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Enugu paralysed as commercial buses withdraw services over extortion


Enugu PHOTO: Enugu State Government

Enugu State was literarily brought to its knees yesterday as commercial bus and taxi drivers withdrew their services from the roads in protest against alleged extortion, harassment and arrests by officials of the Ministry of Transport and the police.

Trouble broke out yesterday morning as uniform officials of the Ministry of Transport allegedly beat up a bus driver over some disagreement. While some claimed the uniform officials demanded money from the commercial bus driver, others said he was manhandled for breach of road regulations.

The development was said to have angered the leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) who directed their members to withdraw their services from the roads until further notice.

The action interrupted movement yesterday as residents were seen milling around the bus stops helplessly; and while those who could not afford the fares charged by tricycle operators walked to their destinations.

A bus driver, Obi, told The Guardian that uniform officials including members of the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) and those of traffic units of the state Ministry of Transport, “have turned commercial bus and taxi drivers into drain pipes and are milking us anyhow they like”.

He lamented the spate of arrests and arraignment of the commercial bus and taxi operators in the state by a mobile regular court sitting at the Ministry of Transport, saying that “they happen at the slightest mistake and we are made to pay from our noses.”

Perturbed by the development, the Commissioner of Police, Danmallam Muhammed, had summoned an emergency meeting of the leadership of the NURTW and officials of the Ministry of Transport led by the Commissioner, Vitus Okechi, where he asked both parties to sheath their swords.

While appealing to the drivers to return to work, he said he had set up a task force to monitor policemen on stop and search and those on patrol over allegations that they extort the drivers.

Meanwhile, operators of tricycles popularly known as Keke NAPEP in Jos, the Plateau State capital yesterday went on protest on what they termed exorbitant tax being charged on them. But government at the close of work yesterday suspended their operations till further notice.

One of the operators, who gave his name as Momoh Sale, attributed the protest to undue harassment by men of the state Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), alleging that they were asked to get a Driver’s License for N15,000 to N20,000.

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