05 January 2015, Kaduna – Nothing stampedes Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero of Kaduna State into taking action than security issues, those who are close to him are wont say.
So, last Tuesday, he had no choice than host very unusual guests, to the amusement of those who said of him to be somewhat haughty and very aloof to persons of lesser social status than him, being the Dalatun Zazzau.
The men, some in threadbare shoes, were led by their well dressed leaders – Alh. Gambo Tuge and Nuhu Marafa – factional leaders of Petroleum Tankers Drivers (PTD) Union, Kaduna State Chapter.
Yero, according to Sunday Vanguard source, was mediating for the second time in a month a protracted leadership tussle between the two groups.
It was a brisk and to-the-point meeting, said the source. “Meet among yourselves and resolve your differences or I bring down state might on you next time you try to breach the peace of Kaduna”, he warned the men who operate at the Kaduna Petrochemical Refinery Company, KRPC.
But, the next day, Wednesday, troops and wailing military trucks had to storm the KRPC, after the two factions engaged each other in a clash, burning cars and vandalizing rival tankers. The fight started around 7:30 am by the refinery’s parking lot and the union’s offices, as each group wanted to occupy the office of the Chairman to take over.
They threw stones at each other, while some mauled into pulps with clubs those they overcame. Other drew daggers and chased their enemies while some groups went into bare fist brawls.
Pandemonium set in, and people who had come to work or had some engagements to do scampered for safety.
Sunday Vanguard watched from the United Bank of Africa, UBA, side of the KRPC, as urchins defied warning shots from the Nigeria Police, and braved the choking teargas hauled at them.
At a point, the combatants attempted to take over the nearby police station, but nervous police men shot into the air and managed to scare them off.
As dark fumes of burning cars, union offices, and oil tankers billowed into the air, and the acrid burning smell of teargas made the KRPC took the shape of Armageddon, some mobile policemen came in a truck to reinforced those on ground around 8:45am, but all to no avail.
Banks nearby hurriedly closed. The gates into the KRPC were shut, and hundreds of persons were stranded from either entering or leaving the KRPC.
As the show of impunity of the gangsters continued, and decent men and women trapped in the fiasco kept wondering how such lawlessness could happen right in the centre of the biggest government investment north of the Benue and Niger, the sound of an army armored car was heard around 9:30 am. It charged past the UBA branch, with two trucks full of angry looking, well kitted soldiers speeding behind it.
Rat-tat-tat-tat sounds of gunshots followed. From the UBA side, Sunday Vanguard saw thugs dispersing in different directions, with some soldiers in hot pursuit. Unlucky ones caught were clubbed with gun butts to the ground. Pleading voices of some were caught as the soldiers gave them back their violent trade, perhaps in larger doses.
The police at this point also joined in the pursuit. Several were injured. At least a police van carted some arrested ones and drove past around 10 am.
But, somewhere around, some pockets of fighting were still raging. Around 10:45 am, there were more gun shots. Then silence.
By 11am, Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Alh. Shehu Umar, drove into the KRPC in a convoy.
Nomalcy returned thereafter when the unionists shut the multibillion dollar company. Now about 12 million litres of petrol, and millions of tones of very inflammable gases among others daily.
The General Manager, Public Affairs of the KRPC, Alh. Abdullahi Idris, refused to comment on the incident when approached by Sunday Vanguard, saying it was a security issue in which he had no competence or authorization to speak on.
But it was gathered that the crux of the issue was the huge amount of money that union leaders control at the KRPC.
“Here, we load about 200 and 300 trucks of PMS everyday”, said a source close to the union who asked that his name not be mentioned.
“Each loaded truck must pay N50,000 to the union before it leaves the KRPC. Calculate that and see how much is under the control of any man who is the Chairman in Kaduna.”
Tuge and Marafa have been in and out of courts since 2012, after a controversial election unseated Marafa, who seems to still enjoy some popularity among his members.
But, Tuge, who allegedly has the backing of the national headquarters of the PTD, flexes muscles, by ordering the stoppage of loading of fuel, which always makes government jittery when fuel queues appear at filling stations around Kaduna.