedly authorized him to keep operating as the transport union leader now under a newly created union in the LGA called National Union of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) which never existed there, a decision he said they opposed. He said: “Mrs Nnata, the LGA Chairman came to question us on why we should dissolve NURTW Executive without letting her know.

“I made it clear to her that our duty is to communicate to her the decision of the union and not to take orders from them. As we tried to convince her, Ahuama sent thugs and cultists with guns and machetes and injured some of our members.” According to Asagwara, Nnata gave NARTO the directive to confiscate and take over all the parks and loading bays rightfully owned and established, by NURTW with government approval and handed over the leadership to Ahuama who was recently removed by NURTW as Chairman having overstayed his constitutionally allowed tenure.

Asagwara said while Nnata and those behind her decision were brewing crisis in the LGA, in order not to make sure NURTW does not get itself into issues that will lead to bloodshed, they approached their lawyer who wrote to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu on September 23, 2021 on the matter.

He said after the governor had looked at the content of the letter which includes that: “The LGA Chairman is directed to rescind her decision of directing for the arrest of the NURTW caretaker committee members of Ugwunagbo, LGA Chairman, should allow the NURTW to carry out its activities without undue harassment and unconstitutional meddling by her.

“That LGA Chairman should annul or withdraw immediately the purported approval for the establishment of a new Transport Union (NARTO) in Ugwunagbo for peace to reign in the area; that the LGA Chairman should be held responsible for any breach of the peace or violent clash between members of the NURTW and the newly created NARTO in Ugwunagbo,” he minuted the above which Dr Agbazuere completely ignored. In the photocopy evidence of the letter which he made available to journalists, which he submitted to the governor in person and watched as he on receiving the letter minute and directed his Chief of Staff thus: “COS invite the Executive Chairman of Ugwunagbo LGA.

We must align with the views of the State Administrative Council (SAC) of NURTW.” The letter as made available to journalists was written by Barrister Hagler Okorie of the Winners Chambers, Aba on September 23, 2021, and the Governor’s directive to his Chief of Staff, Dr Anthony Agbazuere to invite Mrs Chinasa Nnata to enable them to align with the views of SAC NURTW was given on September 25, 2021. “In the letter which the governor minuted, he used the word we, which I believe included the Governor whom we all know is a law-abiding man. However, Agbazuere turned down the Governors directives. This neglect of the Governor’s directive allowed Ahuama to recruit some cultists known as Aro-Boys, who used guns to pursue our members at the Flyover at Asa-Nnetu.

“We went to court. On the 28th day of September 2021, the Aba High Court restrained them. But when the court looked at our order three which captured Aba High Court’s jurisdiction about trespass, but because the main issue is who becomes chairman and who operates, the Aba High Court said it’s the jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court. “To our greatest shock, Agbazuere used a lawyer in his Chambers to go to the National Industrial Court, Owerri, Imo State in favour of Chukwudi Ahuama and served us the order of the court. We said okay since it’s that let’s go there.

When we got there, the court in its wisdom adjourned the matter till February 10th, 2022.” Asagwara, who also presented the document of the ruling on SUIT NO: NICN/OW/44/2021 between Mr Chukwudi Ahua-ma and others vs NURTW and six others, pointed out where the court said in the ruling on Wednesday November 17, 12021 that, “Mediation is encouraged.

As such, parties are ordered to explore settlement on or before the next adjourned date.” According to him, the court never ordered that Ahuama and NARTO should take over NURTW’s loading bays. He added that immediately after the matter was adjourned, Ahuama intensified his violence with the open statement that as long as Dr Agbazuere is involved, nothing will happen. He said before the court ruling on November 17, some of the armed thugs recruited by Ahuama who were arrested with guns and charged to court were released within 48 hours by the Rapid Response Squad (RRS). “The thugs came out and their boastful comment is that since Agbazuere is there, nothing will happen to them.

They’ll openly tell you that we don’t know how powerful Agbazuere is. “I don’t know the arrangement they did to release criminals they recovered guns from. Whenever you approach Agbazuere to ask him why he ignored the governor’s directive, he’ll excuse himself saying the matter is in court, because his Chamber is the one handling a matter his boss, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has ordered him to bring a solution to. This is a conflict of interest. “Rule 17-5 of the rules of professional conduct of lawyers doesn’t allow Agbazuere to get involved by using his Chambers to engage in a matter his boss has already directed him to settle.

The Governor had directed Agbazuere, but he practically did otherwise.” Asagwara, who said he has served the Abia State Government from the era of Governor Theodore Orji to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in different capacities, said he has tried to bring an amicable solution to the issues raised, but that the interest of people like Dr Agbazuere is making things difficult. “On the 2nd of December, Ahuama and his thugs’ slashed members of NURTW with a machete for telling them that what they are doing is not right. I have reported to the Commissioner of Transport to address this matter.

“The Commissioner of Police, Janet Agbede gave an order detailing RRS to maintain peace and order at Flyover Asa-Nnentu that since we’re in court, nobody should be at the loading bays for now until the court decides. “The CP sent police officers there from RRS. Agbazuere called the Commander of RRS, SP Johnbull Obioguru and told him that Ahuama and NARTO are the people recognized by the government to be there and the RRS pulled out of that location while the crisis continued.

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