Working Lives

Working Lives: The NURTW Agent Who Doesn’t Believe the “Coronavirus Rubbish”

Working Lives: The NURTW Agents aka Agberos of Lagos

The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) is an exceptional union. Its reputation isn’t built on anything related to providing transport services. Rather, most Nigerians associate NURTW with providing politicians with the strongmen who snatch ballot boxes and act as “security” during elections. Working Lives often reveals a more complex reality. The men we spoke to seem to be ordinary Nigerians who have found themselves selling tickets for the NURTW due to circumstances; many of them can’t wait to leave to do something else. It’s a banal way to make a living for the majority, another Nigerian hustle. As one of the interviewees said, “People always see us as thugs. Well, some of us are and some of us aren’t. We really are just trying to make a living”. We have focused on how NURTW guys make a living and their dreams, rather than the wealth and grisly details of NURTW high office which some (prospective) interviewees asked to be paid to reveal. We refused to be tempted to stray away from our focus.

My dad had to start looking for space for a shop and the rent was ridiculous. Finding a new school for me with all expenses that would have involved was out of the question. I then started mingling with the guys on the streets. That’s how the struggle started for me. 

Where are you from?

I am from Abeokuta in Ogun State.

What school did you attend and when did you leave school? 

I attended Baptist Boys High School in Abeokuta and left in SSS2 in 2005. We moved to Lagos and that was it.

Tell me about your family?

My father sells building materials, planks, ceilings, and the likes. My mother is a cleaner in a private school around Alakuko. I am the third child of a family of four. My older sisters are married and my younger brother is still in primary school. When we moved to Alakuko, things were not so good at first. My dad had to start looking for space for a shop and the rent was ridiculous. Finding a new school for me with all expenses that would have arisen from that was out of the question. I then started mingling with the guys on the streets. That’s how the struggle started for me.

When did you get to Lagos?

I came to Lagos with my parents. When we left Abeokuta, we settled in Sango and later moved to Alakuko in Lagos State. We got to Lagos in 2009.

Where do you live/ how much is the rent?

I still live with parents in Alakuko. We live in a two-bedroom house. We pay N5,000:00 monthly.

How did you start working for the NURTW?

It’s from mingling with the guys on the street. One of the boys got to know someone in NURTW. He said we should join as that could at least fetch us a little income instead of us just strolling on the streets every day and being harassed by policemen. That was how I started.


Also Read: Working Lives: The NURTW Agent Who Spends All His Money on His Parents

For how long have you been doing this job?

I started in 2013 so that’s about 7 years now.

How does it work, what are you expected to do?

When one is about to join, you are required to go through a registration process: fill a form, bring your passport photograph, and other things. Once you get registered, you will be posted to a zone. It can be anywhere – Oshodi, Surulere, Ikorodu. Anywhere, just mention. But some people actually influence their posting if they have the connection or if they can bribe those in charge to post them wherever they want. Most people always want either Iyana Ipaja or Oshodi. Those are the bubbling zones. So after the whole registration and you have been posted to a zone, all you have to do is resume work for the day, go to the zonal office and collect tickets to sell. That’s basically it.

How much do you make from collecting money from bus conductors in a day?

It’s based on commission. Whatever amount of ticket I sell in a day, I have a commission from that and apart from selling the actual tickets, we still collect N50 to N100 from those that come to load passengers at night. Though those N100 and N50 do not go in the books, our bosses are aware. That’s just our way of making extra cash.

What’s your best day like?

Best days are days when you sell a lot of tickets. You know there is a lot of us trying to sell tickets, so it all depends on how fast you can chase buses and make sure they buy tickets from you. So, the more you sell the better for you.

How many hours do you work in a day? 

I do the normal 8 a.m to 5 p.m, apart from days when I just decide to hang around at night to make extra cash.

How do your bosses check how much you have collected?

When you are going to get the ticket for the day, there’s a secretary that takes notes on how many tickets you are collecting. So you have to remit whatever amount of ticket you collected in cash

How much do you remit to your boss daily? 

On a good day, when I sell very well, I remit N30,000:00. Sometimes l remit less.

How much do you spend in a day? 

Nothing less than N500. I always eat breakfast before I leave the house. So I don’t get to spend much on food during the day.


Also Read: Working Lives: The Agbo Seller who Always Cried Because Her Parents Couldn’t Afford JAMB Forms

What rank do you hope to have attained in the next 5 years? 

Whatever rank I attain in the next five years all depends on my pocket. Elections always determine; we do elections every 4 years and then people get to vote for you. That’s how it works. It’s not like you will just wake up one morning and hope for a promotion.

What determines your promotion?

It’s money o. If you have money, you can run for election in your zone. If you really want to win, just do the normal things all these APC and PDP people always do. Buy things for people and share money and you have their vote.

Do you see yourself becoming the next EmCee Oluomo?

Anything is possible. But honestly speaking I don’t think that can happen anytime soon. There are hundreds of people with an eye on that post and these people are even very rich o. Money is not their problem. But it’s not as easy as you guys think. Even Mc Oluomo fought before he could attain that position. Do you think it is an easy battle? Let me just close my mouth and not say too much.

Have you ever opened a bank account?

Yes, I opened one three years ago. I opened with Gtbank.

Do you have savings?

Yes, I save with all these local alajos. Banks don’t know more than stealing our money, charges upon charges. I got angry and decided to be saving with the local ones. I only put money in my bank account when I want to send money to my siblings.

Are you married?

I am not married yet, but I am looking forward to getting married in two years. I just hope everything goes as planned.

Any other job or business you would like to do or do you prefer to stay with this if you are sure of promotion? 

That will be having my own bus, so I can start making money too. I am tired of running up and down under the sun for money. This job is really not easy. Our bosses just sit in the office all day and expect us to come and remit money at the end of the day after running up and down. I really can’t blame them though, there is time for everything.

How have you been protecting yourself from the Coronavirus?

My brother, I don’t believe in this coronavirus rubbish, where are those that the government claims have been dying? Let me see with my eyes then I will believe. I am really just wearing this face mask because our bosses mandated us to.

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