By Olanrewaju Adesanya
Comrade Francis Odinukaeze, National General Secretary of the Bus Conductors Association of Nigeria (BCAN), and Comrade Tunde Adeoye, Lagos State chapter’s secretary, in an interview with Happenings‘ correspondent, Olanrewaju Adesanya, have espoused the intrinsic values of BCAN, adding that the nation has a lot to gain from the professionalization of the conductor’s job. Excerpts:
What is BCAN out to input in the nation’s transport sector?
BCAN is an acronym of Bus Conductors Association of Nigeria. We stand for the reforming and rebranding of the active conductors all over Nigeria and especially in Lagos State. We are rebranding, reforming and professionalizing the conducting job, which is a key player in the transport sector and public service. In this country and in the state, we have millions of people who, on a daily basis, are still trooping into the state and all over the nation there are hues and cries of unemployment, insecurity, youth restiveness. But this conducting job is what our people do in foreign lands, so conducting if it is actually seen in the perspective of professionalism will, in its own little way, contribute positively to the sector and by extension the Nigerian Nation. BCAN is focusing on redefining the recessive youths who have been roaming our streets. We registered and started the Association (BCAN) as far back as 2010 and before then it was kind of underground work, but it was officially incorporated into the Company and Allied Matters on the 10th day of March 2010, since then we’ve been coming along up till now.
What is the precise number of BCAN with respect to membership drive and outlook of the association come end of this year, as regards making the body known and accepted?
As you know, we are talking about Nigeria with a population of over hundreds of millions of people and, when talking of Lagos, I think the last time a statistical data indicated over 24 million but be that as it may, when talking about a place like Lagos in the statistics of public transport we have nothing less than over 700 (LOV) Low Occupancy Vehicles, apart from even the already phased out ones. We have the Molues, TaTa, Faragons and others, so in accumulation of all these we are talking about the over 300000-400000 vehicles here and for each of these vehicles there is always an attached conductor due to the nature of the job. So presently, the strength is building, which is why the advocacy has not been easy. We have been going all around to make sure that each member on this job understands that he or she needs to be covered by a legally instituted body, because even the Lagos State Government has made a pronouncement that anybody who wants to be a conductor ought to be registered with the Lagos State Government, identified and known and follow the processes through. For instance, the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, believes so much in the usefulness of youths and the initiator and founder of BCAN so much believes in youths, particularly in ensuring a better life for them. Presently, I won’t be able to put a figure to it because it is coming up newly and we are trying to make it start strong, so some will come while some will still feel what are they talking about?
But I can assure you before the end of the year we should be able to meet up, if not 60 percent almost average of the existing conductors in Lagos State.
Do you have any synergy with NURTW, given the fact that they were in existence before you and probably know the routes and mechanism of the transport sector better?
We have a very strong synergy with them because we so much believe in peaceful co-existence. People may think, well, these are part of what we have been doing before,we so much believe in giving honour to whom honour is due to so I will say in every way, they have been existing,they are our fathers and would still be,so we had a good relationship and mind you sir,we have the major operator in a vehicle especially under the road mass transit scheme,always the drivers and the conductors and it has been known that the driver is always ahead of the journey but as well the conductor too is a key player, because if you look at the system of our transport the conductors knows more routes,knows who is in and out of the vehicle and many other duties like that so in every way we are working hand in hand with them.To the best of my knowledge there are no conductor that are affiliated with National Union of Road Transport Worker ,rather it is the drivers that are affiliated with the NURTW, because they are primarily for the drivers most times they also claim that both the drivers and conductors are their employees, we are not into that polemics,we are not going into that argument but the point we are making is that in recent times and over the years conductors have not been taken care of they have no umbrella body that protect their members.
Even though the drivers are their employees so to say we are not objecting that but then the employee has the right to protect his interest according to the constitution and that is what we are doing and we are not in conflict with them,the NURTW or any other sister union in that regards, rather we basically are only interested in the welfare of our members.
What would be the modus operandi of BCAN operation?
It shall be the public in general,the public would see a new set of people that they are engaged with daily,they would see a new character and attitude,they would see something that yes we can really depend on,because conducting in Lagos for instance as early as possible you could have seen a conductor shouting a route or the other, so they the first people you meet on the road. I can assure at the end of the day even degree holders will be able to say well while I am doing other things or about to get some other things,let just use this as an opportunity to have a change of live.
So it would be an endeavour that would not be business as usual,that is involvement in touting,thuggery,bad vices of the society,you will completely see a new generation of principled conductors, I can assure you that.
What are the distinguishing features of BCAN members?
Under the law of the state that has been existing for some time now that directs all operators,let me speak regarding the conductors now,that every conductor should be known by the state, every conductor should be accredited by the state and every conductor must be identified by the state and we have been a frontrunner of this initiative,as regards the smart city project of his excellency now we gave it as a kudos in the collaboration that now a conductor in Lagos State shall be identified to have gone through training,accreditation and the collection of badges at the end of the day by its uniforms and that uniform shall carry its code number which is with the government and the Association standing as guarantor,it will carry the Lagos state badge and as well the TUC logo which is our affiliate parents and the name of the conductor inscribed on it by the right hand side,the number developed by the Lagos state drivers institute which I don’t need to disclose now for security reasons,so there is no how you want to be a conductor in Lagos state now or working as a conductor in Lagos state now that you would not pass through this process.So in times to come, I so much believe that any member operating as a conductor that has not pass through this would eventually not be able to have a smooth run.
Are there any prerequisites required of an intending member?
In the first place this association is purely meant for the operators,the conducting operators and you know government day by day are stepping up especially in the area of transportation,the likes of smart city project the urban transport project,especially issue of phasing out of the LOVS and trying to bring in Fitted Medium Occupancy Vehicle MOVS,so all these are part of the projects that is a way of creating more employment and a way of making through transport sector in terms of the upper and lower level you know meet it at a point,so we so much believed that as it is going now,because the first phase of our project is to make sure those misdemeanour attributed to those on the roads shouldn’t be accepted as a normal system for us in Nigeria,we want to change something but we don’t want to change the people,we instead chose to phase them out, forgetting these people would eventually become criminals and by extension hindrance to the attainment of your ultimate goals so we are all citizens, initially now we are trying to rebrand and reform the sector in collaboration with the government and the person I was talking about I know in the aspect of future purposes, employment in the conducting business role will as well come up so with that when the time come we would be able to say much about that.
What in your view is BCAN’s expectation from the government ?
A lot because picking it from your last question it is not just about the operators per se we are going to have secretariats and offices which would be occupied by people too, who as well are still part of the system there are operators who are active on the job and there would be some that are nonactive on the job as well so there are many ways we are looking up to the government in the area of support because looking at the whole program it is financially tasking.
Widening of the tax net is a key component of Lagos State governmental policy,how prepared is BCAN to key into that scheme?
In BCAN the issue of tax is something we support right from time and we need to keep on supporting and already we have a scheme on ground that will make all our members taxpayers,our membership drive is massive,we have over 2000 registered members approximately in Lagos alone, not to talk of other states because we are concerned about Lagos first,as our host and take off point so that is the status of our membership now and it is growing daily,the objective of this association primarily is to sanitize the bus conducting job and make it attractive and respected as well and also to ensure the security of commuters, which is very paramount and key to the organization of this association,we are mindful of the fact. That a lot of atrocities have been committed with commercial buses like one chance,kidnapping and stuffs like that and in all of these you cannot completely divorce the conductor from being an accomplice, at times the conductor is aware of this crime and it cannot continue like this, so what we are trying to do is to build public confidence in the use of commercial buses and also to bring about attitudinal change in the conductors for effective service delivery that is our primary duty. In overseas and western world the conductor’s job is a dignified and well respected one at that, so we want to ensure ours is well organized and structured that even graduates can take such job and earn a living.
If that is what obtains in other climes why can’t such be replicated in Nigeria as well? So it is in this regards that we thought we could play our own role,there are some works that government can do and there are several goals that individuals can help them to achieve and that is what we are trying to do is to sanitize the system,making the bus conducting jobs attractive and when this job becomes attractive, sanity is restored and it is professionalized it will create employment. You can agree with me that over the years,our Universities keep churning out graduates,the question is where would this graduates work? There are no corresponding industry or corporations to absorb this people. So if we the people and the authorities concerned can make this project work it will go a long way to solving one of the fundamental problems in Nigeria that is unemployment and that is basically what we are trying to do and we are not in conflicts with any other body or saying that we are bigger than any but we are just trying to play our own role to help the government achieve the mega status that Lagos is driving at.
What in, precise terms, can BCAN do differently that will impact positively on Nigeria?
We can do a lot in security,employment, sanity in the transportation system the Lagos state government and any other states wants sanity in the transport system sector,is a very important sector in Nigeria and in any economy for the pass to general sector. The impunity in the transport sector no foreign investment will be attracted with the situation where people chase themselves with cutlasses and stick in order to take money,or dues so to say from them,there could be decent way of doing that we are not saying that collecting of dues is bad but the manner of collecting the dues is what we are talking about and we can not stop anybody from doing that but let’s do it with some sense of dignity and respect.
Photos by Bamigbala Adekola