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.
Working Lives: The NURTW Agent Who Got in Through His Pastor Dad’s Connect
I would like to be selling fabrics. My mom was partly into it back then. So I am familiar with the business and I feel I can make a living out of it. So if I can get enough capital to start the business right now I’m off!
Where are you from?
I am from Ibadan in Oyo State. But I was born Lagos.
What school did you attend and when did you leave school?
I attended Meiran community high school and I finished in 2004.
Tell me about your family?
My father is a celestial pastor and my mom sells soft drinks, pure water and the like within the church premises. There are five of us and I am the third born. I have two elder brothers and two younger sisters. After finishing secondary school there was nothing to do. My father told all of us that we should find our ways. That is, we should start hustling on our own and decide whether we then wanted to further our studies. Only the first born went further. He went to Yabatech. The second one is still trying to gather money and further his education. My youngest siblings are still in junior secondary school. I moved out in 2013 and was squatting with a class mate from secondary school.
Where do you live and how much is the rent?
I still live with my friend. It’s just that I am no more squatting because I actually contribute to the rent now. We live in a one- room apartment here in Meiran and we pay N4,000:00 every month. But I plan to move out soon because my girlfriend is pregnant. We need to get our own apartment.
How did you start working for the NURTW?
My dad just called me one day and told me to call one of his friends who is also a celestial pastor. His son was one of the executives for a zone in Agege. So I went to see him and he said I should register and join. My dad had already discussed with him. At first, I was reluctant because of the stigma attached to the job. 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.
For how long have you been doing this job?
I started not long after I moved out in 2013. I think it was late 2014 or early 2015; I really can’t remember.
How does it work – what are you expected to do?
After registering, I got posted to Agege. All I have to do is set out for the day and resume work as early as I can. Then start selling as many tickets as I can for the day. We then go and remit whatever we have sold when it’s close to closing hour.
How much do you make from collecting money from bus conductors in a day?
I make N4,000:00 – N5,000:00 in a day. Sometimes I make more.
What’s your best day like?
Those are the days when I close late and get to make money from those that come to load passengers at night. When I gather the N100 I collect per bus together with the money I had made from my commission, it’s a lot.
How many hours do you work in a day?
I work from 8 am in the morning until 8pm or 9pm.
How do your bosses check how much you have collected?
They note the amount of tickets you’re collecting and make sure you remit the exact amount when remitting the cash.
How much do you remit to your boss daily?
I remit N25,000:00 daily. Sometimes I remit less.
How much do you spend in a day?
I spend N1,000:00 daily. I eat a lot, I don’t joke with my stomach.
What rank do you hope to have attained in the next 5 years?
I really do not know, maybe a vice chairman. I am working towards it, some people are supporting me and I believe in them.
What determines your promotion?
Your money does, and the amount of senior supporters that will vote for you during the election.
Do you see yourself becoming the next EmCee Oluomo?
That’s going to take a while, let’s be frank. EmCee Oluomo doesn’t look like someone that is ready to leave that spot. Do you know what he went through to get it? You must think this game is a joke.
Have you ever opened a bank account?
Yes. In fact, I have two bank accounts. GTBank and First Bank. I save in GTBank and use FirstBank for my normal transaction. I save N10,000:00 monthly.
Are you married/ looking forward to marrying?
My girlfriend is pregnant right now. We plan to move in together soon. There’s no money for marriage. Maybe later, if God provides money.
Any other job or business you would like to do or you prefer to stay with this if you are sure of promotion?
I would like to be selling fabrics. My mom was partly into it back then. So I am familiar with the business and I feel I can make a living out of it. So if I can get enough capital to start the business right now, I’m off!
How have you been protecting yourself from the Coronavirus?
I have been doing what is necessary which is wearing a face mask and washing my hands from time to time. I try my best not to put my hand on my face.