In the Shadow of the State

The Making of Garage Laws in Lagos

  • Laurent Fourchard Center for International Studies, Sciences Po Paris
Keywords: union, laws, transport, Lagos, institutions, state


The National Union of Road Transport workers (NURTW) is the main transport organization in Nigeria and has replaced local governments in most garages of the country. The NURTW exercises its authority in Lagos garages through its own set of rules, qualified here as garage laws. They aim at providing revenues for the union, for state institutions, for police bodies and at ordering motor parks and disciplining drivers. Based on observations and 80 interviews with unionists, the article looks at the ways these laws are implemented by unionists and agberos or local touts turned into union workers. Some rules depend on the authority of union chairmen but most of them are routinized and powerful mainly because they are co-produced by the union and state institutions. Understanding garage laws helps to move beyond visions reducing transport unions as mafia organizations and states in Africa as weak institutions unable to implement state laws.

Author Biography

Laurent Fourchard, Center for International Studies, Sciences Po Paris

Laurent Fourchard is research professor at the center for international studies at Sciences Po Paris. Historian and political scientist using ethnographic methods, is research focuses on violence, exclusion, everyday security practices, political uses of urban space in Africa, more especially Nigeria and South Africa.


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How to Cite
Fourchard, Laurent. 2024. “In the Shadow of the State: The Making of Garage Laws in Lagos”. Swiss Journal of Sociocultural Anthropology 29 (1):85-101.