In a rather quiet but deft move, the Oyo State government has brought a decent closure to the reign of terror and violence that typifies motor parks in many parts of the South-West region of the country.
If it is to be taken that Oyo is a “Pace Setter” state, it must also be acknowledged that the state governor, Mr Seyi Makinde is a pacesetting governor. For many residents of Ibadan and other environs in Oyo State, the banditry that goes into the selection of leaders of the proscribed National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) is better imagined than experienced.
In the past, when a new governor is installed, there is a gale of aggressive battles between opposing camps of the unions in deciding what the new leadership at the parks would look like. The reign of terror is often typified by a hail of bullets, menacing cutlasses, cudgels and broken bottles. Typically, the camp that enjoys the support of the incumbent governor and his political party comes victorious and, thus, takes over the parks.
A similar scenario was to play out when Governor Makinde was installed about 10 months ago. But unlike his predecessors, the governor declined to play politics in a matter that could compromise peace and security of the state and took a prompt step to ban the NURTW in Oyo State.
The state has had bitter experiences of violence in the motor parks since the advent of democratic governance in 1999. Each successive governor, from the late Alhaji Lam Adesina to the immediate-past governor, Abiola Ajimobi, had many a security challenge to contend with from members of the NURTW. It is not a bad idea that workers should group themselves into unions if they so desire and it is also a rule of thumb that it is not government›s responsibility to interfere in the way unions are run or administered.
That said, however, the number one responsibility of government anywhere is the protection of lives and property. If at any point, any union – be it trade, workers or students – begins to compromise the peace and security of the state, it becomes the responsibility of government to do its job. And should the government deem it fit to proscribe such unions is left at the discretion state officials. In the case of NURTW in Oyo State, after the government announced a proscription of the union because of security issues, its members still engaged in hot exchanges up to the point that even the national body of the union began to take sides between two opposing camps vying for leadership of the union in the state.
To that extent, and for the purpose of not leaving the administration of motor parks to function by its own whims, it became incumbent on government to device a method of maintaining law and order at the parks as a stop-gap measure.
Therefore, while the union is still looking for a final resolution to its internal crisis, which may of course, trigger another bout of violence whenever the ban on its activities is lifted, the state government introduced the Park Management System across the 33 local government areas. This is a novel idea, which involves respective local governments and park managers as representatives of the state government to manage and supervise affairs of all motor parks across the state and generate revenues for the government.
Since statutorily the administration of motor parks is on the local government schedule, it is a good idea that local governments in Oyo State are now having a direct grip on their constitutional duty. Apart from the Park Management Committees, which have been set up in each of the local governments, the government also set up a Disciplinary Committee. The simultaneous advantage of having a disciplinary committee is to ensure that all users of parks facility, including drivers and the public as passengers, are obedient to the new regulation.
Basically, the Park Management System is a brilliant innovation by the Makinde administration. It is an efficient approach of sanitising motor parks of their unnecessary commotion and combustion. And the fact that its modus operandi comes with the flavour of private sector settings makes it tidy and worthy of emulation by other state governments in Nigeria.
As part of the Park Management System arrangement, the state government has enlisted the service of a revenue collection consultant, which has agents across all the local governments, who have been equipped with technology to collect revenues in a novel but fool-proof way. The agents, who were recently trained on how to carry out their operations, will work with the Park Managers to collect and remit revenues to the state government, using a technology-driven ticketing system that allows an agent to collect the data of drivers and vehicles and generate receipts with QR codes on the spot.
For those who are conversant with Oyo State, the Park Management System initiative will come across as the much-needed salvation for a state that had been beleaguered by years of violence and wanton destruction as result of motor park unionism. By the singular ingenuity of the initiative, the Makinde administration showed once more that governance is not business as usual in Oyo State.
Thus, it is high time dissenting elements in the proscribed union keyed into government›s plan which ultimately would be to the benefit of all stakeholders in the public transportation sector in the state and also help the state in its drive to raise the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state to enjoy financial freedom.
Balogun writes in from Oke-Ado, Ibadan.